Five Things I Learned About Community While On Maternity Leave

Five Things I Learned About Community While On Maternity Leave

At Imperfectly Brave, we are creating a lifestyle of prayer and community. While Whitney was away on maternity leave, the Lord taught her a lot about community. Today, she’s giving us her top five lessons on community. Let us know which one resonates most with you.

From Whitney:

I didn’t have an easy road during Connolly’s first several weeks of life. The day Connolly was born, my mom collapsed in my arms. For several minutes (which felt like eternity), I thought that Connolly’s birthday would be the same day my mom met Jesus face-to-face. That didn’t happen, but my mom did take an ambulance to the same hospital Connolly was born in. The irony doesn’t fall short on me.

Then, just four days after Connolly’s birth, we were quickly sent to the NICU. Her temperature was dropping and I ended up in an unknown universe of hospital hallways. After a spinal tap performed on my five-pound baby and many other tests, I felt completely wrecked. I’m not a crier, but it was my turn to collapse. I fell into my friend’s arms and emotionally let go.

What was happening?

Fortunately, Connolly ended up only having a virus, but my eyes can’t undo what I witnessed. I find myself praying for NICU nurses, doctors and families all the time. We came out alive and well. Some don’t, and my heart aches even revisiting those curtained walls.

Because of our initial scare, I became terrified of germs and fevers. Out of caution, we were in the ER several times in those following weeks. And to count, Connolly has had rhino virus three times in her short life.

Funny thing is: she is the smiliest of all my babies.

In the midst of our journey, I’ve learned a lot about community. I felt I had a handle on its importance, but in reality, I had no idea how necessary it is. Five things barely cover all I’ve discovered, but it will suffice. Five was all I could squeeze in between smiles and diapers and cuddles and life.

ONE: DON’T ACT SO CAPABLE.

My mom gave me this advice after I had my first baby and I didn’t appreciate all of its brilliance until my third babe came into the world. I like to look like I have it all together. And if we are all really honest with ourselves, don’t we all? No one wants to look like the hot mess, all wound up with every kind of feeling, but unable to express it because LORD HAVE MERCY, manners.

Maybe you’ve never been pushed to the edge like I have, but maybe that’s because your middle child actually gets out of the car when she is asked.

I don’t know. I’m practically still waiting on her to get out of the minivan as I type these words.

But, it took my third baby to break me. Absolutely completely compel me to an unshakeable reality that I can’t be it all. So, I stopped trying. Simple as that. This leads to the fact that I need other people to help me. So I ask them. Sometimes they say no. Sometimes they say yes.

But I can’t do it all by myself. And so I kill my pride and ask for help.

This helps in the hot mess department.

TWO: CRY WITH HER.

Just give in to those gosh darn tears. Certainly, no one has time for a crybaby, but no one has time for an emotionally constipated woman, either. I know you think you are being strong, but don’t tell me Beyonce has never given way to a good flood of tears.

Strength comes from those rivers. I promise.

I am not a crier, but I needed to make time for a good fit fest with my girlfriends in order to feel some healing. Some of you can do this instantly. Others of us actually have to pencil in our emotions. I don’t care which one you are, just make sure you cry with someone else. It will let them in to your world just a little bit more and suddenly you will become a bit more human to them.

And this humanity, is a good reality for all of us.

THREE: YOU AREN’T HER.

With community comes comparison. People helped me a lot the first few months of my third’s birth. And I started doing the thing – you know – the thing of wishing I could be more like her. Or her. Or even her.

I am not a breastfeeding mama. There I said it. But a lot of my friends are. I seriously had to wrestle with the fact that I couldn’t provide this for my baby, even though some other moms love it.

Here is the absolute truth: I just don’t love it.

But guess what? My baby loves me for me. Connolly still looks at me with love gushing out of her eyes. I am HER mom. And this matters.

Stop making yourself someone else’s mom. Or friend. Or daughter. Or human. Not okay. You are you and that is so good.

FOUR: ACCEPT IT ALL.

When a friend came to the NICU and told me to go lay down, I looked at her like she was crazy. She told me she wasn’t planning on sleeping all night and that she wanted to be in the room with Connolly.

I was so exhausted and yet, I said politely, “Oh no, I can do it.”

WHAT?

NO.

NO, I ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT DO IT.

My body had just been ripped open, milk was being produced inside of me, my baby was just rushed to the hospital and I hadn’t slept in five days.

Oh yeah, and my mom was rushed to the hospital, too.

No, I actually couldn’t do it.

She looked at me a bit harder and I caved. I turned away from the room and slept while my friend and nurses took care of Connolly.

And guess what? Everything turned out okay.

FIVE: IT TAKES A WHOLE, GINORMOUS VILLAGE.

Did you know that in some villages in Africa, they just pass around babies, breastfeed them as necessary, cuddle them when they want to and tickle their bellies as they see fit?

Five years ago I might have thought that to be crazy, but not anymore.

Bring it.

America, I’m tired of your individualistic, self-centered, mom-manicured culture. Give me the African village anytime. And I mean it. But until then, I’ll just be calling on my tribe until they ask me to be quiet. Then I’ll probably try harder and ask louder. I’m just that needy these days. And I finally feel pretty darn good about it.

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Like I said, five things barely cover it all. But it’s a start. Which sticks with you the most? Which could you work on this week? And better yet, what would you include?