When you have a baby, a strange thing happens. All of a sudden people help you. Long lost relatives, old friends, new neighbors, people you’ve never met on the Internet–they throw together some of their best lasagnas and care packages full of chocolate and just give it to you.
When I had Waylon I was surprised by how much those gestures mattered; how a spare casserole or an encouraging note made all the difference in a day. I was even more surprised by my feelings of helplessness. I wanted my mom. I wanted Austin. I wanted someone with me so I wasn’t alone to handle a new baby, fragile nerves, and anxious bowels by myself.
I was surprised by my weakness. I was surprised by how much I needed help.
Of course there is good help and then the other kind of help who just wants to hold the baby for five hours and ask if you just love being a mommy. But mostly help is wonderful.
Whenever I talk to other mamas about all that help, we always have the same frustration. After you’ve been helped, you just want to help back, pay it forward. You want to find all the new moms you know and bring them magazines and dark chocolate truffles and clean their fridge. You want to share the love.
The problem is when you have a needy infant or an energetic toddler, your help becomes less helpful and more of a hazard. You want to hold the new baby, but your own baby is crying. You want to let your sister take a nap, but it’s your own kid’s naptime. You want to do the dishes, but oops–your toddler is unplanting all the houseplants.
Take it from me, it is impossible to vacuum your new mom friend’s house with a two year old because he will undo all your help faster than you can say “Sorry there is now poop on your carpet.”
Of course there are smaller gestures, and the truth is that most of the time it’s easier for everyone if you just mail a box of diapers and keep your encouragements virtual. But when it’s your sister, your dear friend, or someone who could really, really use an extra real-life hand–not being able to show up is heartbreaking.
My hope is that those of us who don’t have extra hands right now will remember this time later. That when our kids are grown, we will seek out the young and the weary and show up. Because if I’ve learned anything from parenthood it’s that it truly takes a village of humans to raise another human.
May we remember our villages, our helpers, our love and hope spreaders. May we remember the ones who quietly drop off Miralax and extra binkies and play with our toddlers so we can finally breathe.
May we accept help with quiet thank yous and the promise to remember the sweet burden of a new mom heart.