Finding sUPPORT IN MOTHERHOOD
During pregnancy, we often invest hours and hours of time into preparing to care for a baby. We scour the internet for reviews to find the perfect car seat. We fine-tune our registries to make sure we have everything the baby will need. We search Etsy, Pinterest and thift shops for perfect little details to complete a lovely nursery. We prepare for our babies, but do we prepare ourselves to be mothers?
Preparing ourselves for motherhood - not just bringing a baby home - should be higher on our pregnancy to-do list. After five babies, I can attest to this. Becoming a mother means more than having all the right baby gear and the most beautiful nursery. It means taking on a whole slew of new responsibilities while making sure we stay on top of everything else. It is demanding. It can be HARD! And that’s why establishing a strong support system is an absolute necessity when preparing for motherhood.
The key to doing this is finding your “Mama Tribe”. There is a lot of truth to the saying “it takes a village”. This doesn’t mean that you need to take every piece of advice and/or help from every other mom out there. Quite the contrary. You need to find your tribe. You should be seeking out like minded mothers, those who share similar beliefs and values about motherhood. This will help you avoid more of the unwanted advice, and expose you to encouragement in areas where you’re looking for support.
Preparing to be the kind of mother you want to be can be compared to obtaining a desired level of fitness. If you are really trying to get in shape, who is going to be your gym buddy? Will you go with your friend who is content with dropping out in the middle of the hour-long body pump class to hit up Starbucks? That’s me, by the way – you don’t want me in your fitness tribe. Or do you want to buddy up with a friend who is going to stick through the whole thing even if it means modifying most of the exercises just to get through it? My guess is you want someone who is determined. Achieving your goals in motherhood means finding a tribe that will help you achieve your goals.
While it can be great to have well-meaning friends and family (some of which may fit perfectly into your tribe), they aren’t always going to offer the support that you may be looking for. Let’s take birth for example. When I had my first baby, I was curious to experience a natural birth, but I didn’t seek out a mama tribe that would be able to offer valuable information. Instead, I took advice from friends and family, none of whom had experienced natural birth. There were no moms telling me that I could do it – only those telling me that birth was painful and that an epidural is the right choice for every child bearing woman. Was it smart to take advice from women who had never experienced what I was interested in? No. I had 3 epidurals before I found a tribe that supported me towards natural birth.
Emotional support at the end of pregnancy is crucial to your goals. If you are trying to avoid induction, it is dang hard during those last 3-5 weeks. Shrugging off all those “you haven’t had that baby yet?” comments can feel impossible, especially if you’re getting the same vibe from your care provider. It is likely the most emotionally taxing part of pregnancy. A good tribe will wait for you to share where you’re at physically and offer encouragement from there. They will tell you how wonderful you’re doing and what an amazing baby machine you must have - EVEN when you’re feeling frustrated about your baby STILL being in there. They will support your mental and emotional stability and be your breath of fresh air.
Another example is breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is important to you and you want to make it a priority, it’s best to surround yourself with women who’ve done it themselves – preferably for an extended amount of time. If you want breastfeeding to work, you need encouragement from friends who’ve done it long term. While ANY length of breastfeeding is great, you’re going to get superior encouragement from those who’ve done it longer. This isn’t about bashing mothers who’ve used formula. Someone who has fought through the difficulties of breastfeeding will offer a lot more valuable support than a mom who found it necessary to stop at 6 weeks.
So how do you find your mama tribe? I personally found social media to be extremely helpful. Most cities have Facebook groups dedicated to different parenting styles/interests. In my small town, there are multiple breastfeeding support groups that meet online AND in person. I found most of my local mama tribe through a local cloth diapering group. If you can’t find a local group, YouTube is also a great place to find moms who share similar beliefs. And there are probably a million mommy forums throughout the interweb.
Birth professionals can also be a valuable resource. Not only can they offer you support, but they can usually direct you in where to look for a mama tribe that fits you! Doulas are often extremely plugged in to their local community. If you have a good care provider, they should be plugged in as well. Many lactation consultants participate in live support groups, so attending those can help you connect with other moms. And yes, you should attend the breastfeeding groups BEFORE your baby comes! Taking a birth class is also a wonderful way to connect with other moms and build community support. I love teaching Birth Boot Camp because dads are able to build the “Daddy Tribe” that they’ll need too!
If you’re an expecting mama, I implore you to find your tribe! Build bonds. These will not only help you through pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, but they’ll also be your safe zone. They will be the ones you turn to when you feel like you’re failing at motherhood. And you can count on failing – we all fall short. But your tribe will pick you back up, dust you off and make you feel like the amazing mother you are. Every mom deserves a mama tribe.