Being a first time mom, I have wondered whether or not I would like the involvement of “a village.” When my daughter was born my mother and in-laws were both at my side for a few weeks. My mother and mother-in-law were both around for a week when our daughter came home. Although at times I’m sure we all annoyed each other everyone present was just trying to make sure the baby and I were taken care of, which was much appreciated.
I had a month where noone was around until we came to my husband’s hometown for Losar, Tibetan Lunar New Year. Here the meaning of ‘a village’, really came to light. Everybody will help hold or rock the baby when needed. This is useful when running to the bathroom, which is outside the house, or helping with any chores or cooking.
In the mornings, I know I can lay her beside her paternal grandpa for morning snuggles, while I clean the house and get ready in the morning. At times, ‘a village’ can be overbearing listening to advice or criticism on the way things are done. I think the hardest part initially was being able to leave her in the arms of others while I wanted to hold her myself.
I’ve now gotten over that as I realize they all want to help and enjoy snuggles too. Even my husband’s 7 year old niece and 4 year old nephew enjoy being close and holding her if they can. Building trust and confidence in a village you didn’t grow up in takes time, and that is okay.
Being around ‘a village’ has made me able to discern my daughters daily sounds better. If she makes a little noise she can still play by herself or sleep a little longer before mom is needed. Its helping me develop my sense of trust in my daughter and I, knowing I can safely step out of sight for a bit if needed. If I were back in Chengdu, I’d probably try wearing her more as I do stuff around the house, but it is too cold for that here. For now she is snuggled in arms or lays on the bench exercising her legs and arms.
Learning to navigate this ‘village’ has been harder due to a language barrier and cultural differences. But some things have been mediated such as bathing and sickness. The following day after we arrived, our daughter had a mild case of altitude sickness.(I’m gonna guess it wasn’t that severe, since she is half Tibetan.) And my in-laws called the doctor, a relative of the family, over immeadiately. Which I’m thankful for and she recovered. Other things like a rash or cough, although I’m bothered by them, they aren’t worried. So far I’ve realized the cough may be due to dust and its occassional and the rash comes and goes so its probably not a big deal.
I should mention I didn’t come prepared for this trip as I thought the baby lotion and wash would explode in the altitude, so I didn’t bring it. ( I should have.) And so I went a little too long without washing her, possibly a week? And she developed a rash all over her body and the doctor came and just said to wash her every two to three days and it will go away, and it did. Part of the reason I didn’t wash her was I wasn’t sure which bowl I could use to wash her. I’ve learned to just ask if you need something. Warm water cleans a baby fine, but baby soap would help clear her skin up I’m sure. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until we return.
My mother-in-law jokes that, “ she is probably the cleanest baby here.” She may be right and that is okay.
But, I also realized I have a second ‘village.’ This village is more virtual in nature and contains my family and friends near and far. I can ask for advice about my daughter and see what I can implement easily. For example, I asked my mom about cutting nails as I forgot to bring her nail clippers. My mom told me, “ Wait until she is asleep and nibble them off.” Sure enough, I moved slowly and it worked!
Knowing who I can turn to physically, emotionally, or mentally are all a part of ‘my village.’ Maybe it no longer is what it always was in various cultures, but we can always create ‘a village’ of our own.