As a mom of 6, the oldest being almost 22, and the youngest 6 months old; I have been through many experiences. I have a huge gap between my first 4 kids, and my last 2. That gap has made a world of difference in how I view motherhood, raising kids, coping with the lack of sleep, and how empathetic I have been to my fellow new moms through the years.
I have had the opportunity to help many of my friends during the rough months, babysitting overnight, giving them a night out, and to refresh and restart their minds. I took for granted just how much that was helping them. I honestly forgot just how hard it truly is. Of course, some of my babies were easier, and some much more difficult.....my last 2, topping them all. During the years of the first 4 growing up, I seemed to make it through, while living in an abusive marriage, so the difficult new mom stage was forgotten. Of course, I would always sympathize with them, saying "oh, I know how it is, it's hard", but I truly didn't empathize the way I do with so many other things in life. I think part of me subconsciously thought "I have done this plenty of times, it's not that bad, I survived" But to be honest, I recall there being days that I felt like I barely survived.
The days of having babies in American culture, and family showing up to help for days, weeks, months after, is becoming a past time. I remember with my first 4 kids, family showing up at the hospital for the birth. Everyone waited in the waiting area.....grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. Everyone waited to see the baby appear in the newborn nursery for the checkup, oohing and ahhing through the glass. Those days are gone for many of us. For my last 2 babies, the only ones that showed up, were my father, stepmother, mother and father in law, and my older children that were home from college. No aunts, uncles, cousins, the days of social media have taken the place of personal visits. Instead, everyone just waits for you to post your pictures on facebook.
What have we done to the new moms? We have left them to battle motherhood exhausted, emotionally fragile, and alone. For generations it was normal to have people come and help clean, cook, care for mom and baby. As a Newborn Photographer, I see other cultures still do this. Grandparents flying across the world to come for the arrival and help the mothers. So why is the US culture falling so far behind? Why are we leaving mothers so fragile and lonely? The US is gaining traction in the deaths of mothers in childbirth, we are forgotten in this society.
I look back at the moms that I did help some, and I am so thankful now, that I was able to give them that. I have a new perspective, even though I have been there before. I wish now that I had done more. Helped more, listened more. To the moms that I casually answered " I know how hard it is", I am sorry.
The sleepless nights of the 3rd trimester, that lead right into giving birth and sleepless nights, leave you completely depleted of any and all ability to cope at times. There is no break from the insomnia of the third trimester, into the lack of sleep with your newborn. Throw in a NICU baby, and life is literally a survival of your mind and body.
Many moms push through, but why should we have to push through being a new mom? Instead of enjoying our precious newborns, and loving the stage; we are frazzled, depleted, and left feeling unworthy. More and more moms are left needing PPD medication, with unknown effects on breastfeeding babies and moms. We are pushing our bodies and our minds, in places that they shouldn't have to go. As a society, we need to step up for our fellow women, our fellow mothers. Be there, offer to listen, offer to clean, offer a meal, offer time.
It is my vow, to help more new mothers when I am past this season of depletion. Will you do it to?