A few months ago I moved from Seattle to Durham, quitting my job and following my husband across the country in our Ford Escape packed full with the essentials: gym clothes, dog gear, and a cooler full of fizzy beverages. Right before we made the move, we learned that I was pregnant – the only thing in my life I’ve managed to accomplish on the first try.
I won’t mince words; it has been one of the tougher periods in my life. Although I don’t doubt that there are plenty more challenges to come – anything involving my baby’s rectum currently tops this anticipated list.
We moved to the area to be closer to my husband’s parents and siblings, but beyond them I essentially know no one. As someone who has always taken strength from having a strong network of friends, I’ve felt a little bit lost. My family lives across the country in Seattle and my close friends are scattered seemingly everywhere EXCEPT the Carolinas.
Our jobs, whether they’re inside or outside of the home, are such a core part of not only our identities, but also the social networks we develop. When we arrived I was jobless, and am still on the job searching grind. Building friendships without this identity is hard, especially as someone with introverted tendencies.
I scanned Meet-up groups, but nothing seemed like a good fit. Where was the group for expecting moms who don’t know what they’re doing and need all the help they can get? My doctor’s office advertised a support group for new and expecting mothers, but the idea of awkwardly sitting in a sterile room answering prompts about my feelings was less than appealing. I signed up to volunteer on a campaign to meet some like-minded folks, but ended up sitting at home cold calling potential voters from a script. Needless to say, a few weeks in I found myself wallowing at home watching soothing romantic comedies on the couch, a bag of M&Ms at my side. I knew it was pathetic, but I couldn’t help myself.
While re-watching Steel Magnolias and inevitably bawling my eyes out, I had a moment of clarity. It dawned on me that in this day and age of technology, I was stupidly ignoring the resources and support I did have. Not having friends in the area, didn’t mean I suddenly couldn’t lean on my existing network who where only a FaceTime call away. A tribe is a tribe, whether or not they’re a 30-minute drive away or a four-hour flight. I sent out an email cry for help to eight or so of my dearest friends and was overwhelmed by the tips, ideas, and encouragement I received. Maybe life wasn’t quite so bleak and hopeless after all. Several phone calls later, I felt myself slowly opening up to giving things another go.
I started by focusing on even the littlest moments of connection and support. Now that I’m in my third trimester, strangers have started reaching out. As a private person, I thought I would hate this intrusion of my privacy, but it’s actually been quite warming. A mom at my sister-in-law’s work stopped to offer me the pregnancy clothes and baby books she no longer needs. Grandparents at restaurants have offered their sage advice after years of experience with two generations of children. For some reason the grandfathers seem to enjoy guessing how far along I am, proud of their ability to accurately eye a strange women’s belly. I haven’t even minded those who have tut-tutted my choice to use a birth center that will not afford me the option of pain reducing drugs. They at least gamely chuckle when I joke about the stick my husband has whittled for me to bite down on.
I’ve also concentrated on connecting with myself and my baby. My job hunt put me in a position I felt necessitated keeping my pregnancy under wraps, so I wore flowy tops and didn’t publicly discuss it until almost into my third trimester. What I didn’t realize was that in doing so I was in some ways denying the exciting changes happening with my body and our lives. Publicly pretending that my son didn’t exist was translating into my own attitude towards him. I started taking long morning walks along the American Tobacco Trail before the day got too hot. Browsing children’s consignment shops to start collecting baby necessities, along with some frivolous accessories that were really just too cute to pass up. Lying in bed just listening to my breath and feeling our son flip around in my belly like a Koi fish in a pond.
While I still have plenty of days where all I want to do is crawl into bed, I know that it will get better, because it already has. Asking for help and admitting vulnerability is hard, even with your closest family and friends. Even writing this post is difficult. One of the biggest things I’ve realized though is that no matter how isolated I may feel, there are people out there who want to help and offer their support, even if it means reaching out over the interwebs to find them.