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Swallowing a Bitter Pill

November 11, 2010

I don’t ask anyone for help. It’s not anything I’m particularly proud of, it just is. I could be carrying SJ in the car seat plus 4 bags of groceries and a purse/diapers bag while trying to unlock a door and sincerely respond to your offer with “I got it.”

When I reflect on those moments, I can clearly see how I look and sound like an overwhelmed toddler eager to prove she’s capable. But, in the moment, I really do believe there’s nothing the least bit ridiculous about my position.

Where does this come from? Sometimes I think it comes from me having left home at 15. Sometimes, there has to be some sort of superwoman complex at work. Lately, I’m blaming it on a fear of disappointment when someone either can’t or won’t be the support I’m seeking.

After SJ was born, I couldn’t believe how overwhelmed and tired I felt. Where labor is hard work, exclusively breastfeeding a newborn is the restless kind. When the exhaustion set in after a few days, I felt like the universe was mercilessly writing an explanation for why mother’s need each other in the sleepy achy-ness behind my eyes and in my back…I finally got it! So, I reached out to people, asking for meals and help keeping house, like in this humorous-yet-honest list from Gloria Lemay’s Birth Blog. Have I ever swallowed a pill so big? If so, I can’t recall it.

And it only kinda worked! Close friends I thought would be glad to help were elusive or suddenly silent…and it hurt. Needless to say it reinforced my unwritten (until now) policy against asking for help. I don’t want it to though. So, I’m working on being transparent with myself about the quality and reciprocity of my relationships so that I can better manage my expectations in the hopes of not completely abandoning the help seeking experiment. Part of this also means finding ways to be a more giving and helpful person myself. I’m working on being the villager for others that I seek.

Alright mamas, what lessons did you learn the hard way in the early days?

Which ones are you still learning?

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2010 7:13 pm

    Mmmm…girrrrl. This is a good post. Where shall I start?

    I’ll say that I learned the hard way that this whole mothering thing is more than a notion. My labor, delivery, and post partum time after baby #1 was like the Twilight Zone. I had an infection, my nipples were sore and bleeding, my hormones out of control and I was broke. I think I might of had some kind of nervous breakdown. I NEEDED HELP! I was desperate and felt so needy.

    I felt the same way you did, finding that some people I thought would be there were not. Others stuck right by my side, hallelujah for them. But, it humbled me. For that, I am grateful and wouldn’t change a thing!

    I got knocked down off my spiritual, vain,” I’m educated, I’m together, I’m XY and Z” high horse! Big time and I like who I am better now and I know it was God who allowed my world to crumble to build some compassion in me and make me more like him I’m convinced marriage and children will do that to you like nothing else!

    I could go on and on. But, perhaps I’ll build off this post for a discussion on my blog about it too. Thanks~

    • November 13, 2010 1:08 am

      Thanks for sharing such an honest response! I completely understand what you mean about becoming a more compassionate person. Something about being so vulnerable really make you feel just human and not much more.

      Looking forward to reading your post!

  2. November 14, 2010 5:49 pm

    Wonderful post! I was actually thinking about writing something on this! I also have an issue with asking others for help, largely because my help is often unreliable or unavailable. When my daughter was first born, I had some help, largely from my family, but that was about it. Most of my friends do not have children, so, even if they wanted to help, they didn’t really know how besides buying things like cute onesies and pairs of socks. I could have said to such friends what they could have done to help, but I was too busy, tired, and frustrated with things in the beginning that I didn’t. I would like to say that if I could go back, I would change how I went about things, but I can’t really say that I would.

    I think also, that some of the issue has to do with our society’s views on needing help and needing others. On the one hand, there is a message out there that the “best” of us do not need anyone else, that we can and should strive for independence. On the other hand, there is a message that if you need help sometimes, it’s okay to ask sometimes. In trying to be my “best,” the best woman/mother, I think, I convinced myself that in spite of the little help I was receiving, I could do it alone, that in doing it alone without asking, I would be less of a burden on those around me.

    Hmmm. I have written a lot, so I’ll stop here to spare your comment field. Thanks so much for making me think more about this issue.

    • November 15, 2010 11:59 pm

      You know, it actually makes me think back to when a good friend had her first and sent out a message to us all asking for help. I had no clue how to for some reason and unintentionally avoided her for years. When we reconnected recently, I was all apologies. So, I understand in some way.

      On the other hand, I don’t, because I’m pretty specific when I ask and some folks aren’t clueless. For the most part, its forcing to mama up, as Andrea (@multiplemama) put it and see some friendships differently.

  3. November 16, 2010 6:04 pm

    I should also say that there were a couple of friends and family members who were awesome; didn’t know what to do or how to help, but came by and hung around when they could, left if they sensed my frustration, held him even when he was being anti-social and grumpy. I still havent found a suitable way to thank them.

  4. November 16, 2010 6:50 pm

    It really is hard to have to admit when we need help. I have a problem with that, too. But I try to help people when they need it because I know that one of these days I’m going to have to face the fact that I can’t do everything on my own.

    • November 28, 2010 4:45 am

      Especially with new mothers, I’m trying to be a more helpful person. I wouldn’t wish that level of exhaustion on anyone!

  5. November 18, 2010 10:20 pm

    Great post. I’m the opposite. Not in all situations, but if I have a lot on my plate, if you ask to help me, it’s because you WANT to help me.

    LOL, so people better not ask trying to be friendly. I am quick to put someone to work!

    Hubby says I am the “Queen of Delegation!” I really just feel like I’m not superwoman and don’t want to be. I don’t think it’s possible “for me” to do it all.

    I applaud moms who are actually doing a great job at it!

  6. December 16, 2010 6:24 pm

    Peace Sis,

    I HEAR you. From 1.5 months on, I was doing this by myself (with the help of God and the ancestors)…family was in another state, and my spouse was in the process of becoming my ex-spouse. The prince was 1 when we arrived to Chicago….I thought I’d have a lot more help when I arrived…the opposite was true. Buuuuuut…I learned a few things….sometimes help comes from the least-expected candidates. For instance, it was a co-worker who helped me find a place to live (not my friends of 6 + years). It was the 4th cousins who I hadn’t spoken to in YEARS and 2 old friends from college who made themselves available to help me move—not the folks I called bestfriends. It was a friend of a friend who ended up being a babysitter when I needed to go to an evening meeting (not the cousins who lived a few miles away, not the aforementioned friends). Sis, some days were really hard….really hard. One of the ways I worked to prevent bitterness, was to think about where each person was….society trains us to be focused on education and our careers in our 20’s….people were consumed with deadlines, exams, etc…..most of them had no idea of what is was like to be a mother on a journey like mine. IThe ones that did and didn’t respond…it just told me a lot about who they were. When I started to feel funny about those relationships, I reached out to them…in most cases it opened the door for some honest conversation. In the cases it didn’t….I chose to move on (and let them know why).

    In other cases, I think a lot of folks just assumed that all was well, because that’s all I every allowed them to see. Super Soul Mamas like us stay fly and move with grace….how would they know> 😉

    My advice: continue to be honest with yourself about your feelings….that’s how you can begin to address them. Find the root of those feelings, and then get to work….writing a letter to myself or to friends (without sending it) really helped me to clarify my thoughts….and air them. Then, maybe schedule a tea with a girlfriend you need to talk to. Send a handwritten note, etc. The most important thing….don’t allow the feelings to build and fester. You are powerful…and our thoughts create our realities. Love ya.

    Sis, I don’t like to ask for help either.

    • December 18, 2010 12:30 am

      Thanks so much for sharing, Liz. I definitely found sisters in people I wouldn’t have expected. And, I’m continuing to do so. These are the new horizons I didn’t expect to enter with motherhood. So many more transitions than just giving birth; major changes in the cosmos of our lives.

      I’m still thinking about whether or not to address it. It’s true, some folks have no clue what to do or that (new) mothers really need the support. I know I was one and recently apologized to a friend for not answering her call when she began having babies. Now, I know better. One of the friends I was looking for is pregnant now and I’m paying forward the support even though… I still wonder if anything needs to be said.

  7. January 11, 2011 11:13 pm

    I don’t ask for help often…. Rarely . For the same
    reasons you didn’t/don’t. Having a child at a young age people
    expect you to knock on their door asking for a cup of sugar….sort
    of speak. However, my home and heart is constantly open to all
    young women who need help parenting… Someone even asked me. “whos
    gonna help you when you need help”? I just shrugged my shoulders…
    But I’m learning. 🙂

    • January 16, 2011 11:45 pm

      That’s so great that you have such an open heart to share and nurture. May we all pay it forward!

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