The Toughest Night
Something in me snapped.
It was the middle of the night and my newborn had been going radioactive every seven minutes. Radioactive was the nickname I had given to the red-faced wail exploding from his body twenty plus times a day. That night when my usually agreeable husband kicked a baby blanket onto the floor, I felt my own rage missile engage. Something had to be done.
Someone to say, Me too!
That rage is how baby and I found ourselves on the Vienna Metro the next day. Yes, as a new mom, I lived in Austria–an eight-hour plane ride away from all my friends and family. I hadn’t showered or eaten. My clothes were puke-stained and between the hormones and lack of sleep, it felt like I had been shocked at regular intervals with rusty jumper cables.
My clothes were puke-stained and between the hormones and lack of sleep, it felt like I had been shocked at regular intervals with rusty jumper cables.
To say I was a hot mess would be generous, but in the midst of it all, I held out hope that this last hail-mary would work.
Somewhere around my ninth month of pregnancy, I had joined a mamas collective. The Vienna Family Network, a non-profit group of mostly expats, pairs expectant mothers together based on the due dates of their babies. We, twenty or so moms, met a few times while pregnant, but since the birth of my son, I was too scared to leave the apartment alone to make weekly meetings. But now I was desperate for change, and I hoped seeing everyone again would help.
When I arrived at the host mom’s place, I was shocked.
No one looked at me like I was as crazy as felt. We cooed over each other’s tiny creatures. There was food! And someone to watch my little guy as I crammed bites into my mouth with shaking hands!
No one looked at me like I was as crazy as felt.
The topics of breast pads, c-section scars, stitches and all that other gross stuff were talked about like the latest weather forecast. We talked about our partners, who were all “awesome guys,” but had no idea what it was like to be the primary source of food, comfort and protection 24 hours a day.
The crazy thing is, normally I would be too embarrassed to let it all out in front of a few acquaintances, but I was so tired and beaten down that I didn’t care. High on sugar and caffeine, I left that meeting still sleep-deprived and reeking of regurgitated milk, but I was reminded that I was one of many who felt the same. If they could do it, I could too.
We talked about our partners who were all “awesome guys,” but had no idea what it was like to be the primary source of food, comfort and protection twenty-four hours a day.
A Note to You, New Mama
So maybe you are a new mom in the thick of it and you are thinking Lucky you, Ms. Devon, but I don’t have a Vienna Family Network and my life doesn’t make it so easy. Well brave woman, my group taught me a lesson for you, too.
It’s OK if Yours is Different from Mine
On any given day, I see anywhere from 30 to 200 hundred Whatsapp messages on my phone. Just when I am convinced I am the only one who hasn’t figured out how to transition from milk to solids or the crazy life-algorithm of how to dress a baby before bed, another mom posts the same struggle to our digital group! And in return she gets suggestions, words of encouragement and baby barf memes. Even moms who can’t go out don’t have to go it alone, all you need is some guidance from other Wondermoms.
How to Find Your Mama Tribe
Google can be a mom’s best friend and worst enemy. Bad Google scares you to death at 3 a.m. when you search, “What is the bump on my baby’s face?” But when finding a group of women who can help you through the tough days, it is Good Google to the rescue. I found my network by searching, “Pregnancy in Vienna.” Here are a few other ideas that might work for you.
Are you following a cool mama online? Consider sending her a DM asking if she knows about any live or digital groups.
The name says it all. Meetup is a way for strangers, with similar interests, to find each other. Meetings occur in cities around the world.
Facebook is a great place to find groups. Most are closed and require you to answer a few questions to join. You can even find niche groups that fit your particular situation i.e. working moms, moms of multiples and more.
Sometimes just reading a first-hand account of someone living through a similar experience can give you enough breathing room to push through.
Create One for Yourself
There is another mom out there looking for you, too. Choose one of the above and start something so she can find you.
Some people say now is the hardest time to be a mom because we have access to way too much information, I respectfully disagree. Yes, it is harder to decide whether to sleep train or not, but we don’t have to deal with the plague! Best of all, with a few keystrokes, we can save ourselves from the depths of mommy isolation.
Devon Brown is a world-traveling girl turned expat mom. She lives and works as a freelance writer in Budapest, Hungary. Devon believes in investing in experiences, the unvarnished truth and the healing power of cake.