I have never felt more fiercely loved by my friends than in the days, weeks and months after my baby girl was born. I felt immense love from everyone in my life, but the love I felt from other mothers was different. It came from deep-seeded understanding and empathy. It came from heartfelt celebration and excitement.
It came from a place that only another mother can relate to.
I recall one very emotional day when my daughter was about a week old. I had been going through the throes of triple feeding coupled with the height of what I assume you would call the baby blues.
My sister sat on the couch with me as I painstakingly tried to pump through severe engorgement, and as she rubbed my shoulders, encouraging me to make it through just one more feeding session, I broke down in tears and told her I was so sorry.
She looked at me shocked. Why, exactly, was I apologizing?
It is so simple to see now—in those moments of raw motherhood, my sister was able to love me in a way that no one else could because she had been there before.
While feeling overwhelmed with gratitude to have her in my life, I suddenly felt so much sadness that I hadn’t been able to love my sister in the same way when she was walking through early motherhood.
And so many moments followed that one, moments that made me feel immensely lucky to be surrounded by what can only be described as the best humans on earth, followed by the realization that I wish I could have done so much more, and felt so much more, for my dear friends in their early days of motherhood.
So, to my friends who had kids before me: I am sorry.
To my sister who tried for months to breastfeed her son and spent countless hours with lactation consultants and feeding groups, I am sorry I didn’t understand how something as simple as feeding your child could make you feel like a failure. I am sorry that I did not wrap you in the biggest hug every day and tell you that you are a great mom and that if you need to cry about it, it is okay.
To my friend with the baby in the NICU, I am sorry I didn’t realize that behind the text saying you were “okay” and “didn’t need anything,” that nothing would’ve made a bigger difference than a warm meal and hot coffee dropped off to the front desk of the hospital. I knew you were a strong warrior mom (all NICU moms are), but now I know that even warrior moms need someone listening to what they aren’t saying.
To my friends who lost their sweet babies before they arrived, I am so sorry that I never knew how much you could love someone you have never met. I am sorry that I couldn’t even come close to imagining your pain and sadness until I felt my own daughter wiggle in my belly, and even then, I still couldn’t. Saying I am sorry will never be enough to encompass the pain you are feeling, so I hope saying “I love you” will let you know I am here.
To my friends with the sick children, I am sorry I never fully understood the heart-wrenching agony of seeing your child in pain until I saw my own heart beating outside my body in my beautiful daughter. You are the bravest type of mom there is, and I know there is nothing you wouldn’t sacrifice for your child. You hold up the world, but when you need someone to hold you up, I am here.
To my friend who confided in me that she was struggling with postpartum depression, I am sorry I did not know just how heavy that anxiety felt on your heart. I am sorry I didn’t understand the darkness you experienced every night when you went to bed and the desperation of wondering when it would all go away.
To my friend who sent me the Starbucks card and heartfelt message on my first day back from maternity leave, I am sorry I didn’t take more time to check in with you when you came back to work. I loved looking at photos of your beautiful baby and hearing about her life, but I should’ve spent more time checking in on you and making sure you felt loved and appreciated, especially as you made the adjustment back to work.
These wonderful, beautiful women have taught me so much. And while I didn’t know, I do now. My understanding was almost instantaneous the moment I became a mom, and the sisterhood of motherhood has carried me through the difficult times and celebrated alongside me during the good.
To be loved without pretense or judgment is what this sisterhood is all about, and you just don’t know until you experience it for yourself.
I am sorry I didn’t know, but I promise to pay it forward each and every day.
This story was originally published on May 24, 2018. It has been updated.