At the beginning of this year, I was officially inducted into the First Time Mom Club. To say that the first few weeks of motherhood were a culture shock would be a gross understatement. For me, it was more accurately akin to getting run over by a Mack truck and being expected to shrug off the bruises and broken bones, get up, and walk away as if nothing had happened.
Not only did I have to contend with recovering from my 81-hour labor (gulp), but I was also now faced with a steep learning curve, desperately trying to figure out the cries and needs of this new little being whose life literally depended on me, ill-equipped-never-been-a-mom-and-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing me.
I found myself looking for the user manual the hospital seemed to have forgotten to put in my bag before sending me home with my bundle of joy. Instead, I consulted every parenting book I could get my hands on in between feeds and the odd bathroom break. To my disappointment, they only left me more confused and dejected.
No matter how hard they may try, no one could ever possibly warn any soon-to-be mom about the first few weeks (or even days) of motherhood. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative that every new mother be equipped with a secret weapon: she needs a “Mayday Mom.”
A Mayday Mom is the pinch hitter in the baseball game of motherhood. She is an experienced mother with at least one — if not many — kids of her own. She has been in your shoes. She knows what it’s like not to be able to take a shower for days. She knows what it’s like to feel trapped in your own home, a prisoner of your new life. She knows what it feels like to have a messy house, tousled hair, and a perpetually tired face. She knows how hard it can be to put a sentence together. She knows you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since before your last trimester. She has been there. She has done that. And she has come out the other end. Sure, she may have a few bumps and bruises, but she is otherwise unscathed.
This experienced mama knows what to do with a screaming baby. She understands that it’s okay to let the baby cry for a few minutes so you can relieve your bladder or feed yourself, and she knows that this too shall pass. She knows that it’s all temporary — the bad and the good — because she’s lived it herself.
She remembers the midnight feedings, the hysterical cries, the messy house. And because she remembers, because she knows what you’re going through on such a deep level, she can be your biggest savior. She can respond to your calls (or cries) for help so you can try to put yourself back together again, if only for a moment.
You can call her when you need a break, or when you just need someone to hold your child, screaming or not, so you can take a gosh darn shower. She’s the woman who will give you advice when you ask for it, or just serve as a shoulder to cry on when all you want (and need) to do is vent. She does not judge your parenting style, your filthy house, your matted hair, or even your questionable haven’t-showered-in-three-days scent.
In the first few weeks after my daughter was born, I often found myself sitting on the couch with my daughter attached to my terribly sore nipple as I stared blankly off into space. I was drinking so much water that I always had to pee, but I was so afraid to put my daughter down lest she cry again that I opted to hold my full bladder until my husband was nearby to take her. I had no idea what I was doing, but I felt like whatever it was, I was failing.
I knew my life was going to change in a big way when she was born, but I couldn’t possibly have understood how much it would affect my day-to-day basic functions like going to the bathroom, eating, cleaning, and showering. With no family close by to help, I felt completely alone. My mother, who lives in another country, kept reminding me that she did it by herself with three kids, which only served to make me feel like I should be able to do it too.
But the truth is, it takes a village. And especially in the first few weeks of motherhood, you need help. Sure, you can do it alone, but if you can help it, why shouldn’t you get help? There is nothing heroic about trying to do it yourself. In fact, the heroism lies in asking for help.
I wish I had had a Mayday Mom to guide me through the dark first days of motherhood. I wish someone would have come over to take the baby so I could have a moment to ground myself in who I was now (while I showered and maybe even brushed my teeth). Someone who could explain her cries to me, someone who could assure me that all would be okay, that they were there for me. There is no shame in needing help, and had I had someone to call, I would have.
So mothers of the world, hear my plea:
If you’re a new mom, press the help button and find a Mayday Mom. If you are a veteran mama and you know of any soon-to-be moms or new moms in your community, offer to be their Mayday Mom. They may be too shy or proud to accept, or they may not know they need you just yet. Ignore them and do what you do best: nurture them. Love them. Help them. You know they need you.
Ground control to Mayday Mom. Commencing countdown. Engines on. Won’t you be a Mayday Mom?More On