Column: It Takes a Village to Welcome a Child

For the Valley News
Published: 12/17/2016 9:00:24 PM

I haven’t slept well in more than a month. And I can tell you that at 4 o’clock in the morning, there’s not much going on in the Upper Valley. Few cars drive by, few stores are open, few people are awake. It would be easy to feel alone at this wee hour of the night. Yet instead of feeling alone, I’ve never felt more support.

 I’m a new mom. My son was born in late September at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. (He’s the first member of our extended family to be an Upper Valley native!) The team of doctors, nurses and staff took great care of us as they showed us the basics. My husband mastered his first diaper change. I learned how to properly bathe an infant. We felt confident in our abilities to parent and ready to show our little guy the world. Then, we took Rudy home.

 The first days on our own with baby Rudy were both overwhelming and wonderful. We had dozens of dirty diapers. We had hundreds of feedings. We had endless questions. We were completely in love, but we were also sleep-deprived and delirious. And so, we looked for support wherever we could find it.

 Family was the first to offer support. Luckily for us, many of our family members are scattered across the Upper Valley and were able to be here at the first phone call. Rudy’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins showered us with help so that we had time to take our own showers. They took out our garbage. They ignored our messy kitchen. And they snuggled with Rudy in both the quiet and loud moments of babyhood.

 Next, our friends stepped up to help. We received phone calls from friends near and far, asking us what they could do. Local friends dropped off meals. (I’ve never eaten so many homemade chocolate chip cookies in my life.) Long-distance friends sent care packages filled with snacks and onesies. Our doorbell was regularly ringing as friendly faces greeted the youngest new community member.

 But what we didn’t expect was the kindness of Upper Valley acquaintances and strangers. Neighbors stopped me in the driveway to offer assistance. Strangers allowed us to cut them in line at the general store when they noticed our newborn in hand. Local acquaintances filled our mailbox with well-wishes. Joggers stopped their workouts to peek in our baby stroller and offer kind words. Even our parcel package delivery guy quietly dropped off packages on our doorstep so as not to awaken our newborn.

 I know I’m lucky to have a baby in the Upper Valley because we are blessed with so many good people who care about the next generation. We’re also privileged to have resources to help new families during these critical times. Many of my friends have relied on the home-visitor program of Good Beginnings. Some have donated and purchased second-hand baby clothing at Abby’s Closet in West Lebanon. And most have visited the Women’s Health Resource Center in Lebanon for programs and recommendations. We live in a place where newborns can thrive, thanks to multiple community efforts and services. And I, for one, plan on taking advantage of everything our community has to offer.

 Having a baby is hard work. Yet I’ve never felt more support in this journey. In the middle of the night, when the valley is still and quiet, and my house is anything but, I count my blessings that this little person will grow up in the Upper Valley. It takes a village to raise a child, and I’m thrilled that the Upper Valley is Rudy’s home.

Becky Munsterer Sabky lives in Norwich.

 




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