Pregnancy is hard. Childbirth is hard. Caring for newborns is hard. Juggling small children with a newborn is hard. Breastfeeding is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage and relationships are hard. Ok, you get the point. It’s hard!
There is a reason why is takes two people to make a baby.
There is a reason why the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings are immediately attached to a human being they don’t even know and who didn’t do anything to deserve love or recognition.
Because YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSE TO GO ON THIS JOURNEY ALONE!
God did not create us to be alone. He created us to NEED EACH OTHER. Family and social connection is hardwired into your DNA whether you accept it or not. Let’s face it, you are probably reading this blog on SOCIAL media right now. 😉 I know that’s a hard pill for some of us to swallow, because our society has programmed women to believe they need to be able to do it all, and be everything, and needing help is a sign of weakness. WRONG! Needing help is a sign of humanity. Developing a healthy support system when you’re pregnant should be a top priority.
Here’s why social connections are harder to make in our Western society today:
- Broken families due to divorce, absent fathers, resentment, unforgiveness, and abuse. This one is obvious.
- Families are having fewer children, so they are less likely to connect with siblings, cousins and other extended family. Here’s a great article about that.
- Moving away from your family. More and more Americans move to different locations around the US instead of living in or around their “hometown” due to military, job opportunities, marrying college sweetheart from Canada, etc. As a result, we live with neighbors with different religious and social beliefs, we don’t trust them with our kids, and we don’t trust their kids to be good playmates. So we never get to say, “Go outside and play with the neighbor’s kids so I can have the house to myself for a couple of hours!” Instead, we schedule out all of our children’s time and never take a break from them. You DO need a break from your kids! Read more about “the end of neighbors”.
- Generation gaps between parents and children. First-time parents are getting older. Maybe your parent’s choices are different from yours and you don’t agree with the advice they are giving you leading to arguments and avoidance. Or, they don’t have the energy to care for small children because of physical limitations. And in some situations, you may be caring for both your children and your elderly parents.
- It’a faux pas to live with or on the same property with your extended family. Read the Bible. In ancient times, family units lived together for support and protection and many times married distant cousins to expand their land and support system.
So how do you build your support system in our current social landscape:
- Decide what kind of birth you want and find women who have done it that way. Make that your childbirth tribe! If your mother in is your childbirth tribe, you are lucky! Here’s a great article about why it’s unusual. If you are aiming for natural childbirth at home, surround yourself with women who have done it. If you want limited intervention but choose to be at a hospital, hire a doula and make sure all friends and family attending your birth understand your desires.
- If you want to breastfeed, you absolutely need a breastfeeding tribe! Here’s why the odds of your success are against you. You need to start early with educating yourself about it and you need to have a support team that you can call on at any time as soon as the baby is born. Do not assume that the hospital staff, appointed lactation consultant, or midwife is going to provide you with adequate support and correct information. You have to be proactive and FIND your support team. The first few weeks are so crucial. A lot of mamas will say that it takes a good three months before you are comfortable with your new life of breastfeeding. Because it is a huge lifestyle change!
- After you give birth, your body is worn out from labor and vaginal birth, you might be sore from a c-section, you are sleep-deprived from caring for a newborn around the clock, your other children need emotional and physical attention, your household needs to be cleaned, and you have to figure out breastfeeding with your new baby. You absolutely need loving family and friends to care for YOU. Not your newborn. But YOU. You need to arrange for this during your pregnancy. You can also hire a postpartum doula. The postpartum period where you will need the most help is the first six weeks after baby is born. Read about how women from India care for new mamas. This is considered ideal postpartum care by many midwives and birth professionals.
- The most difficult support group tends to be who you will turn to for parenting advice and help with your children. Your church, daycare, school, family, godparents, and friends will all play a role in how your new child’s life is shaped. The best time to evaluate and create this long-term group will be when you are pregnant. Talk to your spouse/partner and write down all the things that are important to you regarding your parenting style. Will you be super-scheduled and strict or do you prefer your days to be more relaxed? What are your breastfeeding goals? Will you co-sleep with baby or choose a crib? Are you circumcising? Are you vaccinating? How do you want to discipline your child? How do you want to praise your child? What kind of diet do you want your children to have? What kind of toys do you want them to play with? What kind of school/daycare would you like your child to attend? What kind of playmates do you want them to have? Talk about all of these questions with your spouse/partner. A great resource to start with is www.askdrsears.com. But make sure you don’t take any one resource as the ultimate authority on parenting. You might agree with 60%-90% of what one MD or PhD or self-proclaimed mama expert says about something and you might borrow from the buffet of parenting advice from other mamas or family members. Or, since God gave you mama instincts, you can just do things your way. Because at the end of the day, all that matters is that you truly have the best interest of your child at heart and you are making decisions out of love and concern for them. Your parenting style just might look different to other people and that’s ok. The second part to this support group is finding a group of people who you will actually trust to care for/babysit your children. The important questions to ask are: are they capable of loving and caring for my child as I would? Will they respect and incorporate my parenting style (even if they disagree with it) while my child is in their care? Will they display and teach my child good habits and refrain from displaying bad habits while my child is in their care? With the five connection problems listed above, this support group becomes the most challenging part of parenting.
If you’re lucky, all of these groups will overlap and you’ll find all of this support in one place. If you’re really lucky, your mother, mother-in-law, sisters (in-law), cousins, and aunts are in all of these groups. But the reality is because of the five connection problems listed at the beginning, you will probably not find any one group of people that match your needs as a new parent. Here are ways to find them:
- Your church. Growth groups, Sunday school groups, children’s ministries, women’s ministries are all great ways to connect to like-minded moms.
- Organized community groups like La Leche League, babywearing groups, mom groups, and general community events.
- Through social media. You can find local group pages that match any kind of need you have as a new mom. Facebook can be a value resource when used with moderation and restraint. Let me stress the importance of finding LOCAL groups – people you can actually meet with and get to know IN PERSON. I don’t recommend getting on general groups where participants don’t know each other except in the Facebook world. It’s too impersonal and they are more quick to judge and criticize if they believe they will never meet you.
CLICK HERE to begin your childbirth and breastfeeding education.
CLICK HERE to find support groups in the Tampa Bay area.