When I had my oldest child we had been living in a new city, in a new country for just under one year. My husband was a full time student getting his doctor of chiropractic degree. Our family was hours away and we knew a handful of people.
Being a new mom is incredibly overwhelming even in the best circumstances. The learning curve is huge and there are many unknowns. There were many times I wished that I could call my mom and have her be with me within the hour. Although we had family visiting often, having them at my beck and call was not a reality.
A few months before I had my daughter, I sat at my computer and searched a moms group. This led me to East Hill Church in Gresham, Oregon. They hosted a moms group called MOPs International, which stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. Here I met an amazing group of women who would soon become my friends.
When I had my daughter, these women brought me meals for two weeks following her birth. They came with hot dinner, sweet treats and diapers. I hardly knew these women, yet they surrounded me with incredible love and support. They also provided opportunity for me to return the gift to other mothers when they were sick or had babies of their own.
We met every Tuesday in a room in the church. I dropped my daughter off in the nursery and joined other moms for breakfast. We would play silly games, make crafts, we had swap tables and almost every Tuesday I cried. I cried tears of sadness, I cried tears of relief and I cried tears of joy for finding my place among a group of other moms who had walked this path before and beside me. During our table discussions I was challenged by those who had different philosophies, different parenting techniques and different family dynamics. They made me feel sane, they made me feel normal.
Being a Canadian married to a student and living in the U.S.A. presented some interesting opportunities for a new way of life, and opened doors to unique relationships. I, along with two other Canadian wives, was given a very special visa. We were permitted to live in the country, but unless we met the requirements of NAFTA, we were not allowed to work. At the time, this was seen as an incredibly frustrating road block. However, we saw this as an opportunity to start a family.
These girls I had just met would soon become two of my closest friends. We would learn so many new things together, have fun exploring a new city and lean into each other for all the support we would need. Each of us, far from home, learned how to support a spouse in a demanding school program. We learned how to find fun things to do on a budget. We swapped ideas, coupons, and life hacks of all kinds.
When I had my daughter they were the first ones there to meet her. Marissa held my hand while I labored and brought me popsicles and gossip magazines. six months after my daughter was born, Michelle welcomed her daughter. And 4 months after that Marissa had her first daughter. Within 10 months we each had a baby girl of our own.
Together we added being a mother to the list of things we would learn to do together. These girls, along with my moms group, became my village. They became the listening ears to my worries; they became the ones I called in an emergency. They were our babysitters for date nights, they were the girls I called to come over in their pajamas to watch a chick flick while our husbands studied well into the night. They were my lifeline.
It wasn’t just those girls, it was the guys too. Our husbands learned to be dads together. It was so fun watching them melt when they each had a daughter. Our dear friend James quickly became Uncle and was wrapped right around the finger of each one of those baby girls. Uncle James was the one I would call when I couldn’t get Claire to stop crying, and she would calm as soon as she was in his arms. Even while I was pregnant, she would do flips and kicks when she heard his voice. My daughter was the flower girl at his wedding.
Now we have moved back to Canada, close to our families and our old friends. It is such a blessing to be surrounded by those who mean so much to us. Yes, becoming a parent with them by my side would have been wonderful. Yet, when I look back on my first two years of parenting, it is with fond and dear memories.
That village helped shape me as a mother and had a lasting impact on our family.
Michelle Smid is a wife of 8 years and a stay at home mom to two little girls. She is the author of the family and lifestyle blog Just An Ordinary Family. She aspires to write, create and inspire.
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