"Surprise, Surprise! Uh, uh, uh, Happy Birthday!" Thoughts on accepting gifts and help from friends.
Eliza, my youngest, has been super into Cinderella. Again. And still. (We were on a Sleeping Beauty kick for several months, along with Frozen for a while.) I've been reading at least two versions of the story a day (How, and why, exactly, do we have 5 slightly different versions of the story in book form??) She watches her favorite parts on the kindle when I take her with me to the work out room at the clubhouse.
One of her favorite scenes is where the mice are lamenting about how much cinderella has to do, and she won't be able to go to the ball. Then, they come up with the idea to finish the dress themselves. They come together, work hard, and make this beautiful, amazing dress to gift Cinderella.
Cinderella is worn down, beaten, downhearted, she comes into her room to find this amazing gift. What does she do? She thanks them.
Imagine if instead of Cinderella accepting a dress, it was a new mother and her friends all came together and offered to help her with meals, or even watching an older sibling. What would her response be? Would she even accept it? Would she pretend to have her act together and assume she needs to be self-sufficient?
I was a new mother once. (albeit, a while ago, it seems now) I remember the ridiculous amount of guilt I had in accepting meals from our Sunday School group. Feeling inadequate as a mother because I was too sore and tired from recovering from a cesarean birth and breastfeeding difficulties to cook meals for my husband. I felt overwhelmed with motherhood in general, and the inadequacies of not being able to have a vaginal birth or having breastfeeding come naturally just pushed me over the edge. It didn't take much for the insecurities to take root and for me to refuse offers of help much past two weeks postpartum.
Here's the thing though, (or one of the things) I really needed help past those first two weeks. I was just too proud, too insecure, too polite, and too immature to accept the gifts of help graciously. I secretly felt that the people who were bringing me meals were doing it out of a sense of obligation, and I was supposed to "politely" put up a fuss about their offers to help. I was "supposed" to be able to do it on my own.
On the other side of my journey to motherhood, I now realize what those people were really offering. It wasn't to make me feel more inadequate. It wasn't to "judge" me or my inability to feed anyone. It was to help lighten the load. Most of those women had given birth before, many of them were multiple time moms. They knew because they had been there.
So my advice from my experience is to suck up your pride and accept help. Welcome the people who are trying to lighten the load. Don't wave them away, say "we've got this" even if you do. Just take a cue from Cinderella. Twirl around with that dress and say "oh, thank you so much."
It wasn't multiple child syndrome (the syndrome one has when they have multiple children. Other symptoms might include not having a baby book, or not compulsive writings of "firsts".) I didn't cry because I wasn't sad. I was happy.
I won't get into it all, but I will tell you that it sucked. (If you want to read more about it, I blogged about it here.) Yes, God used those losses in a way that I never imagined. But, it still sucked in the middle, deep pit of it all (even though God met us there.)
One of those pregnancies, we found out we were pregnant around the same time as a friend. A friend I saw often. We, obviously, lost the baby. My friend did not. It was not her fault in any way, shape, or form, but it hurt for a long time to watch her son grow up. (Not in an angry at her way, or angry at him way. In a, miss-my-baby way. Just want to be clear on that.) It hurt because I was watching him do all of the things that our baby would never do.
That same due-date baby's major milestones were always an emotional blow. Those blows lessened after having Isaac and Eliza. But, the day he started kindergarten was especially hard on me. It was a big milestone. One I wasn't prepared to hurt so much, because, y'all, I had TWO MORE CHILDREN by then. (Grief is fun like that.) But, the baby that we lost, he/she was still our baby, too. And, gosh, I missed him/her. Hard.
So, yesterday, as Isaac walked into the gym at his school, and as he sat down in line and as I walked him to his class, I was so proud of him. Beyond that, all I could think was a small pray of thanksgiving "Thank you for letting us/him have this experience."
So, no, I didn't cry for Isaac. Because, he's here, and growing up well. But, when I got home, I again cried for the babies we never met outside my womb.
Tracy Abney is a certified birth and bereavement doula serving Huntsville, Madison and other parts of north Alabama.