There's a fun study from 2011 that has stuck with me all this time- It's from the Oxford Academic Journal of Public Health, on the relationship between quilting and wellbeing. The study found that participants felt more creative while quilting, they fostered strong friendships, and "Affirmations from others boosted self esteem and increased motivation for skill development."
I'm a Birth & Postpartum Doula and parent of 3 young kids, and even with my specific professional background, supportive family and loving friends, I still often feel that Parenthood is lonely and isolating. The past year+ of #PandemicParenting didn't help much. The occasional 'commiseration text' from friends wet my whistle, though honestly we are all so burnt out in all the ways, that even those texts can feel like an extra responsibility to send, and thats the last thing any of us can handle. We're just out there in the wild west of parenthood, slinging snacks, wiping spills, and screaming "do you hear my words" into the abyss, lightyears away from each other. (Send help!)
But last week, my closest friend and biz partner had her first baby. She landed herself smack into fresh out Postpartum and new parenthood. And since that hallowed day of her Birth, she has graciously been sharing her early parenting milestones and challenges with me via text. They're the kind of texts that you may remember sending to your friends when you had your first child, but maybe your friends were in a different season of life and didn't fully appreciate that pic of you "Breastsleeping" with your newborn while wearing nothing but an adult diaper. Or maybe you didn't have anyone to send those texts to because your social circle fell to the wayside when you were pregnant and you hadn't built up your new "mom friends" yet. Either way, you probably don't send or receive a lot of those texts anymore if your children are old enough to roll their eyes at you...
Each time I receive a text from my bestie with a pic of her pooping and nursing, or skin-to-skin with her new babe- or a message lamenting about the all night feeding, the nipple aches, or "is this normal" question, my heart swells to the size of a cantaloupe and my eyes well up. I immediately envision a set of hands sewing- steadily and lovingly- patches of a quilt. The quilt grows bigger and more colorful with each text I receive, each story or moment that is shared. I not only understand and relate to her woes and triumphs, but in turn I feel more seen and understood in my parenting journey. Less alone.
All of us parents are raising our kids in these micro tunnels. Within the 4 walls of our homes we make decisions, wake, feed, clothe, bathe, listen, teach our kids, and though we know that other families are in their homes doing the same, there's this little irrational voice whispering in our ear that we're alone in it. "Everyone else is having an easier go of it" it whispers... "You're stuck here laying in bed with your kids doing world's longest bedtime for the 3rd night in a row and they're enjoying a quiet candlelit dinner" it snears. (Where's that mini violin when you need it!)
Then you feel your phone buzz- and a dose of reality- and perspective- floods in. Your best bud is in the thick of it too. Differently, but still, the thick of it. The text reminders, voicemails, pics of real moments- real challenges- real joys- that you have experienced too- they do more than keep friends connected. They help us weave our lives together. They connect us with a common thread. They create a quilt. And when we share our encouraging words, support, and understanding, we create a quilt that is wide enough and warm enough to cover us all.
It's easy to watch our friends have their babies, salute them, and send them off with a "GOOD LUCK, taste our pain! See ya in a year!" But, I implore you to reconsider your approach. Remember the theory that we all rise together. That other's happiness and success help us all grow. That when our dear friends enter the season of life we were just in, we can help them, support them, love them, and in turn, we may feel more seen, understood, and supported. Its certainly not an Us vs. Them situation- more like Us AND Them. Keep the study in mind- "Hobbies such as quilting can be a meaningful vehicle for enhancing wellbeing." Are you quilting enough?
Do you have experience with your own friends dropping off the face of the Earth after you had your baby? Or do you remember watching a friend fade away after they had their babe(s)? Maybe this a sign to you to reach out- reconnect- weave your experiences together into a beautiful quilt.