Pregnancy is hard. Birth is hard. I like to think I gave birth in a foreign language. #smug. I’m a Canadian and in 2011, I gave birth in Vienna, Austria. It was a planned C-section and it was relatively straight forward. I didn’t have to do much which was great because I am very squeamish. I like to think the shot to the spine I received was handled, by me, with grace and dignity, as I stared at the mid-section of a large Bulgarian man who helped hold me still.
My wonderful and angry little boy screamed as he took his first breaths and a nurse held him to my face as I was sewed back up. It was all a bit of a daze but I do remember wondering why my child looked like an old, naked, angry man. Later I wondered if the surgeon sneezed because my scar looks she made a slight error. But nothing to get upset about. I was never a bikini model. Eight nights were spent in the hospital and the nursing staff ranged from friendly and nurturing to slightly draconian. I fought them over the thermostat daily. But those days in the hospital were helpful because the thought of being alone with my child at home didn’t send me into an immediate panic attack at the end of my hospital stay, well, I lie, I was still terrified.
Back at home I had Ye Olde Google at my fingertips. I could handle this. How hard could it be? Every slight hiccup or cry sent me to my laptop. Does he have colic? Has he been crying for 18 hours straight? No? Then you probably are doing something wrong. Baby Weaning? Oh dear stay away from the message boards! Has he been accepted to an Ivy League school by the time he is 6 weeks old? No? Worst.mother.ever.
We live in a world filled with information and opinions and moms have lots of both. It’s what we do. And the Internet is just a black-hole of misinformation, righteous indignation and wonderful sales and celebrity gossip. And it is even harder to navigate parenthood when you live abroad, away from your family. And that leads me to admitting to one of my biggest regrets; not reaching out to my baby group more. Maybe it was post-partum depression or maybe I thought I had watched enough Teen Mom to consider myself a fantastic parent in comparison, but I never really made much of an effort to connect with other moms when my son was an infant.
Living abroad we don’t have the usual “village” helping us. We can’t guilt trip our parents into helping us out unless they fly over. So we need to create our own village and we need to make sure that we are each other’s advocates. You can still bond with other moms even if our parenting theories are different. The key is to just sometimes listen and be there and build each other up. You don’t have to bond with every “mommy” you meet but be kind and maybe you will even surprise yourself and give baby wearing a try. Or not. You do you, boo.
You never know what obstacles you might face in the future. And what challenges might arise. But knowing that you have some kick ass ladies in your corner won’t hurt. Don’t argue about breast feeding, co-sleeping, Team Aniston versus Team Jolie. Always Team Aniston, always. In the end, those are the small things. We love our children and want what’s best for them and that’s what we truly all have in common. So seek out friendship and support and ignore the mommy boards for now. Join a baby group! Make those personal connections and bond over sleepless nights and Keanu Reeves because now, you have a new village, and it can be a wonderful place.
Tova Marr is a Canadian living in Vienna. She is a single mother to a wonderful 9 year old boy who happens to be autistic and coincidentally is the light of her life. When she isn’t working full time, she spends her time working on novels, setting impossible goals and planning world domination.
More with Tova: https://www.instagram.com/tovamarr/?hl=de