When my husband and I decided to have children, we had a large group of people we called friends. Some were friends from childhood, others college, and still others were work friends. Most of these people didn’t yet have kids of their own, so I badgered the few friends with kids relentlessly for information. They welcomed my questions, and shared generously of both knowledge and hand-me-down baby gear, thus adjusting the nature of our friendship to more of a mentorship. These friends with big kids were a saving grace for me as a new mom.
When I was newly pregnant, and not yet ready to share our exciting and terrifying news with our family, we turned to a couple with children who had three years before slipped the secret of their impeding arrival in our ears on the dance floor at our wedding. We trusted them to keep the gift of our secret, because we had done the same for them previously.
I had no idea where to start when it came to preparing for our baby. I didn’t believe the internet’s insistence that my boy wouldn’t be able to sleep without his name in whimsical wooden letters on the wall above his bed, but what did I know? My same friend emailed me a list of necessities that eased my mind. Her practicality and experience cut through the emotion of providing for an entire human being, and gave me a jumping off point. That list has been updated and shared with friends and family for eight years now, and is still going strong.
When I was terrified of childbirth, I relied on a high school friend and a college friend to give it to me straight. They gave me the down and dirty of expelling a baby, and while they both failed to mention the mesh underwear from the hospital and the pads the size of a life raft, they provided me with the information that most people have either forgotten, or are too embarrassed to talk about. These friends of mine delight in shocking others, so really I was doing them a favor by allowing them to be the ones to enlighten me.
Oftentimes, one’s mother and mother-in-law are overlooked as fountains of wisdom. They raised children in a different time, and they don’t understand how things are now are two excuses for not listening to Mom. I don’t remember feeling this way about the grandmothers in my son’s life, but if I did, those thoughts were forgotten when my mom identified my clogged milk duct before it turned into mastitis, and forced me to massage that clog away in the longest, hottest shower I could tolerate. Some ibuprofen and a nap rounded out her demands, and by the next day, my milk bag was back in business. My mother-in-law has helped me identify the tell-tale sounds of a croup cough, and she taught me one of my favorite mom tricks of sending wild kids outside for ten laps around the house to “Run the stink off ‘em.”
I am blessed to have women in my life that eased my transition to motherhood with their various lessons. Each of these mothers offered me a different take on parenting, and I am better for it. I am proud to now be one of these women to friends and family members with younger children. It makes me feel as though I’m part of something greater than myself. That we are all in this together.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you out there doing the hard work of raising humans. You are appreciated, and passing on your own lessons of motherhood!