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Following the birth of my first child, I felt as if I had walked through a veil; one that separated me from my previous life. I was in awe of how different my new life had become. I was in greater awe of the fact that I felt like other young mothers I knew hadn’t helped prepare me for what was transpiring.

I remember thinking, “Why don’t people talk about this?” in regards to the challenges and joys I was experiencing. I wasn’t sure whom to turn to when all was new.  My mother traveled to be with my husband and me for the first two weeks of my daughter’s life. She was wonderful and very helpful, but then she left and my husband went back to work. There I was, alone; alone with a newborn.

My daughter had been in the NICU for five days after she was born, and breastfeeding was a mighty challenge. She was delightful when she slept, but many of her waking hours were spent crying. Though I tried to “feed on demand,” as that was what the lactation consultants at the hospital had recommended, I didn’t really understand what that meant as I painstakingly tried to form a semblance of routine with my daughter. I had some understanding of babywearing, but I didn’t know my Ergo had an optional infant insert I could have ordered, and the MOBY wrap entirely freaked me out.  There were so many hours of holding my baby with my two bare hands, just so she wouldn’t cry. There were so many hours of lying on the bathroom floor, wasting gallons of water as the tub ran just for the sake of “white noise” as my naked baby somewhat calmed on my bare chest.

I found refuge in a breastfeeding support group, and in a local pregnancy/nursing store. I reached out through text almost daily to the other woman who had newborns in my 12 week birth classes. But there we all were, little islands by ourselves, alone in our own homes, trying to muddle through the new libraries of baby care books we’d invested in, trying to form some sort of predictable routine amidst the chaos. None of us asking for help when we needed it, feeling ashamed we weren’t strong enough to figure it out. Most of us likely, dealing with regular hunger pains, as it seemed easier to not eat enough than set the baby down to use two hands to prepare something for ourselves.

It was an isolating experience. I was transformed.

And then later, I did it again; but differently. I hired a mother’s helper as I prepared for the birth of my second child. I kept her on for over a year after my son was born.  I went to talk therapy to prepare for the change I knew I would encounter this time. I wore my baby nonstop for the first six months. I trusted myself, my instincts and vowed not to read a single book unless I knew it would help. I asked for help from family and friends. I received help. I was empowered.

I want this for every woman as they navigate through their motherhood journey: to witness women and families thrive in support as they transition to life with a newborn, with a new child or those who suffer from pregnancy-related loss.

Through my two different postpartum experiences, I was empowered to give back, to provide hands-on support for families and wee ones. I felt a calling to be a resource for community options and help direct new families to professionals who can help them thrive during their postpartum season. I want women to be empowered by asking for and receiving help.

And as life-giving as it is, to sit with a postpartum mother, help dry her tears, afford her a nap, assist with feeding her precious babies and prepare healthy and nourishing food for her and her family, I am unable to do this alone. I cannot meet these new families’ needs all on my own. For I too, am still a young mother, and my children though older, don’t demand any less than these sweet families I serve. I am but one piece of a puzzle, one resource, one support within a powerful network of strength.

This is how I found my village.

I work together with a group of talented and beautiful women called postpartum doulas, each possessing unique strengths, talents and gifts. Together, we help fill in the gaps of support for precious families in their times of need.  This IS community.  This is the life we were intentioned to live; not alone, but surrounded with and by a tribe, a village; each connection strengthening the whole.

And these women strengthen me too. We meet regularly; share our vulnerabilities, our hearts, our dreams; lift each other up, dry each other’s tears and we are more true, more fulfilled because of it.

This IS life; beautiful, wonderful life. I have found my village. We are in this, together. And together, we are whole.

Julie Bergquist is the mother of two curly-haired, red-headed children who are her heart and soul.  She is also a postpartum doula and speech pathologist who loves serving families during their postpartum season.