When I was a junior in college, I studied abroad for a semester in Uganda. At the time, I was young, idealistic, and convinced that I was going to single-handedly save the world. Obviously, that hasn’t (yet) happened, but my time in East Africa was incredibly humbling. Perhaps the most humbling experience during my four months was the trip I took on my Spring Break to stay with a host family in the rural country. For seven days, I lived in a mud hut, took bucket baths and did my business in a hole in the ground. It was also during this time, that I really and truly witnessed the common phrase, “it takes a village,” firsthand.
Fast forward to today and I am a very new mother to two small boys. The transition from one child to two is no joke and the last few weeks have felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. At one point, I remarked to my husband that women in Uganda made raising a newborn look so easy. It took me awhile to pinpoint exactly why, and finally I realized, that it looks easy, because so many Ugandan women have their village to rely upon. While they focus on recovering from childbirth and taking care of a needy little infant, their friends, families and neighbors are taking care of their older children.
I am thankful that I, too, had a village. For the first two weeks following my return home from the birthing center, my husband, my mom and mother-in-law, and my husband’s aunt all took time to stay with us and look after my 20-month old Energizer bunny of a toddler, so that I could focus simply on healing and nursing my newborn. My village was also friends who had pizzas delivered to our house, dropped off homemade meals, and sent gift cards so that we knew dinner was taken care of and had one less thing on our plates (pun intended).
I can’t imagine trying to physically recover from childbirth, nurse an infant around the clock, and entertain an incredibly rambunctious toddler all on my own. Thankfully, I didn’t have to. But I know that this isn’t the case for all women in this country. I will leave the discussion about the U.S’ abysmal family leave system for another day. Maternity leave aside, having a baby is a lot of work. Taking care of more than one baby is even harder. As Mamas, we get it. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own families, we don’t make the time to help out other Mamas who are barely treading water.
So coming from an overwhelmed, yet incredibly appreciative new Mommy of two, this is my plea: if you know of someone who recently had a baby, make them a freezer meal. If it’s a friend, offer to clean her house. If it’s an acquaintance, send a pack of diapers, or a gift card to a restaurant (preferably one that delivers!). Bottom line, pay it forward and help out that struggling new mom. Because it truly does take a village to raise a child.