The other moms could smell my desperation. My immediate family and childless friends stepped up after the birth of my first daughter, but it wasn’t enough. I longed for a “momship” – an incredible and unbreakable bond with another mom. I know you’ve heard or read about this, or maybe even experienced it: women whose babies are born within weeks of each other, who have deep middle of the night conversations (because they just both happen to be awake nursing at the same time), who share the joys and darknesses of each day with a new baby, who survive the trenches of motherhood by experiencing it together.
When Lily was about three months old, I went to “mommy and me” yoga classes, attended Le Leche League meetings and joined in walks with other moms with our babies strapped into bjorns or cradled in slings. After these encounters with women who totally and completely understood what I was going through, I felt high. The contrast between these moms and my close girlfriends who asked “what do you do all day?” was never more apparent. But the once a week encounters were not enough, and I quickly became an addict, searching greedily for a momship. When the time came to say good-bye, the panic would start. When would I see them again? Who would answer my questions? Where would I get my fix?
It got to the point where I felt I was in second grade again, begging the other girls to let me be part of their four square team on the playground. Many of these women were friends before they became pregnant, and the depth of their friendships ran deeper than simply giving birth. I was overly sensitive to the fact that I didn’t understand the inside jokes and wasn’t invited to the backyard picnics. As time passed, the get-togethers became more infrequent, eventually becoming an impossibility when I started working outside the home again. I focused on my job, my husband, my daughter and tried to let go of my momship hopes and dreams.
In hindsight I have come to realize that, unlike second grade, these feelings of exclusion existed solely in my head. The reality is that these other moms were not trying to ostracize me, did not consciously choose another mom to be part of their group over me. I was reeling in my own postpartum issues of isolation and anxiety. Not yet comfortable in my own skin as a mother, I needed more affirmation and validation than any new friend could possibly offer. I was simply searching for something that doesn’t exist: an effortlessly meaningful friendship without any real foundation to fall back on.
Anyone who has experienced the first six months (and beyond) of motherhood understands that this isn’t exactly a breeding ground for nurturing new friendships. Much like trying to take a shower with a screaming baby in a bouncy chair so that you can make it to the grocery store before noon – it just isn’t going to happen. I finally realized that these other moms couldn’t fill up my cup for me, that I had to stop searching for more and appreciate what I had.
My support network has grown substantially since Lily was born four years ago, partly due to the fact that I have let go of the notion that a momship means best-friends-forever-til-death-do-us-part. My momships now include co-workers, mom bloggers, women in the grocery store who give me that look of understanding when both my preschooler and toddler are throwing fits, and friends, new and old, who are starting to grow their families. I am grateful for the varied connections I have to every other woman who has joined the ranks in the motherhood army. You all rock. Thanks for reminding me that I do too.