Huggies, Moby, Plum Organics, and many more - all well-known brands with gorgeous booths - giving out free samples and educating moms on their useful products. The long ballroom in the Grand Hyatt New York bustled like Grand Central, with moms pushing strollers, adjusting infants in carriers, and desperately holding on to runaway toddlers. Backpacks hung heavily off their shoulders and kid-free strollers filled quickly with shopping bags.
I wanted to relieve the pressure from her back, massage the sore muscles in her feet, and take her 2 year old for a walk around the hotel so she could breathe. I wanted to hand her a sparkling glass of lemonade and direct her to a soft bed to lie down on. She appeared bogged down with kids, luggage, and information.
But really, I wanted to tell her that all this “stuff” is completely up to her – that when we’re bombarded with products and advice and information, it’s easy to lose sense of our own knowledge and power.
You already have everything you need – and it’s right inside you.
As new moms, we need stuff, and we need to educate ourselves. But there’s something else we need - and it doesn’t come in the form of a gold level sponsor, or free samples, or contests.
We also need a tribe. And this was the most beautiful and powerful part of the weekend - moms sharing stories, collecting names and ages, comparing baby wraps and talking about breastfeeding.
“Your strap is unclipped on your carrier, can I get it for you?”
“How did you find time to pump when you went back to work?”
“He’s active – I get it – I have boys too.”
“Let’s exchange numbers.”
Sharing our stories and experiences is more powerful than any class or expert speaker. It’s more powerful than the perfect baby carrier or even free diapers.
Sharing stories gives us permission – permission to vent, permission to use our voice, and permission to talk about ourselves. Sometimes, in addition to carrying stuff and taking care of babies, we need it to be about us. We need to not feel invisible.
I see you.
Even if you don’t actually talk to another mom at the event, the physical proximity to another woman sharing your experience creates support. I’ll never forget watching a breastfeeding mom one of the first times I took my brand new baby out to a restaurant. I was breastfeeding, but I hadn’t tried it in public yet. The mom sat comfortably at the table, chatting with her friend who sat across from her. She was holding a fork and eating a salad with one hand, while cradling and nursing her baby in the other. This is who I wanted to be – this is the image that stayed with me as I navigated breastfeeding in public. And maybe I wasn’t there today, but seeing her was a reminder that I could get there, and that I would. She has no idea she helped me - we barely made eye contact.
We don’t acknowledge the power we have to affect another person’s experience. We don’t consider that walking around an event like Mommy Con, wearing a toddler on our back while holding our pregnant belly, may inspire another mom. We don’t understand that listening to a woman’s story also takes the burden off her shoulders. By listening, we remove her heavy backpack of thoughts and worries. We gently massage the nagging pain in her feet that keeps asking, am I doing it right?
I hear you.
I watched tired moms walk around the event, collecting what they needed to welcome a new baby into their lives and attending sessions on baby wearing and cloth diapering. But I also watched them instinctively connect with their tribe, and I believe the tribe to be the most powerful force behind Mommy Con. Brands and products will come and go. Advice will change. New books will be written. The tribe is sustainable. When all the diapers are used up, your baby weans, and you hear the door slam as he runs outside to play with his friends, you will remember your tribe. You’ll forget what type of swaddle blankets you used, but you’ll remember the overwhelming support. You’ll look back on the days of exhaustion, chaos, and questioning your decisions, and you’ll fondly remember and thank the women who (knowingly or unknowingly) held you through it.