I recently heard the phrase “dance with the fear” in relation to startups and other new ventures. The woman on a podcast was talking about how jumping into a new venture can be scary and you have to embrace that fear while letting other people believe in you even if you can’t believe in yourself. I nearly started crying in the car – screw startups or business, that was a perfectly apt explanation of motherhood. As Mother’s Day draws closer, I’m inevitably thinking about what it means – being a mom, making the journey into motherhood.
Then, on a TV show that I enjoy, a woman was rushed into an emergency c-section. It was a matter of life and death, and then her baby was born and I sobbed. Then the baby gave her first cry and I sobbed some more. I was holding Harley on my lap while watching TV (she was busy playing with her shoes, as is her way lately), and I was telling her that was how she was born. I couldn’t help myself, kissing and hugging her while sobbing watching a stupid TV series. Motherhood is complicated. It’s hard and lonely and absolutely terrifying. And that’s with a loving husband, supportive family and friends and the good fortune to afford all the things I needed during birth and those early days especially.
I’ve written before about the emergency and trauma of Harley’s birth. It’s hard to express just how scary it all was, mostly because I have so few memories of that day. I remember Dean telling me that we were going to the hospital, I remember seeing Harley during the C-section, and then I remember waking up in the ICU with Dean next to me. A few days later, I was moved to the maternity ward and even got my own room. Harley was just down the hallway in the NICU, and I was allowed to visit her often. Those early days were filled with so much pain, fear and a whole lot of breast pumping. I was afraid to pick up and hold my baby, that I would hurt or break her. I couldn’t move too quickly without hurting my C-section wound, and I was constantly afraid of my blood pressure after the eclampsia. But I had excellent care from the nurses, from Dean, from his family and our friends here, plus I was able to speak to my mom every day.
Once we got home, it actually got harder. I mean, it was great to be home, but I was still recovering from my own surgery and trauma, and now had to take care of a preemie princess. I had postpartum depression, and even though my mom was so supportive and helpful, we could only talk on Skype instead of being able to curl up in her lap and tell her how completely terrified I was. I remember that day when the weight of it all came down on me – I was a MOM. For the rest of Harley’s life, I am her mommy. I am responsible for her, I have to take care of her. It’s a big deal – parents are among the most important people in someone’s life, and I’ve signed up for that. I am a mommy, I can kiss things better, make the best (or worst) dinners that Harley will compare all other meals to forever, and help forge her definition of love. It takes my breath away thinking about it, even now.
I really missed my mom in those early days. I have amazing friends, and a loving husband with a close-knit family, and they all did fantastic things to make it easier for me. They were kind and generous and helpful… but just as I’m Harley’s mom and it’s a unique bond, I missed my mom. When she came to visit for my first Mother’s Day, it was the absolute best. We laughed and joked, she took care of Harley and took care of me, she watched me play with my little baby and told me that I was a fabulous mom. Other people could tell me I was a great mom, but it somehow meant so much more coming from my own mom. I had figured that if I were half as good a mom as she was, I was doing okay, and here she was saying that I was doing a great job – it was exactly what I needed to become more confident as a parent.
These days, life is still scary, but in fun new ways. Harley is learning to walk, and she can reach ever higher surfaces in the house. It seems nothing is safe from her grasp anymore. But she is funny and makes jokes and laughs and plays and is an absolute delight… except when she seems to cry for no reason or is testing the waters with throwing tantrums (this toddler thing started earlier than I expected). I’m still afraid and lonely at times, although it’s way easier than it was. I think it also helps that I know those feelings pass, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve made friends with other moms, who can sympathize with worrying about what to do when a kid is upset, or who also had to sit up with a baby that was refusing to sleep. I’ve found a community of smart, funny, insightful women who can share in the moments of joy and the moments of terror, who are also dancing with their own fears and believing in each other.
Parents are a tribe, and mothers, in particular, have a special bond. Throughout time, we have all faced similar challenges, similar fears, similar loneliness. But we also get the joy of that unique love we share with our little ones, a love unlike anything else. Which is why I was so grateful to get invited to participate with Embrace on #MothersDayConnect. The idea is simple, as explained by creator Julie Mentor:
We are asking moms specifically in Cape Town, Joburg and Durban to give 1 hour of their day on Mother’s Day to simply sit with a new mom 1 woman to another and make her feel less alone and let her know that she is not alone in this overwhelming moment.
I know I felt so alone, so overwhelmed in those moments, and I would love to make the journey that little bit easier for another mom. Just imagine new moms, giving birth in a public hospital without any family nearby, without friends or help, without even privacy but forced to share a public ward. So, on Mother’s Day, I plan to go to a local hospital and spend some time with a new mom, helping her feel less alone. I also plan to spoil the nurses there a little bit – I know that Harley and I couldn’t have survived without our nurses and they are too often the unsung heroes of these stories. And I invite all of you, if you have time and ability, to go visit a new mom in your area. Offer wisdom, kind words, and a small moment of connection and recognition for a new member of our mom tribe. Please be sure to visit the Embrace Facebook page, and the Mother’s Day Connect website for more info and to get involved.
And take a moment to breathe, sway, and listen to the music of your heart while you dance with the fear. We are not alone – we are many, we are strong, we are moms.
Full disclosure: the good people at Embrace have come on board to sponsor #MothersDayConnect, and so I will receive compensation for this post. As always, though, I only accept work on campaigns I believe in. Here’s hoping that their sponsorship helps to spread the message further than would have been possible otherwise, making more mothers realize that they are not alone on this journey.