My husband and I moved to Nashville the very day after finding out we were expecting our first child. We lived in a brand new city and state. We had new jobs. We had no local friends. Long distance phone calls were still typical, even on cell phones. iPhones and Facebook had not yet been invented! We had no local village.
Thank goodness for phones and email in my early mothering years! I was able to call upon my dear friends who lived in other states to guide me into and through motherhood, albeit paying for long distance. By the time my first son was born, I had two friends I met through La Leche League, Elizabeth and Mina. I craved the sense of community, of girlfriend-hood, that I was able to get from these other young mothers. Eventually, I found a local play group of “like minded” mothers. We met weekly at one of our homes for baby play dates, the moms all sitting around chatting, teaching, learning, sharing, laughing and embracing. As our children grew into toddlers, our group meetups began to dwindle. And eventually, the group faded away. Some of the mothers had older children, others went back to work full time, some of us were having more babies. We would see each other around town, at the YMCA, library story hour, or grocery store. But the weekly support and camaraderie faded.
In my early mothering years, I worked at a hospital. My days were long and stressful. I loved my job; working with new mothers, helping them learn to nurse their babies. But as I was expecting my second baby, it became evident that I needed a more active village to raise two children.
Unfortunately, our second baby was stillborn at 35 weeks. It changed my whole world. The grief was immense. My heart was shattered. I still had to mother my oldest son. But how? Luckily, I realized that my support network was huge! Close to 150 friends, coworkers, and family members came to the memorial service for our sweet baby boy. We were loved, here in this city where we were still relative newcomers. We were honored that two of our church’s pastors figured out how to do a service for a baby who had never breathed a breath. We were blessed to have photos taken by Krystal, through Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Meals were provided on that day and for 6 weeks after. Friends offered to take our oldest son on play dates to allow us time to grieve alone. We had many play dates where my mother-friends would look through the photos we had taken of our youngest son and listen to me replay my pregnancy, birth and empty-armed postpartum period over. And over. And over. And in time, I began to heal.
The day my son died, I stopped working in the hospital. A few months later, I joined my friend, Micky, to open a new company aimed to serve mothers. We offered the area’s first one-stop-shop for pregnancy, birth and baby support services (childbirth classes, doulas, lactation consultations, etc). I was back to work in a different way, serving mothers a bit more directly and for longer stretches of time than was possible in the hospital. We supported Attachment Parenting and babywearing from a personal perspective, educating and empowering local mothers to trust their mothering instincts. I was able to mother new mothers, helping them along their own mothering journeys. Possibly, I helped some of them find their own villages.
Eventually, we were expecting our third child. As I taught Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis classes to a group of mothers who were due at about the same time as me, I bonded with them. There were 15 months between the birth of our second and third children. And over those months, my own mother support both swelled and faded again. And although I never felt alone, I did not feel as though I was part of a village.
My third child, a daughter, was about five weeks old when two of my Hypnobabies students, Michelle and Lindsay, invited me to hike with them. I was hesitant (becuase I was their health care provider), but I eagerly joined them. That was when I walked into my village. Well, I hiked into it! Finally, after five years of mothering, I found my village! Over a few months, our hiking group grew and grew and grew! We had 15-20 moms hiking, with babies in wraps and carriers, every single week. And we named ourselves the Bambino Brigade.
The hills we hiked strengthened our lungs, our legs, our hearts, and our souls. We shared the ins and outs, the ups and downs of mothering. We taught each other how to wear different baby wraps and carriers. We taught each other how to nurse while babywearing and continue hiking without missing a single step! We shared our favorite recipes, book titles, cloth diapers and amber teething necklaces. We felt comfortable venting our relationship woes. We swapped child care so we could run without pushing strollers, go to doctor’s appointments, or go out on coveted date nights. We may not have lived within a stone’s throw, but we were a village.
We ARE a village. They are MY village. I hiked into it. After five years, and having given birth to my fourth baby, my village is still just as strong and active. Our children are growing, and our group continues to evolve to meet the needs of our older children while continuing to meet the needs of mothers with babies and other young children. I can call upon these mothers for anything! And likewise, I offer myself as a mother. I am not a health care provider when I am on a hike or at creek stomping or a picnic. I am a mother. I am just me, Kate, mother of four. I am surrounded by my village; it is strong and warm and loving.
Kate Cropp is a Nurse Practitioner, Lactation Consultant and Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructor. She is married and has four children. They live in Nashville.
If you want to see the photos of the precious moments we had with our stillborn son, grab a tissue, and view this link. Our many thanks to Krystal Mann.
To learn more about photos like ours, view this link.