“Find your tribe,” my doctor said while she examined my ears and throat. I’d drummed up the courage to tell her how hard all this mothering work was—work that threatened to drown me even on the good days. She leaned in. “You need to be with women like you.”
This modern buzzword, tribes, is defined by best-selling author Seth Godin as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Godin points out that throughout our history, “human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
Now, all of this sounds easy enough, but where in Toronto would I find another woman like me who began each day wondering what on earth she’d done having her first (and only) baby well into her forties? I didn’t want to take my doctor’s advice. It scared me. What if I found out I was truly alone, adrift on a sea of blood clots, tears, and colostrum, not knowing which direction I faced or where home truly was? But I knew something had to give.
Every Mom Needs a Tribe
I have never felt more alone than during my pregnancy and in my new life as a mom. For 36 weeks of pregnancy I’d lived in fear: fear of this all-too-late baby growing in my core, with or without my help, really. Fear that my faith would crumble. Fear that I’d find out that God had really abandoned me—abandoned me to cope with a baby who had developmental disabilities just like I thought he’d abandoned my mother who’d given birth to my brothers, one with severe autism and another with Down syndrome.
Then, once Christopher arrived, those 36 weeks of prenatal fear morphed into days and nights of “fasting”—learning to live with the reality that my hours were no longer my own. I had to make room for Christopher, and that meant giving up the timetables and routines that previously had my attention. Fasting is a funny discipline. You choose to deprive yourself of something in order to gain a larger perspective, an understanding of who you are in the grand scheme of things: God’s daughter, seen, known, and loved. But I hadn’t chosen this fast. Far from making me feel the nearness of God, this fast had narrowed my vision and leached away the control that had made me . . . me. My world now measured 21 inches long, weighed six and a half pounds, and nursed every three hours. My universe had shrunk, and somehow its very smallness forced me to confront how little control I had over what really mattered.