How We Found Our Village
It’s funny. When you first become a parent you are never alone, but you can grow very, very lonely. You are at home with your new baby all day long, and sometimes you can feel as though you’re held hostage by nap times, feeding schedules, and diaper changes. It can be overwhelming and stressful and terrifying. The moment you’ve been looking forward to for nine months or longer has finally arrived—at long last you have that sweet baby in your arms, and all you can feel is guilt because you aren’t as happy as you thought you’d be.
Does this sound familiar? I think Wendy, Char, and I (Jackie) all experienced this to varying degrees at some point in the early stage of our journey. We were all trudging along our own solitary parenting path until Charlene sent out an email that changed the course for all three of us. It led us to discover what would become our golden rule of parenting: find your village.
Here’s some backstory. Char, Wendy, and I are first-time mamas from the east end of Toronto who took prenatal yoga classes at Toronto Yoga Mamas in Leslieville. I’m sorry to say we never locked eyes across a crowded yoga studio during three-legged downward dog and knew it was meant to be (because that would have made a great story), but we were all fatefully thrown together during our third trimesters at a weekend-long childbirth education course at the yoga studio. By the end of the first long day of discussing dilation, contractions, and counter pressure, we all left with the sense that there was something a little special about our particular group of parents.
In Wendy’s words:
“What I loved about the class was that it was such an intimate setting, only six couples, and we were committed to spending an entire weekend together. I was also very pleasantly surprised by how comfortable my husband was with these couples—he bravely asked some intimate questions and was not afraid to open up in this room of strangers. We all learned a lot that weekend, about birth and about each other.”
Fast forward to the fall of 2015. Our littles were around four months old, and we were all slowly surfacing from the heavy fog of the newborn stage. Our prenatal class had exchanged emails shorty after everyone had given birth, but the group had remained pretty quiet after that. Char broke the silence by suggesting a meetup for coffee just around the corner from Toronto Yoga Mamas. We picked a date, and we soon got together for some much-needed socializing.
In Char’s words:
“I remember feeling such a sense of excitement when we were getting ready to head over to the meetup. We got to see each other after living the reality we had all anticipated and wondered about together in the workshop where we had all met. I remember everyone’s faces, mixtures of pride, exhaustion, worry, and nerves. Looking on and seeing how each couple responded to parenting. Sharing our battle stories, what each of our birth stories looked like, and how they all took us by surprise one way or another. The dads shared their stories of either fumbling their babies, supporting labours with what they thought were funny jokes, and their silent looks of awe. It was a warm energy, just as open as the day we had all met. Just noisier, with a new set of group members—personalities we are still getting acquainted with.”
It was like a reunion of old friends, even though most of us had only met once, during that intensive two-day class. But that’s the thing about a challenging shared experience like raising children—it can bring people closer together than decades of acquaintance.
We had found our village. And boy, did it ever make things easier as we continued on our parenting journey. We were no longer walking alone. We had comrades right there beside us, giving advice when asked, listening when needed, and sharing in the ups and downs along the way.
In the months that followed that coffee meetup, we got together as often as our schedules would allow, and formed strong, lasting friendships. And now, when we are in the position to give advice to new parents, we will say this: “Find your village.” Whether it is in the form of a local parenting Facebook group, a parent and baby yoga class, or an informal park meetup, put yourself out there. Find those individuals who are also beginning their journey along that bumpy parenting road and make a point to get together. You need each other more than you know.
Were you able to find support during the early stages of parenthood? Are you still trying to find your village? Let us know in the comments!