Ever since becoming a mother, the need for community has been pressing. There were many times when I felt a yearning to join a mom group, yet I couldn’t find many in my area. So, I hosted my own. This past weekend, I had the opportunity of holding a motherhood gathering—and it was more beautiful than I could’ve ever imagined.

I knew that mom support groups were something essential to mamas feeling and experiencing the power of a village—and I so desperately needed that in my life. A mommy and me meetup seemed like the perfect route to go.

Related: To my mom friends, thank you for letting me lean on you through motherhood

I admit that I had a lot of hesitation at first. During the planning process, I questioned why I had the vision. I questioned what I had to even bring the gathering to fruition. I told myself over and over again that I had no idea how to start a mommy and me group. But despite my self-opposition, I prevailed. And I am so glad that I did.

The purpose

My intention behind the gathering was to create a setting for mothers of all kinds to come out and share space with other moms and their little ones. For so long, I had felt deprived of community during my journey into motherhood. I lacked mom friends who could understand the struggles that I was going through—and also the absolute beauty of being a mother.

I figured that if I were feeling this way—I wasn’t alone. The purpose of the gathering was to give any mother who felt siloed in her journey a chance to connect with other mamas, in hopes that the space would encourage new friendships and a sense of validation and community.

How it all came together

In being honest, I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull the gathering off. I took a leap of faith—or rather full-fledge jumped into the deep end. I didn’t know if other moms would show interest. I didn’t know how many people to expect to show up. But I believed in my vision, and therefore believed that anyone who was supposed to be there would be there.

I told myself that whether one mama came or a handful, this was only just the beginning—and every idea has to start somewhere. One of my dear mama friends helped me pull everything together in the backend, and was there as moral support throughout the planning process and even through my self-doubts. We brainstormed how we wanted the gathering to unfold and worked our way from there.

I created a flyer and posted it on my social media pages, truly only expecting to attract a few moms. But other people started sharing the post and it picked up traction—and so many moms were showing interest. At that moment, I knew that this gathering was needed—for reasonings far beyond what I could understand. So I carried on as an instrument in bringing the vision together.

The outcome

The gathering was very unstructured and free-flowing. Mamas and their little ones came out, brought picnic blankets and snacks and we congregated in an open field at a local park. As a photographer, I created a setup for mamas and their little ones and offered free photos to capture the memory of the day for them.

For icebreakers, we all went around the circle introducing ourselves and our kids and describing what motherhood meant to us in one word. I also had each mom write a piece of advice for another mom to take home with her. From there, everything kind of just seamlessly flowed and moms connected and carried conversations all within the group.

Related: 3 easy ways to make mom friends

One particular sight that warmed my heart was a mama and her daughter who struggled with anxiety. When they first arrived, the little girl was hiding behind her mom and cried anytime someone talked to her—including another girl around her age who kept trying to play with her. By the end of the gathering, the little girl was running around and playing with the other kids like she had known them all her life.

Witnessing that reassured me that the gathering was necessary, even if only one person was changed from it—though I’m certain every mama and little one that attended were impacted in some way.

My own son even came out of his shell. Usually reserved and a little shy, he was running around chasing the other kids and babbling with just about everybody he saw. Saying that my heart was full by the end of the gathering is an understatement—it was bursting at its seams.

How you can start and/or find a mom group in your community

If you’re thinking about starting a mom group, just go for it. It’s as simple as putting out a call for mamas in your community to gather in a social setting and allowing it to flow from there. If you can, get a friend or two to help you with the planning process—and to provide support and reassurance when you get overwhelmed or doubtful.

If you’re hesitant to start your own group but deeply yearn to be a part of one, look up events online or ask other moms around you if they know of any mom groups. Attend on your own or even invite a mom friend that you may already have.

And don’t forget that not all mom groups are held in a physical setting. There are many virtual communities that you can join online that hold space for open conversation and discussion forums. If you want to start anywhere, start there and then progress to an in-person group.

Related: To the mama who doesn’t have a village

Overall, my heart is beyond full to have been able to share space with mamas and their little ones. Many mothers were asking when the next gathering would be—those who attended and those who didn’t get a chance to. Now, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next one.

In the words of one of Motherly’s posts, the village is there, but you might have to look for it.

And as I learned from experience—other times, you might just have to create it yourself.