Years ago, I went to my first momâ€™s group meeting, lugging my 5-week old in his bucket carseat. My c-section scar was still hurting when I lifted the seat and my breasts were so large from nursing that I felt unlike myself. Normally petite, albeit with C-cups passed down through many generations of voluptuous Russian Jews, I was newly sporting G-cups and had only lost a few pounds besides the initial 8-lb baby that had been extracted. I was not feeling anything like my old confident self, never mind my quirky and honest self.
I was however, very enthusiastic about meeting the group, bonding with them, and finding one or two women with whom I could really connect, who would be open to spending time together during our maternity leaves.
So, what did I say when it was my turn to talk? Not much of substance. We were asked to check in and share our highs and lows. I think I probably used the words â€œfineâ€, â€œgreatâ€, â€œfunâ€, and maybe â€œcuteâ€. I probably said that my nipples hurt, too.
When I left the meeting, I realized that I was the only one who had given birth via C-section, and I didnâ€™t share how terrible that made me feel. I had also endured a very difficult situation that prevented me from breastfeeding my baby for the first 10 days of his life. When I saw all those other mothers, somehow I had squashed that experience in the back of my mind, ignoring the fact that it had made me feel like I wasnâ€™t a real mom, that I had somehow failed.
Since then, I have always held that meeting in my mind as an experience during which I wished I had been braver.
Last month, I read The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think Youâ€™re Supposed To Be and Be Who You Are. In this guide to â€œwholeheartedâ€ living, the author Brene Brown explains that keeping up a faÃ§ade of perfection prevents others from being able to connect with us.
Thatâ€™s exactly what I had done back at my Momâ€™s Group. In my attempt to be who I wanted to be, I wasnâ€™t myself, and so I didnâ€™t allow my potential friends to make a connection with the real me.
Brene Brownâ€™s book is not about motherhood specifically, but that one lesson from the book spoke loudly to me in the context of moms. It made me think that I would like to have in my toolbox a list of phrases that help me show my vulnerability. Thinking of the Momâ€™s Group setting, I came up with:
This is hard to talk about…
I feel embarrassed to say this but…
I hope I’m not the only one who…
I might cry if I say this outloud…
Sometimes we need to ask for support from other people. Using a phrase like this is a way to “flag” what we are about to say as something that needs special attention or empathy.
So I resolve to be a little braver. And I encourage you new moms, when you show up to meet with a group of moms, to be yourself. If chit-chatting about strollers and carseats is just what you need, terrific. But maybe sometime you can borrow a phrase from my toolbox and take a chance.