By Shari Grigsby
Life with 4 kids 4 and under was utter chaos, emotionally draining at best, and honestly made me feel like I was drowning. When my last baby was born, my older kids were 3, 3 (yep, twins!), and almost 5. I’m one of those crazy people who has a whole lot of babies in a little bit of time!
My baby is 3.5 now, and breastfeeding, diapers, nap schedules, and the baby years are now a fading memory. When I think back to those early postpartum days and how I felt, I am reminded of how much I relied on my tribe of other mamas, friends with older kids, and support groups to get me through the lonely days, counting down the time until daddy was home or it was bedtime.
A little background on my postpartum experiences: my first baby was an easy-going, happy baby girl who came right on time and almost exactly like I planned. She breastfed like a champ, and although I had a couple hiccups, it went pretty well and she nursed ‘til she was 13 months old. I had family living nearby, friends who were having babies near the same time and there was no shortage of support and help when I truly needed it. My best friend lived in the apartment next door, and we spent most of our days together playing and sharing our stories of the struggles and joys of motherhood.
Fast forward to my second pregnancy. We got pregnant when our baby was 14 months old. We were getting ready to move across the country for my husband’s first “real job” after graduating college. I hadn’t yet had my first prenatal check up since we were moving, and once I got to Tennessee, briefly asked around to find a doctor and had my first ultrasound, we found out we were having twins! Complete and utter shock, disbelief, and thoughts of how in the world are we going to do this rushed over me!
My twins’ pregnancy had a lot more challenges, many more appointments, complications and was very uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to deliver with a midwife like I had with my first, and the provider I was seeing was not willing to let me attempt a vaginal delivery since baby B was breech and bigger than baby A. I was crushed, though I accepted that I would have to alter my birth plans to keep us all safe and healthy. My boys came at 35+5 and wow they were itty bitty! This time my postpartum journey was much different than the first! I was now the mother of 3 babies under 2 and was totally overwhelmed. I was able to breastfeed them despite some hang ups with one baby not latching as well and having one of them in the NICU for 5 days.
I had so many people who offered help, yet at that point in time, I was stubborn and wanted to do things on my own. You’ve likely heard it before, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you”. I didn’t know how to really ask them for help because I felt guilty about it. Did they really mean it?
There were moments when I allowed others to help me, though those moments were few and far between. When I would let others help, it would be for short periods of time, and not really as often as I needed it. As my boys grew and I had more struggles in motherhood, I craved the connection I felt from other moms that really got it and understood me. I got out for playdates here and there, found some friends through church and each time I was around them, I felt better knowing that other moms knew how I felt. They totally understood how frustratingly amazing it can be to be in charge of tiny people.
I can’t recall exactly how I got connected with local mommy groups, but that’s not important because it’s what I did with the support groups that really mattered! The first online group I was introduced to was the Tri-Cities TN/VA Breastfeeding Support Group.
I was looking for support in starting the weaning process with my twins, and I was able to hear from other mamas who were in my shoes and also nursing toddlers what worked for them and what didn’t. I successfully nursed my twinjas (my favorite nickname for them ;) ) until just after they turned 2, which was my original goal and the support group played into that big time!
Because of my experience after my second pregnancy and not having the birth I wanted, I knew that if I ever had any more kids, I would do things very differently. I longed for a more natural birth experience and to have a VBAC to help fill the hole that was present from feeling like I lost so much in the birth of my twins.
We decided to have one more baby, and I started researching some things that I wanted to do differently than with my other babies. Babywearing was one of the things I longed to do more of. I wore my oldest only a little bit and with a really uncomfortable carrier. The most I wore my twins was to get through the airport security line when we took a trip to visit family and I didn’t really know what I was doing! Needless to say, I didn’t really know a lot of babywearing!
Through the group of mamas I befriended from the breastfeeding group, I found out we had a local babywearing group with a lending library! I was so excited! The facebook group was such a huge asset because the babywearing leaders were able to help me learn about different types of carriers and videos to learn to use them.
Another thing that was personally important to me was trying for a VBAC. Through research on VBACs and hearing from other mamas, I learned having a Doula and a VBAC supportive provider would be my best chance at getting the natural birth I truly desired.
Again, through the groups I was connected to, I found wonderfully supportive doctor who was willing to give me a shot at a VBAC. I also learned about doulas, interviewed a few and the one who was perfect for me!
My sweet baby Jane came into this world just the way I hoped, with my doula and husband at my side. It was such a different experience and having the right support system made all the difference.
Though I dealt with a lot of the same feelings as my other two postpartum experiences and it was a whirlwind of crazy at home having so many babies to take care of (let’s face it, they were all still babies when my 4th was born!), simply knowing I had the resources to reach out to helped me so much.
The babywearing group was the most impactful group for me. I met up with other mamas for babywearing meetings, learned to use a variety of carriers, and had some mommy baby time with my youngest. With the assistance of leaders and the lending library, I learned to use a woven wrap which would become my favorite way to wear baby Jane.
Occasionally, they organized playdates, mom’s night outs, and other get togethers for moms to connect and get to know one another. Because I realized how much of an impact having playdates, getting out of the house, and being connected with other moms had on me, I actually started my own playdate facebook group that was open to anyone in the area to come and get together! It was a huge asset for me to connect with other moms, let my kids play and have a bit of a break! Though it’s no longer active as my children have grown and the needs have changed, I am so glad I had the guts and drive to put it together and make it happen.
The game truly changed for me when I realized I had to let go of my pride, get uncomfortable and put myself out there and be honest with what was really going on. If there is anything I could tell my younger self, it would be to ask for help. I’ve realized that people are being genuine and they really mean it when they say, “Let me help you” and you’re taking away their chance to grow and support you if you refuse. I used to be so stubborn after I had my twins that I let it keep me from asking for help and support and I paid the price of feeling alone and lost. While I still had amazing friends who came in and rescued me every once in a while, I wasn’t being 100% authentic with what was going on and how much I was struggling inside!
Sometimes it can be easy to fight against the invitation to get out and connect with other moms, though unless you really have a great reason why you can’t go out, in my experience it’s usually the best thing you can do for yourself!
One night I fought going to a mom’s night out event. I wanted to go because I needed to get out of the house, though I didn’t know many of the mamas that well, and wasn’t sure who would be going. I almost stayed home but my husband pushed me towards going and I am SO glad he did because it was at that event that I met someone who would later become one of my very best friends.
Mamas, motherhood is not always easy, and you will have struggles and frustrations! It’s part of the gig and part of growing! You don’t have to do it all alone, and chances are, there’s someone not too far from you going through something so similar!
We have a lot of resources locally to get you connected with other mamas. Sometimes taking that first step to go to a playdate, mommy & me class or meet-up can be a little nerve wracking, though I promise if you do, you’ll find a mama there that gets it and that is worth every bit of momentary discomfort!
I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t get outside my comfort zone, learn to ask for help and accept the help that others offered. I’m happy to report that through help from the breastfeeding group and IBCLCs, I nursed my last baby until she was almost 3 and I still wear her from time to time to this day! <3
Some of Shari's additional favorite ways to connect in Johnson City, TN:
Local Facebook Groups:
Tri-Cities, TN Babywearing & it’s off topic group
Events for mamas: Story time at the library
Shari is the wife to a loving husband and mama of 4 kiddos that keep her on her toes and fill her life with excitement.
Shari is passionate about helping others learn to love themselves, live confidently, and choose joy. She and her family live in Johnson City, TN.