Once upon a time, women of all ages came together to support a birthing woman and new mother. Let’s get there again.
Siri: How do I get to the village?
Once upon a time, not too long ago, women of all ages came together to support a birthing woman and new mother.
Young girls would run errands, make cool compresses, and prepare meals. Older ladies would attend births and take care of the postpartum mothers and newborn babies.
There was no What to Expect When You're Expecting or wet diaper tracking apps.
There was the village. We still say “it takes a village to raise a child," but we're feeling alone.
The village isn't showing up on Google Maps.
We need to find our way there so we can support each other in mothering and motherhood.
Lately, my pregnancy craving has been this mouthwateringly delicious breakfast burrito from a tiny café in my tiny town.
I am lucky to be working part-time, so I mostly indulge my craving on late weekday mornings, a slower time for the café.
I usually order my burrito to go, scroll around mindlessly on my phone until it's ready, and rush home to eat.
This week I had a thought: Why sit at home alone when I can sit here in the café, smelling the lovely smells, listening to brilliance of the Vitamin String Quartet, enjoying these few moments of breakfast burrito solitude I might not have once my sweet baby boy arrives?
I took a seat at the counter and I resisted the scary-powerful urge to pull out my phone. I ignored the newspapers to my left.
By simply being present, I was quickly engaged in conversation with the girl behind the counter about our favorite pastries.
Soon we were talking with an elderly man and listening as he reminisced about the muffins his mother made when he was a little boy.
As people came in and out for coffee, I exchanged smiles and greetings and received well wishes for a continued healthy pregnancy.
I was alone in the café, as was everyone else, but we were all alone together.
It was easily the highlight of my week, and all because I sat in a place with people and put my phone away.
I imaged how wonderful it could be if we found each other, pregnant mamas and new mamas, in this type of shared aloneness. How can we feel all alone, together?
I suppose I could sit in the café every morning and hope for a pregnant or new mother to walk through door, but that might take a while.
At some point I'd probably feel compelled pull out my phone and check my newsfeeds.
Serendipitously, boredom-driven social media logins can be great source of community if you look in the right ways. I found #TeamMotherly on Facebook!
You can cultivate your virtual village by searching for your buzzwords.
Maybe you're into unmedicated birth, maybe you're planning a VBAC, maybe you're looking for other working moms, or maybe you're carrying your rainbow baby.
Whatever it is that has you seeking the village, you'll probably find it in a closed Facebook group, an inspiring Instagram account, or a thoughtfully written blog.
Introduce yourself to your fellow Facebookers.
Save Instagram photos, quotes and links that move you.
Leave questions and thoughts in the Comments section of your favorite blog—the author may respond and you may find kindred spirits.
On any social media platform, there may be occasions to meet members of your virtual village in real life.
I joined an area babywearing group on Facebook, and they get together almost every week.
It is so comforting to know that the village, the mothering community, still exists, and all it takes to find it is a quick online search.
In real life too, I have found that being a pregnancy opportunist has helped me feel less alone and more connected to other pregnant women.
Whenever I am at a prenatal appointment or in the local baby store, I commit at least one posted event to my personal calendar.
Despite my exhaustion from a long day, I recently attended a two-hour breastfeeding class in the late evening, 30 minutes away from home, because I wanted to meet other expecting mamas.
At the wise instructor's behest we all exchanged e-mail addresses and have remained in touch, sharing funny stories and insights.
The information from the breastfeeding class was easily accessible by book or online resource, but finding those three women was not.
That experience inspired me to reach out to the women in my prenatal yoga class, and we are now in the process of planning regular lunches and evening meet-ups
It is amazing how many of us are searching for this type of connection but unsure of how to make it happen.
Here's how: show up to the events, be present and friendly, and ask people if they are interested in staying in touch.
It might feel a bit uncomfortable to follow up (I know it did for me), but guess what? It feels a bit uncomfortable to be lonely too.
Once you get past the initial “let's get together" email, the discomfort subsides.
The loneliness won't.
Just think of how delighted you'd feel to receive an invite to a dinner full of pregnancy/new mom chatter, then realize that you are the person creating that delight for others!
Alone, we reach out to one another. Together, we can set aside the aloneness and discover the village.