Casi Bludorn gives insights into the challenges of motherhood and the power of forming a close-knit expat support system in Luxembourg.

"Is anyone up? She won’t sleep, it’s been hours, she’s just crying but it’s like a pain cry, I can’t figure it out."

It’s 4.30 in the morning. My 6-month-old has been awake for hours, and I can’t figure out why. I’m supposed to know this stuff, since I do have 2 other kids, but I cannot figure this girl out. I’m sending out a desperate plea.

The response comes in quickly. "Check her teeth, Matteo did this last week and we realised his first tooth is coming through. If it is, there’s lots of good tricks to help, but for now, you can just give her some paracetamol and she’ll be able to sleep."

Thank God Matteo still wakes up to nurse and his mom was up to answer my questions. She’s spot on, it’s the teeth. How did I not think of this?! I can see two of them peeking through. Some paracetamol and little Tilly finally rests. She’s so much cuter when she’s not screaming at me.

When I wake up, I’m greeted with a load of messages, a few other ideas of what it might be if it’s not teeth, a lot of "hang in there, mama! You got this!", and then a few later messages asking how things are now, and hoping I got some rest.

My gratitude this morning is for this group of moms. Giving birth is always hard, raising a tiny baby and turning them into a happy, kind person is always hard, finding yourself again after turning over your body and mind to another person is always hard, but doing it alone, in a country far away from all your family and friends is especially hard. This makes it so much more important to find your community here. For me, this was in the form of a WhatsApp group.

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An early coffee meet up in the city - April 2023. / © Casi Bludorn

When a newly arrived expat found out that Luxembourg law requires birthing mothers to begin their leave at 32 weeks and suddenly found herself with time on her hands, and no friends around, she reached out to a Facebook group to see if there was anyone else in the same boat. Turns out, it was a very full boat. She formed a Whatsapp group, and recruited another soon-to-be mother who had ended up on an early bed rest, to help her moderate it, and then the magic followed. This group was absorbed into an already existing Whatsapp Community with groups for everything from weekly yoga in the park, to museum visits, to book clubs, and hiking groups (one with strollers and another one with babies in carriers).

Online mommy forums have a certain reputation that includes a lot of judgment, quick diagnosis from people who are not medical professionals, and a lot of questionable advice. This group has managed to avoid most of that. I think something about being an expat in a foreign country makes people more likely to withhold judgment and assume that must just be how things are done in that person’s country. There is also something bonding about doing this all alone, without family near, no grandma to give you her tips or opinions or a night off. There is also some bonding that happens when a bunch of people who are used to working in an office suddenly find themselves somehow working more while not going to work at all.

The group created was based on when you gave birth. This was the "Early 2023" group, and all of our babies were born in the first months of 2023, so they were all near each other in terms of development and learning.

In her book “Platonic: How the Science of Attachment can help you make — and keep — friends” Marisa G. Franco talks about the importance of having friends and how to make them. Her formula is this: 1) Join a group that meets regularly 2) Attend each time and talk to people 3) identify a few people you really enjoy talking to, and talk to them more at these events 4) Eventually, suggest an activity outside of your regular event, but related 5) Repeat 4 as necessary 6) then you can try an unrelated event outside of the regular event. And voila – you have yourself a friend.

Mom groups are a great start for this process. This Whatsapp group began hosting regular meet-ups. The moms and babies came together, the moms drank coffee, the babies slept or ate or pooped, we didn’t really care as long as we got to sit and enjoy other adults for a bit. And then some other invites begin, usually baby-related activities.

"Are you signing Robin up for a swimming class? I hear the classes at the Coque are opening soon," "Yes, I’m planning to put him in the Friday morning class, will you and Emelie be going?" "Yea, we could do Friday morning too!" And there you have it.

A carefully calculated method that eventually gets to "So, mom’s night out? No babies!"

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Mom's night out - no babies! December 2023 / © Casi Bludorn

This group has meant so much to the people in it. "My husband told me I would be begging to go back to work, that I would feel bored and unmotivated staying at home. But by being a part of and managing this community for over a year now, I have found a place to feel useful, stimulated and where I continue to learn about being a mom and look out for those next steps of development in my baby," Johanna, a mom from the UK, told me.

The group has people from 30+ different countries, first-time moms and more experienced moms with a house full of kids. We’re cooks and lawyers and scientists and suppliers, but we’re all moms. 250 of us in this group now. As our kids are reaching their first birthdays, and lots of the moms are returning to work, we’re facing new challenges and the topics have changed but the advice, the magic, the community, it’s all still there.

Recently a mom sent a message about struggling with the return to work. Her workload is light as she returns and she feels empty and unfulfilled. She wants to be challenged, she wants to make leaving her baby at creche worth it. "Am I the only one that feels like this?" she asked. The answers came in swiftly and full of grace. Me too, me too, me too. But then there was the follow up, "what do we do about this?" We meet, we solve, we talk. Now there’s a lunch planned and a speaker scheduled. We work fast.

I am so grateful to the brave people that reached out and realised there was a need for this, but I’m especially so grateful to the people who joined, who participated, who came to the events, shared their stories, and helped clean the spit up off each other’s shirts. This is my love letter to those people.

Babies are hard. If you find yourself in need of a support system, of a community, of a village, reach out. If you can’t find something already there, start your own. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, reach out to your doctor or midwife, if you are feeling lonely or lost in this new world, reach out to another mom. She’s just as lost as you, but at least you can figure it out together!

This whatsapp community can be found here.

But I am sure it’s not the only one. Find your village, it’s out there.

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© Casi Bludorn