As a new mother, people often ask me “Isn’t it great?” or “Don’t you just love being on maternity leave?”
I know their intention is to show enthusiasm and support but when they catch me in a state of exhaustion, these simple questions can send my mind into a tailspin, making me question if I am supposed to be happier, more put together?
Most of the time when I look at my daughter, Winter, I feel a burst a joy—euphoria even. Her sleep tendencies notwithstanding, my daughter has the sweetest disposition and I am so thankful that we have a very healthy and happy baby. I make a conscious effort everyday to be grateful for these things. However, there are some really hard moments when I am home alone with her and the weight of it all gets to me.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered the village.
Recently, Winter was all smiles until about two hours after her doctor’s appointment where she received some vaccinations.
The worst of it peaked around five PM. My husband Perry was not home yet, so I called my neighbor with whom I have hung out only a handful of times. She has a three-year-old and I asked her to bring me some infant Tylenol. It took one look from her standing on my front porch and the water works began for both of us.
Yes, she cried with me.
Not because she was feeling particularly bad that day, too, but her tears flowed out of empathy. She remembered the days of exhaustion, uncertainty, isolation and worry. She promised me that the sleep gets better, but explained that as a mother, there will always be a sense of darkness that appears and fills your thoughts with doubt. It may not come frequently and the good will certainly outlast and outshine the bad, but it is there. Those words, so deep and true to me in the moments, helped walk me through a low point with the assurance that I was not alone, and that I would survive.
The exchange reminded me that while you may love being your son or daughter’s mother, you are not alone in your thoughts when they become desperate, gloomy or sad.
The biggest take away that I learned from that day is to never be ashamed or afraid to ask for help from those around me. I was so worried that I would be judged by my thoughts or perceived shortcomings as a new mother when actually the opposite was true. Once I mustered up the courage to ask for a little help, (and shared the details of this moment on my Instagram account), I was greeted with open arms by so many.
In fact, it made me wonder why as a society we decided it was better to live in tiny boxes (houses), separating us from each other. I had no idea my neighbor ever felt like me in that moment, until almost two years of living on the same block. But because I reached out (in desperation) she reached back to me with a full heart.
I like to think we were both healed and strengthened in that moment.
Photo credit: Brittany Renee