How the Village Empowers Us

Though my physical recovery the days following the birth of my third baby were much faster than my first two (spray bottle pro, here), learning to survive our new outnumbered reality was much harder. My husband took his first business trip just a week following her birth. Then five weeks later, he took a 10-day monster of a trip.

The two big brothers were adjusting with a capital A. I had anticipated this rough transition with babies so close together – the consequence of the “let’s see what happens” method of birth control. My 20-month-old regressed in his sleep, up multiple times a night, screaming for extended periods of time with mom and dad sleepily shuffling in to search for pacifiers. What I didn’t anticipate was the adjusting of my preschooler, navigating tantrums and back talking all along feeling like I shouldn’t have been allowed to be a parent, let alone to three people.

My house quickly fell apart, the laundry piled up, the lists of must-do tasks left undone grew.

The prospect of ever leaving my house again with three kids in tow, tackling a school pickup while schlepping an infant carrier plus backpacks or making it an entire day without TV/cookie bribery seemed insurmountable.

Enter the village.

Friends dropped off sugar on my doorstep, mailed chocolate and sent Starbuck gift cards when we filed a massive insurance claim on our rental property, took our son to the ER for an allergic reaction and watched my due date come and go all in a three-day span.

Our friends picked up the boys from school when I was finally in labor, reassuring them mom was fine. They loved on them, fed them and brought them to the hospital to meet sister.

My mom took them away for four days so we could have time with just baby sister. She came back two weeks in a row to fill in while Daddy had to travel. She came back AGAIN when three of the five of us came down with Influenza A.

My midwife listened while I cried at my 2-week and 6-week followup appointments about both the logical and completely irrational feelings.

They brought meals for a month, stocking our fridge and freezer. They sent restaurant gift cards, taking the guilt away from pizza delivery night. They brought nursing snacks for me and distractions for the boys. Some of them are close friends that were simply returning the favor and others we barely knew.

Even after making it past the 6-week milestone when you’re supposed to be back to super mom, they dropped off caffeine. My postpartum doula came to help with bedtime, laundry and gave me time to shower when I was solo parenting it.

Now as I return to my day job, I’ve conquered the three-kid drop off and pick up. I can get three kids ready for the day, load it takes a villagenine bags and six cups into the car before I’ve had a full cup of coffee. I actually make dinner a majority of nights (or like half, whatever). There are still tears when my husband leaves for a longer business trip but I know how to make it work (with lots of prayer and coffee).

The U.S. doesn’t care for our postpartum mothers like much of the rest of the world. In many countries, it’s common to have a nurse visit regularly to help with physical recovery and aid with breastfeeding not that the 10-minute pediatrician visit and 15-minute six-week checkup aren’t super reassuring. Many mothers are encouraged to rest in bed for a full month, recovering and bonding with their newborn. Many are fed nutritious meals to encourage lactation and healing – even more healthy than my diet of leftover chicken nuggets from my toddler’s plate!

Without the care and attention, we’re left with mothers that are depleted, sacrificing her own health for her children or a job. It’s not surprising that one million of us each year battle depression and anxiety related to childbirth or pregnancy loss.

While I’d love to change our postpartum culture or workplace policy, the short-term reality is it falls on us – the village.

Here’s the thing about the casseroles, bottles of wine and baby gifts – they certainly sustained my body and heart – but more than that, they empowered me in my roles as mom and wife. They acknowledged that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed and empty. It’s OK to feel like you can’t do this one more day. Most importantly, you don’t have to do this alone.

We have to notice each other. When a friend’s Facebook status warrants a surprise Starbucks run or pizza delivery. When a friend needs someone to just watch her baby so she can shower without anxiety. When a home-cooked meal would nourish long after the Meal Train has ended. When a hug and an reassuring “me too” will get her through the day.

Our second job is to accept help. Say yes when the meal is offered. Go take a long, hot shower when given the opportunity. Accept the hug, pep talk or listening ear. When we allow others to help us, it gives them permission to accept the help when it’s their turn on the receiving end.

And for the love of all things – when someone asks if they can drop off your favorite Starbucks drink – SAY YES!

Sarah McGinnity
Sarah grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (Go Cats!), she moved to Minnesota where she met her husband, Shea. Realizing how much she hated snow in May, she convinced him to move to Kansas City in 2010. Together they have lived in Midtown, Waldo, the Plaza, and now Overland Park. Sarah is mom to 10-year-old, Henry, 7-year-old Clark and 5-year-old Lucy. She has her master’s in urban administration and is passionate about making Kansas City a more equitable and supportive community. In between the crazy, she likes to drink coffee, run, hike, travel as much as possible, and experience all things Kansas City!