When I first got pregnant, I was immediately met with a network of support from close family and friends. Everyone was so excited for us. They indulged me in my long laments of pregnancy, they threw me beautiful baby showers, and helpfully dispensed copious amounts of all of the parenting advice I should ever need.
Then I had my son, and it all got real.
Suddenly the visions I had of toting my little bundle of joy around town with my friends became an impossibility as I was barely mobile and overcome with pain. The happiness I thought I would feel was as elusive as the sleep I was not longer experiencing. As postpartum depression almost immediately took hold of me I wondered how I had gotten to this place. Why had I wanted this? What had I done?
Ten days following the birth of my son, I sent a text to many of my family and friends saying that I couldn’t do this. I didn’t want to live. A few hours later, I admitted myself into the hospital psych ward. Postpartum psychosis had taken over and I was left with very few options.
When word spread that I was in the hospital, the village of support starting pouring in. My mother-in-law stayed at our house and took on several weeks of night shifts with the baby. Close friends took time off work to help my husband care for our new son. Meals were dropped off daily from strangers and our local church. Others brought diapers, wipes, and clothes.
On my day passes when I was allowed to return home for 12 hours, a few friends that I allowed to see me in my current state, would stay with me to make sure I didn’t harm myself or my son. As humiliating as the whole experience was, it was also silently comforting to know I was never alone.
Some afternoons I would just rock silently in my rocking chair with C while a friend sat blissfully silent beside me. Other times they would hold him for hours, allowing me to go upstairs and have a few hours to myself to rest my spinning mind. They never judged me or told me how I should be acting as a mother.
They never told me I wasn’t normal.
There were many days I was too tired to speak. Many days I couldn’t answer simple questions or make simple decisions. I remember once my friend Court came to visit and asked if she could give me a hug. I just shook my head. She understood and respected my limits, even though I’m sure it hurt her in the moment.
It was a long road but eventually my mind released its death grip on my soul and with the help of a handy sleeping pill and anti-anxiety meds I was able to gain some much needed perspective again. It took many months, but I came out the other side a stronger mother and passionate advocate for moms.
The true test of friendship, like any relationship, is not how good things are when life is happily chugging along, conforming to your daily expectations. It’s when things get real and your world is unraveling around you that you see the heart of someone’s true character.
The support my friends and even complete strangers during that unbearable time was the genuine kind of encouragement the wells up from the purest form of love. My own mom commented many times how amazed she was that so many people had come together to help me through. When she asked them once why they were continuing to sacrifice so much of their time to help me they replied, “Because it’s what Tiff would do for us.”
And they are right.
My gratitude for these people cannot be put into words. Suffice it to say I may not have lived to tell the tale if they hadn’t put their own lives on hold to save mine. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child; it takes a village to raise a mom. Finding a tribe of others to support you in parenthood is perhaps the richest gift you will ever receive.
Thank you to all of the members of my mommy tribe.
Tiffany Austin is a mom, a wife, writer, and educator living in Calgary, AB, Canada. Tired of never feeling “good enough” as a new mom, she began a blog to encourage other moms to feel confident and empowered in their own decisions. Her blog, The Good Enuf Mommy, includes everything from helpful parenting advice to product recommendations aimed at making the lives of moms just a little bit easier. Show her some love on Facebook and Twitter and if you like what you see sign up for her monthly newsletter!
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