“I’ve been up with Abby for well over an hour. And now Libby crying. I cannot get Abby to go back to sleep, she’s just sitting here crying. Fun times,” I texted.
It was 3 a.m. and I was alone on the couch with an inconsolable baby. But I really wasn’t alone. My friend Mollie texted me back five minutes later; she must have been awake nursing her newborn.
“Ugh C, I’m so sorry. It’s so hard when you don’t know what to DO.”
And just like that, I wasn’t alone on my couch. I was talking to a best friend who understood exactly how I felt. (Side note: we keep our years-long text conversations on silent so that they don’t disturb sleep or life in general.)
My Virtual Village
In this digital age, I turn to my virtual village — my sisters and my best friends — every day. We do what real life friends do when they meet for coffee and catch up, except we’re hundreds or thousands of miles apart. We support each other, we lift each other up, and we make each other laugh. Every.Single.Day. While it is great to have an actual village, I’ve found my virtual village to be just as critical for making it through long days and sleepless nights with my six little ones.
We talk about everything. And I do mean everything, from the day-to-day minutia of what’s going on, to the big questions like am I doing any of this right, or is there even a way to do it right or wrong? We celebrate pregnancies, first words, first steps, and first days of school. We remind each other, on those long days, that tomorrow is another day and to focus on simply getting through this really tough day. We encourage each other to ask for help when we need it. We send photos of rashes on toddlers and ask, “does this look normal or should I go to the pediatrician?” We share our worries over whether our older kids are happy and making friends in school, asking did your child do this? We talk about why our babies won’t sleep and troubleshoot together. We celebrate the happy moments where the kids say something really funny or give us an unexpected hug and an I love you. We lean on each other through deaths, miscarriages, and other losses. We help each other pick out dresses to wear to baptisms and weddings, sending photos of all the various options from the dressing room. We share the stresses and joys of being parents, day after day after day.
They are always with me
I know that people say too much connectedness is a bad thing. I disagree. I carry my virtual village with me wherever I go, which means that I have support and laughter at the ready. And that makes life better. Looking back over the last few years, I can see clearly how important my virtual village has been on the most critical days of my life. They were with me when I found out my dad died, and they immediately texted that they would get on planes and come stand next to me at his wake and funeral.
They were with me when I got that first ultrasound showing three little blippits and, along with it, the life-changing news that I was having babies #4, 5, and 6 — TRIPLETS. They reassured me, saying you can do this and it will be fine. They were there with me at 30 weeks 4 days pregnant in the bathroom at my house, when I knew that something felt different, even though it wasn’t the normal tightening of contractions. I think I need to go in, I said. Yes, they agreed, go to the hospital and get it checked. They were also with me ten minutes later when my water broke, and it was GO TIME. I was shaken from the shock of it, but they rode with me to the hospital, sending messages of love and support. You’ll do great, they said. You’ve worked so hard to grow those babies this long, they’ll be strong and do great! Prayers for a safe delivery … Everything will be fine! At the time, I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear those words. I was too busy negotiating in my mind whether I should be happy or completely panicked that I would be delivering my babies at 30 weeks 4 days gestation. But my friends’ words helped me feel calm and strong, like I could face whatever was next.
Through the laughter and the tears
They were also there when the babies were born. They waited patiently to hear the news, which came from my husband just an hour or so later: they’re all here, and they’re doing great. Chrissy did great. Messages of relief, love, joy flooded my phone. My virtual village was also with me when, a month after the babies’ birth, we rode back to the hospital to pick up the first of our babies to come home from the NICU. I was overwhelmed with emotion wondering what life would be like when we had one, two, and three preemie babies at home. I shared my worry and my disbelief and joy that it was finally happening – we were bringing our babies home. My friends cried with me and celebrated with me, via text. Your miracle babies are finally coming home! It’s all happening! And, it will be great! they said. And then the ones that are part of my local village too left celebratory champagne on my doorstep.
I have been a failure with baby books, but if I ever wanted to chronicle the last few years of my life, I’d simply look back at the thousands of texts with my friends and sisters. I can’t bring myself to delete any of them, perhaps because I know they literally tell the story of my life – the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows, and everything else in between. So on the particularly long nights, like last night, I am thankful that I can carry my friends with me, and have them on my couch with me when I sit in sleepy stillness trying to console my baby.
Thanks to you, my virtual village. I wouldn’t want to do life without you.
About Chrissy Roussel
Chrissy Roussel is an attorney, wife, and mom of six girls ages 8, 6, 4, and one year old triplets (yep, surprise!). She spends her days changing diapers, reheating coffee, finding baby shoes, and making food no one eats. She writes about the joy and chaos of having six young kids on her blog and on her Facebook page.