By Alison Cupp Relyea
The first few months of parenting are a rollercoaster, with most of the logistics of your pre-baby days subject to drastic change. Your sleep routines, meals, work and social life can fall by the wayside as you shift your focus to this new bundle of joy. While most moms find they need friends now more than ever, they also feel vulnerable. New mothers often report a feeling of isolation in the early months of parenting, and here at Petite Vigogne, we hope to offer advice to help new mothers nurture their children and nourish themselves.
One key to taking care of ourselves is finding people who we trust and value to create a support system during this transition. Friends can offer insights, empathy, and a much-needed laugh when the little one in your life brings you to the brink of tears. Friends come in many different forms and the bonds that you form in pregnancy and the newborn year are often incredibly deep. In reflecting on some of the friends I cherish from my early years, hopefully other moms will look at the people in their lives and identify friendships to cultivate.
When I first told my colleagues that I was pregnant with my first, another colleague pulled me into her office later that day to share a secret with me – she was pregnant, too! Over the next nine months, our friendship deepened as we compared experiences, hopes and fears. Our due dates were only ten days apart, and when our babies arrived, we met up every few days, at breastfeeding clinics, coffee shops and in each other’s apartments. Those “play dates” were for us, not the babies. We talked, listened, shared, and processed this big life change together. When we returned to work, we helped each other breathe through the exhaustion and offered a reassuring hug on the difficult days.
I found out I was pregnant with my third child just as we – and most of our close friends - were exiting the baby stage, turning the corner to a well-rested existence and regaining a sense of normalcy. Once again, I needed that completely judgement-free friendship where it’s okay to smile and cry at the same time. I planned to take time off from teaching and spend at least a year home with our new baby, making this support system of other moms particularly necessary. One friend was a mother from my oldest child’s preschool. We noticed each other’s pregnant bellies before we knew each other’s names, but shy smiles turned into polite conversation, then coffee and eventually trudging around the block to join forces on snowdays with our newborns and restless toddlers. Another new friend was a mom at my daughter’s gymnastics class. While the girls tumbled happily with their friends, we endured pregnancy together and had open conversations about parenting, politics and relationships. We sat side by side outside the gym at a Czech community center every week nearly four years ago, and now when we get our children together, I still feel a shared openness that I treasure.
The friends I made early in my children’s lives are a gift I value, a brightness that shines on those early days like my child’s earliest smiles and the newborn baby smell, overpowering the anxiety, sleep deprivation and never-ending laundry pile. These relationships grow and change, but will always be part of this fleeting moment in my life, shaping and supporting me as I became a mother. Look with openness at the people around you; someone you barely know could quickly become a much-needed friend.