When you have a new baby, you tend to question everything. You really are left with no ability to form clear thoughts because every decision seems so very momentous. Every tiny thing you do affects another human being. And that is HUGE weight on anyone's shoulders. Put that on the shoulders of an exhausted, hormonal woman who feels like she's just run a marathon and it's a wonder anyone gets out alive.
We do though. We get out alive. A lot of that is simply due to the support that we have around us.
A few years ago as part of an event for National Breastfeeding week I was given the opportunity to stand up and recognize the people who supported me while I struggled. My struggles weren't just at the beginning (but I did struggle at the beginning, believe me! I had different support then though). My struggles lasted long into my daughters first year.
I thoroughly believe that the only reason I made it through is because of the support of some wonderful women I met at a support group I attended every week. It was like church. I HAD to go. And these women? They got me through.
I now run a support group with a colleague on Friday mornings. If you want support, or a place to vent, or scream, or check in, or celebrate, or any of that? Comment below and I'll tell you where to come.
In the meantime, here is what I said about those women back then. It still stands true today. Especially today. I have no idea where I would be without them.
When I found out we were expecting our first child, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. It seemed like a silly choice not too – if I’m making milk, why would I pay to buy formula? Especially if I wasn’t going to be working!
My family doctor, although supportive on the surface, wasn’t very trusting in my motherly ability to nourish my child. He had this really easy solution right over here in a can that was 'just as good'.
When I told my midwives I wanted to nurse, they suggested I read something to learn a bit more about it – so I took home ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ and it gathered dust on my nightstand for a month before I took it back. I figured this was going to be easy.
My daughter was born on a Monday morning after a difficult third trimester and delivery, but we were healthy. She latched right away and I figured everything would be fine! By day two in the hospital though, she was under the lights for jaundice and I was pumping to get her a bit of a ‘top up’. She wasn’t strong enough to get what she needed in the limited time we had to keep her out of the lights every three hours. We cup and syringe fed her after nursing and we went home on the Friday. Things were, ...going…
Someone had mentioned that there was this ‘support group’ that met on Tuesdays at the hospital, so a few days later, off we went. Right away, I felt comfortable and supported, but I had no idea how important that would be!
My daughter’s journey was not an easy one. She was tiny and took her time gaining weight. Three weeks to get back to her birth weight and only 10lbs at about 4 months old. Our family doctor was concerned and sent us to pediatrician after pediatrician. Luckily, they all told me she was fine, but to avoid weekly checkups at the doctor’s office, I had to agree to weigh my daughter every week and report her growth. Not a relaxing thing to do!
Every week, I returned to that support group and got lifted up buy the other mothers there. Cries of ‘she’s just small’, ‘she’s happy and growing, albeit slowly’, ‘you’re doing what’s best for her!’ got me through the ups and downs.
When I came back with ‘They want us to see someone else’ or ‘what if there really is something wrong?’ they readily handed out hugs, and tissues to wipe my tears. When I jumped for joy because we hit some milestone or cried because she had finally doubled her birth weight, they gave out high fives and whoops of joy! Always ready with suggestions on how to deal with difficult situations and diffuse frustrations I looked forward to seeing them every week. Over time, these ladies became some of my closest friends.
Ladies, you know who you are. – you were my backbone and my strength and I don’t know where I would have been without you.