My Village

Our newest little one is now about 10 weeks old, and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on life since he arrived.

I still feel absolutely run ragged most days, but I feel like we have hit our new normal. Life is moving at a fast pace, but at least it is becoming consistent and somewhat predictable (I know, that probably jinxes it).

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and honestly, I don’t know how I would have survived this last 10 weeks without my own village of caring people.

I wanted to be really intentional about resting properly in the postnatal period this time (after probably pushing it last time), and I really feel like it has paid off.

I had people here helping out a lot for the first 6-7 weeks – my husband for 4 weeks (off work), then my Mum and Dad, then my Sister and Brother-in-law.

My husband was amazing – looking after the older two kids and running the household the whole time. I pretty much got to just look after the baby and sleep, doing other bits and pieces as I could manage.

In fact, I don’t think I washed a single dish for one and a half months! That was almost as good as a holiday! 😉

Many people from church made us meals in those early weeks.

I’ve also had to learn to ask for help from friends, which is really hard for me.

But after many repetitions of my husband saying, “Call someone to come and help you!” and my friends saying “Call us if you need help!”, I guess it is sinking in.

One day, my second child was sick and I had to pick up my eldest from preschool in the middle of the day. So I called a friend to ask if she could pick her up for me, which she was happy to, and then when she brought my daughter home she also gave me a meal she had in her freezer – I was so blown away by her kindness!

The other week, I called my friend over to come and watch the kids while I washed my hair. And yeah, I did feel a little ridiculous asking her to do that, but well, it was almost two weeks since the last washing, so I was getting desperate! She totally understood, of course, being a mother of older kids herself.

One time, my husband had to work on the weekend and as the end of the day approached, he told me he had to scrap everything he’d done that day and start again. So it was clear that instead of being home within the hour (like I’d been expecting), he was actually not going to be home any time soon. At that point, I felt like locking myself in a small space and assuming the foetal position. Or calling my husband back and applying some combination of sobbing/begging/pleading him to come home. But I didn’t. I contacted two of my closest friends to have a quiet vent about it and ask them to pray for me. Then one of my (non-local) friends contacted another (local) friend, who then showed up on my doorstep unannounced with a meal to heat up for dinner, her daughter to entertain my kids for an hour, and willing hands ready to do the dishes and tidy up my house. Yep, my friends are kind of amazing!

These are just some examples, but there have been many more instances of practical help people have given me and our family.

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They’re kind of cute when they’re not killing each other…

And it’s not just practical help. There’s also been much good advice given to me. I kind of feel like I’ve got the baby thing down pat now. I don’t mean it’s easy. But I’ve got my systems and I know what to do.

But the three kids thing? I have no idea what I’m doing…

The other day I read this article: Motherhood 101:The Class We Never Got.

It’s really long, but I highly recommend reading it. Anyway, Jess Connell talks about the importance of seeking out advice from other mothers who have demonstrated success in the areas we lack in motherhood. She lays out how you do this – identify your most pressing need at this time, find someone who does it well, ask them for their advice, listen and apply what they suggest, then evaluate how it worked for you.

Well, I did this the other week. I was finding it a real challenge breastfeeding the baby with the older two around. They were either climbing all over me and the baby or fighting with each other each time, then I would get stressed, then the baby wouldn’t feed as well.

So I asked a Mum from my MOPS group how she managed it. She suggested I go to the Kmart craft section and get a bunch of stuff for the older kids to play with just when I’m feeding the baby. Well, I did that and have been applying that method for almost a week now, and most of the time it works really well! Not perfectly, but it’s way better than it was. I’m so glad I asked!

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Sometimes I feel guilty about asking for help so much (or maybe just prideful?), but it helps me to remember there are different seasons in life. I am just in a season where I happen to need to receive more help, and one day I will be in a season where I can give more help to someone else.

In a way, I feel like all these people who surround me with love and practical support are training me to be a good friend. I’ve been helped and supported in ways I never would have thought of on my own.

So, if there’s anything I could say to my fellow Mums, it’s this:

Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Don’t let fear of getting in the way stop you from giving help.

Receive help. Receive advice.

Give help. Give advice.

Embrace the village – we need each other.

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10 Things I’m Looking Forward to When the Baby Comes

  1. The snuggles. Honestly, is there anything better than the snuggles? Sleepy, milk drunk snuggles or happy, cooing snuggles – I just love snuggling a newborn!
  2. Breastfeeding. After a real struggle feeding my daughter, and then a relatively smooth (although short) run with my son, I kind of feel like I know what I’m doing here.
  3. Seeing my kids be “big sister” and “big brother”. My daughter absolutely cannot wait for the baby to come. She is smitten with babies in general and tries to hug every baby we meet! If she’s at risk of “killing the baby with love”, my son is at risk of killing the baby with… solid wood toys. I’m sure he will love the baby too, I just anticipate having to watch him more closely!
  4. The night time feeds. Sure, they are tiring, but something I noticed with my son (our second child) was that the day time feeds were more… not quite rushed, but they were one of the many things I was multi-tasking throughout the day. Whereas the night time feeds were peaceful, quiet (except for the nappy change part – that kid HATED nappy changes!) and I found I really enjoyed them. I imagine this will be even more the case with our third child – the night feeds will be even more of an opportunity to slow down and enjoy that precious baby.
  5. Greater intimacy with my husband. I love the way each new baby draws us closer together. This may sound strange, but I have these wonderful memories of settling the baby back down after a night feed, and rolling back under the covers where my husband’s warm limbs would surround my cold ones. He often didn’t say anything, but I felt what he meant – “I love you and I appreciate you”. Parenting together, especially newborns, reveals new things to love about each other.

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    My daughter as a newborn.

  6. It’s a… surprise! This will be the first time baby’s sex is a surprise, and I’m really looking forward to finding this out at the birth.
  7. Baby toys. I’ve had all the baby toys packed away in a cupboard for a while now. They mostly all fit into one bag, so there’s not too many of them. But I’m really excited to get them out again and watch the kids try to play with baby. My favourite is this play mat with two arches going over it, and little stuffed animals hanging off the arches. I’ve had it for both kids now, and I love watching them go from vaguely interested, to concentrating on the animals, to getting coordinated enough to bat at and eventually grab the animals. So much fun!
  8. Little baby clothes. Oh, the little onesies! I can’t wait to get them all out again.
  9. Baby wearing. I don’t think it *quite* qualifies as an obsession, but I do have 5 different types of baby carriers. Technically, I love this for the same reason I love baby snuggles, but one additional point is that baby carriers allow me to have baby snuggles whilst being hands-free to do all that other stuff in my day. For this reason, around the home I tend to use more of the soft-structured carriers (instead of slings, where you still need a hand to steady the baby).
  10. Baby snuggles.What’s that, I already mentioned those? Oh, so I did. 🙂

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    My son at about a week old.