Nida’s Story: Finding Community In A New Country
Nida Rehmani, Denver, Colorado
December 29, 2017. I felt shivering down my spine, but it was not because of the cold weather. It is that season in America where people from all walks of life wish Happy Holidays to each other. At 6 a.m. that morning, I was restless with painful contractions in a hospital decorated in festive spirit and decor. After a long, painful day of perseverance, I opened my eyes to see my husband taking the first picture of my daughter – our firstborn – as she came into this world. Naturally, I was overcome with awe and inexplicable emotions of giving birth to our little bundle of joy.
When the nurse brought my daughter for skin–to–skin contact, I was literally shaking as I held her. Exhausted and weary, I quickly gulped the chilled cranberry juice from the water pitcher offered by the nurse. “Mama, you need to drink a lot of water when you feed the baby,” she said. On the way from delivery ward to mother–baby unit, she tried to start a candid conversation. “Don’t worry, I am sure your mama is going to make this easy for you,” she said. I suddenly welled up and felt pangs of loneliness. “We just arrived in America, and our parents are miles away in India,” I replied. Another lactation consultant chirped to put my fears away. “But you can always videoconference with them!” And the conversation ended on a positive note.
After two days of staying in the hospital, we were ready to be discharged. As the nurse pushed my wheelchair to the waiting room of the hospital. I saw fellow new moms leaving the hospital with their little bundles of joy like us, but with one noticeable difference: they had their family by their sides, their villages. Little did I know that it makes all the difference! When I finally came home, I realized that there was so much on my hands. My husband had started an academic job with no official parental leave. After a week or so, it was me and my little baby on a new journey. Every day there was a new struggle to deal with: how to nurse, what to eat, dos and don’ts of taking care of a baby, and the good old wives’ tales!
Thankfully, owing to my educational training, I have always been a problem solver and an avid reader. So, when the baby was napping, I would read parenting blogs and browse research articles (having a PhD came handy!). I was fortunate to discover La Leche League while talking to my neighbor, an elderly lady with whom I used to discuss my parenting struggles, specifically nursing. And the reality dawned upon me that it really takes a village to take care of a child! As an immigrant without extended family in the U.S., there was no such support system in our case. I had another baby during the pandemic, a handsome little boy. Even though I do miss the old version of the village at times, in this 21st century, internet, technology, and initiatives like La Leche League have become my village.
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