A group of flamingos will all mate at the same time so that all of the chicks will hatch together.
This makes good sense if you have flamingo mating skills. You experience the joys and tribulations of pregnancy with your friends. You celebrate milestones together. Birth is still vivid in your best flamingo friend's brain when you compare stories. You raise your wee flamboyance with your pals.
What if you find yourself without a flamingo village? No one who is in the same stage? No current experiences to draw from. Bird analogies aside, no one to receive tips, tricks, suggestions, etc. No one to commiserate with. No one to give you current, sound advice. You might feel isolated. Like your people have flocked off on you.
I was in a funny position when I had my son, Andrew. Many of my friends and family had already had their babes. They were pre-schoolers and beyond. I had very few people "in the thick of it" when I was having Andrew. My family was all out of town.
If you are flying solo in pregnancy for reasons such as that your friends have mostly already been through the "birth and baby stage," and are now experiencing new adventures with their little ones, are the first of your group to get pregnant, your family or friends live farther away, you're experiencing a multiple pregnancy, versus a singleton pregnancy.... whatever this looks like, the excitement can feel disconnecting.
Pregnancy, birth and postpartum can be isolating enough. You may be missing out on lunches with friends while you can't stomach the smell of a restaurant cooking chicken. You might be staying home from games night cause you can't stay up past 8:30 p.m. Your friends might not know how to engage with you without going for drinks, and you're not into being the D.D. I was lucky to have mostly amazing and supportive people in my life, who understood I needed to be in early, or would tweak plans to include tea instead of wine. I almost never hosted things at my home, as I'd want to go to bed early. Some people I disconnected from naturally. It happens. That's kind of a life cycle.
Here are a few tips for connecting, surviving, and thriving in a time where you may be feeling left out:
1) Join an online group or forum for folks due around the same time as you are.
2.) Try to connect with other pregnant folks. Perhaps less awkwardly than what I'd likely say, "I see you are currently anticipating the arrival of a tiny human, I, too, am gestating." Seriously, connect with other parents-to-be and pick their brains... what are they doing about the heartburn that could scald a desert cactus?
3.) Find a village: Parent and baby groups, library story and song times, breastfeeding groups, play groups at Early Years Centres.... whatever. Find people in the same stage and try and connect. Get out of the house. Often. If no one in said group has started a Facebook page from it, START YOUR OWN. Plan playdates. Get out with other people in the same stage. This saved my anxiety and my sanity.
4.) Don't expect your older family members or your friends with teens to remember. They've blocked out the shit of it. Their time was different. That's ok. They're also more likely to just worry about YOU. They will want to hold baby, but they will want to ensure you're eating and sleeping. Your friends who don't yet kids might not get you right now. They will try really hard to connect with you, though. Work with each other if you can. They really love you. They just don't know yet how to love you through this.
5.) For the pre-natal and postpartum period: Get help. Get long phone chargers to stay connected during marathon nursing sessions. Consider hiring a doula. Get support. Someone to reach out to when stuff is overwhelming that knows the local resources. Can share what other parents they know are doing. Someone know KNOWS you likely haven't showered in three days and the dry shampoo has met its match.
6.) Know that one day... your world will get easier. We promise. Someone had to tell me this. They were in my colony, but had been through it before. Thank you, Lindsay. <3
On my last day off, I spent half of it getting my hair done. Cut, highlighted, lowlighted. Then I rushed home to pick up my son from Pre-School. I generally look forward to a good change. I love a pedicure, a manicure (preferably with acrylic tips!), and a new lip colour. It freaking feels lovely. But at the same time, I will hastily schedule in a massage, a chiropractor appointment, etc. into my already busy work day to occur on my lunch break. Almost an afterthought. Why?
Why is using my "time off" sans family used for my appearance? When was the last time I used my day off to actually make it to a yoga class, take a hike, do something artistic? Quilt? I do not feel fulfilled having my hair cut. I like a quick change. It meets my short term needs.
When we suggest "self care" to people, why does it always involve freaking bubble baths? Aesthetics? Is it simply because I don't need to worry about asking someone to mind my child on a day I'm off work and he can go to Pre-School? Honestly, it feels like a sense of duty. Ok, this is my day to "treat myself" this month, so I better make it count. Why does "treating myself" or my "Jackie Day" need to involve my looks? Pressure to keep up, insecurity, sheer neglect all come to mind. Fitting into a feminine mindset. Not wanting to trouble family to watch my son on evenings I don't work. I wonder what it will take to shift that focus to things that might fill my bucket, help me work on my goals, and provide me actual breathing space. I'm the one creating my schedule on these days. I'm the boss of me.
Monday is my next day off. I'm spending it with my Mum. She now lives in town, and I'm so so grateful to have this day off with her. We will lunch and shop. This will fill my bucket. I would like to make an effort to journal on Monday. At least a blog post, but preferably a real, sit down, journal entry.
So many layers. Much like my new hair.
Somedays, I just feel like I know NOTHING. Not a thing. Nothing about how to parent in an emotionally responsive way, how to support those in my life. How to manage a home while working full time and owning a business.
Recently, my tiny human, age 3.5 has begun becoming highly emotional on the way to Pre-School. It's a new school for him. The first week of drop offs were amazing. Then...the tears. The screaming. The saying "Don't Leave, Mama." Heart broken.
I just don't know how to help him. I try and get him to talk it out. I try to make the mornings easier to help fill his bucket. More time with Mama, less missing, maybe? I'm not sure. Today was better. Drop off was outside so he was excited to show me his climbing.
Time changes... I let him nap long, then kept him up late the night of the change. Attempting shorter naps at pre-school. Some nights work. Some don't. I have no idea what's next. I just want him to sleep through.
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to have social connections at this stage in my life. I work two nights a week, and one weekend a month. I'm on call a lot. I do breakfasts with some of my doula gals, as therapeutic debriefing most of the time. Drinks after work are hard. My husband handles a lot of the pick ups, drop offs, etc.
Anyway.... I'm just saying. Some days are easier than others with feeling like you know your ass from your elbow. Real talk.
Jackie Anger is a London, Ontario doula, a mama to an amazing pre-schooler, and a kid-dude, a community advocate, and a lover of coffee.