Finding Your Tribe
I don’t know about you but I used to roll my eyes so hard whenever I saw a “Find Your Tribe” instagram or facebook post on my timeline.
Before I had a baby, I found the idea of finding a group of women (or men) who had the same views on parenting or life really cliquey and narrow-minded. Oh how wrong I was. It’s amazing when you find you need that emotional support - I have no idea what I would have done without my NCT WhatsApp group at 2am discussing Love Island (true story).
When you don’t necessarily take to parenting immediately or you find an uncomfortable dissonance your sense of self and your new label - ‘mother’ - it can feel isolating watching groups of women already having bonded through an antenatal course or on social media.
Just the idea of turning up to a baby group can seem daunting when you don’t know who will be there or if you have only just managed to put clean clothes on let alone tried anything to do with your hair or face!
Perhaps you are the first in your friendship group to have a baby, your in-laws are half-way across the country or your own parents are not available due to work or bereavement. You can feel seriously lacking in The Village. They say it takes a village to raise a baby and our tribe would have been the extended family - various female relatives who in the past would have lived close by - that is simply not as present anymore.
This is where I found myself six months down the line and although I had lovely mum friends who provided emotional support what I really needed and had no idea of where I could get it was the practical support you need with a new baby. I think the pressure of trying to juggle so many plates really contributed to my own PND experience.
By not having this postnatal practical support around you to help you with basic tasks such as making a homemade meal, filling up the dishwasher or looking after baby for a couple hours whilst you catch up on some much-needed sleep, it is very easy to see why post-natal mental illness is on the rise.
So how do you find your village?
Use apps such as Mush or Peanut to find mothers who get you and the way you parent. Remember however that being a mother is only one facet of your identity so try to make time to reconnect with the other parts of you, by doing things that you enjoy.
If you can budget it, make space for a Post Natal Doula. These are fully trained professionals whose focus is on ‘mothering the mother’ and you can find them locally to you here. Had I known of the wonderful services of Post Natal Doulas then I may have had a very different experience in my first year of parenting.
When your friends and relatives ask how they can help, don’t be afraid of asking for what would really help you - like bringing round a food shop or making you a cuppa.
Find local spaces that you like to be in with your baby - I’d recommend finding your local children’s centre ASAP. They are normally run by warm and welcoming people who are great for having a chat when you feel no one else gets you or your choices. Libraries normally have a free baby/nursery rhyme group that you can dip in and out of without committing to a weekly schedule if that feels too daunting.
The charity HomeStart are an amazing organisation who can provide support if you are struggling to cope.
If you are still figuring out who your tribe is, I’m with you. There are ways to make you feel like there is some sort of village there for you.