I found out I was pregnant our very first day overseas, in the base hotel bathroom in Stuttgart, Germany. Every mom I knew, including my own mother, was 6,000 miles away. Thrilled and slightly panicked, I dove right in. I knew I needed mom-friends â€“ a magical group of women who could show me the ropes, tell me what to do and offer world-class advice. I took every single parenting class on base: baby wearing, breast feeding, and getting a passport for baby. I parked myself at the New Parent Support office. I went on a hospital tour that was conducted entirely in German. (Pro-tip: â€śnurseâ€ť in German is Krankenschwester â€“ which means literally â€śsick sister.â€ť)
I tried to make small talk, or at least eye contact, with moms I saw at the commissary, on the duty bus, and in my infant CPR class. But small talk is not my strong suit. Six months in, I was very alone. My husbandâ€™s confidence that I would be a good mother was flattering, but I was convinced he was mistaken â€“ I couldnâ€™t even make mom-friends!
Then I met a woman in my birthing class who was chatty enough to make up for my lack of small-talk skills and who offered to drive me to the prenatal yoga class she was taking on the economy since I didnâ€™t have a car. That was it. All we needed to build a lasting connection were the basics; we were both first-time mothers about to pop out a new human without an English-speaking delivery team (â€śpushâ€ť in German? pressen).
It took some time, but eventually we were able to share the most basic of fears with each other; we were worried we might not be â€śenoughâ€ť â€“ strong enough, smart enough, resilient enough, good enough â€“ for our daughters, who were born two weeks apart.
Of course, our new-parent doubt manifested itself in different ways. For me, the most obvious problem was our balcony. I became convinced I might trip and accidentally toss my beautiful baby over the four-foot barrier Monty Python-style. Silly? You bet. But my friend didnâ€™t laugh. There was no magical world-class mom-advice passed between us â€“ neither of us had any to give, but she didnâ€™t tell me I was crazy or paranoid, or make me feel ashamed. She just kept showing up. And I did the same for her.
Surprise, surprise. Turns out my friend and I are more than enough for our girls. There hasnâ€™t been anything we couldnâ€™t handle. And no one went over the balcony.
The realities of military life mean that my friend is now 20 states away, and we are raising preschoolers who wouldnâ€™t recognize each other. But her friendship has imparted a lesson Iâ€™ll never forget: itâ€™s not that hard to support each other, and it doesnâ€™t take a gaggle of women or a wealth of experience to do it. For me, it took just one person â€“ a fellow newbie who took me to yoga, did not make me feel silly, and occasionally told me my hair looked nice.
The true magic of the mom-friend is that itâ€™s not magic at all.