I had a very normal pregnancy. Despite having a thyroid condition and being closely monitored by two specialists, each consultation ended with a satisfying, “Everything looks normal.”
Your dad and I had decided to have a child and I got pregnant pretty soon, I was 34. Our families were excited and every time we talked over they were very supportive.
As the delivery day approached our families and I had a plan where my sister, in-laws and my mother would come to visit us consecutively to help out during the first months. It didn’t go quite that way.
Looking back, delivering and that first month was hard baby. All through your first two years, I would get emotional and a bit sad every time I had to talk about it. I know that you are healthy by all clinical measurements. And you are a beautiful baby, by my own measure.
I have lived in Los Angeles for six years now and keep in touch with relatives and friends through e-mail and phone conversations. In a way, that kept me grounded in times of need because it is a solid network of positive social connections.
The problem was that at a time when I most needed support, my family and friends were far away, like in another country and continent.
In my new hometown, I had found close friends and acquaintances that would have helped out if needed but I was reluctant to rely on them. In a vulnerable situation, I was too timid to ask for help and frankly I was overwhelmed with you, the new baby, a new wife-husband interaction that came out of nowhere, sleep deprivation; and what felt like endless time spent home-alone getting to know you my dear.
I resolved to make you my only priority, at the expense of my own health and by the second week I was exhausted. When you wouldn’t stop crying, because babies cry, I broke down into tears. On that precise moment you stopped crying, there were no more screams and I felt your body relax into my arms. Maybe you felt relieved when I stopped holding back my emotions, I don’t know, but after that I understood that special connection. I understood that my emotional state can really have an effect on you.
Without guidance and expertise from family and friends, I became obsessed in tallying the time, minutes and seconds it took you to breastfeed. I also counted the ounces of breast milk you drank by pumping manually and offering a bottle because, obviously, then I would have control over the whole thing.
A supportive doula-counselor helped us learn how to breastfeed and nurse and at the following checkup your stats came out even better. I didn’t know exactly how much you nursed but as a baby you knew when to stop and I knew I could let go.
I learned to trust you.
Belonging to A Community
When you were three months old grandma was finally able to visit us. While she was here, the three of us went out into the city, to the park, the supermarket!
After that I started reestablishing friendships and making new friends in the neighborhood. I learned that the idea of community that I had stuck in my head is not the same as the community I can touch and interact with every day and that’s OK. I am very fortunate as it is.
Now I have stronger connections with my friends here in LA, where you were born and where my sense of community-belonging is again making me happy. I still have my childhood and college friendships, all scattered across the globe.
One thing that I would do differently is really getting out of the house every day, talk to the neighbor and the mailman. Ask if a neighbor is interested in running an errand or walking to the park.
I love my friends, they were there all the time but I was too exhausted to call or ask for help. In a way, as a society, we should be more supportive of mothers with young babies and visit after the second week. Assess needs and accessibility to services for new moms to find out how to reach them. This might be shocking but as a new mom, everything is new including the baby! It shouldn’t be that difficult to have more support.
I still rely on my friends for new advice as you grow from a baby-baby to a baby girl and your needs change. It takes a supportive community to have healthy, safe and happy babies. My family is a call away as well as my friends everywhere. I couldn’t have learned this without you.