Our Village

By Johanna Hatch

One of the first cards we received upon announcing my pregnancy was from a friend-couple who simply wrote, “Thank you for letting us be part of your village.” Sometimes I wonder if the common phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” really means, “It takes a village to be a parent.”  After Liam was born, both Evan and I felt an intense need for community, especially with other parents.  This was our first time taking on this challenge, and we needed our friends and family around us.  I’ll never forget the kindness of those who walked into the tornado of the first few weeks of Liam’s life and made dinner, unloaded the dishwasher, and wiped off the counters without even being asked.  They each reduced our anxiety and allowed us to focus on our new child.

Since we were among the first of our close friends to have a child, I felt the need to seek out “mommy-friends,” other women who were going through roughly what I was. Even with great local resources like “mother-baby hour” at the hospital where I delivered and an abundance of local playgroups, it can still be difficult to forge a true “mom-mance” as a writer on the parenting website Babble.com recently termed it.  Indeed, finding a parenting friend you can confide in can be a lot like dating – simply having kids the same age isn’t enough to bind you together.  Thankfully, I was able to forge connections with a few wonderful and generous women so that we didn’t have to take this journey alone.

My need for a village became more acute, or perhaps was exacerbated by, a creeping loneliness that I was eventually able to discern as a symptom of post-partum depression.  I think it took so long for me to realize my post-partum depression because it wasn’t a stunning shock to the system, but a slow creeping amongst lost sleep, mixed feeling about being away from my child, job stress, and the continuing physical readjustment of breastfeeding and no longer being pregnant.  One of the biggest lies that depression, post-partum or otherwise, tells us is that we are alone.  But once I took the risk to begin to open up about it – to my spouse, my midwife, and those wonderful and generous “mommy-friends” – I was finally able to realize the glorious truth that I was not alone.  Friends and acquaintances shared their own stories of antidepressants and breastfeeding, sent helpful links, and uttered the words I longed to hear: “I’m here for you.”

Throughout the struggle, our church community, one of our first villages, has been a constant, loving, reassuring presence.  Liam was the first infant baptized in our community, and in our new worship space.  The community definitely sees him as “our baby.”  Every Sunday at the Sign of Peace, a crowd gathers around us – grandparents longing for faraway grandchildren, mothers of grown children commenting on how much they had loved the nursing relationship, old men reassuring us how delightful his baby noises are, always making sure that we know that we are an important part of this village, not to be separated or excluded.  It is through their kindness, and the kindness of all the friends and family who make up our “village,” that the love of God is made visible in a very real way in our lives. Through their goodness not only to our child, but to us as his parents, we are given the grace to be the best parents we can be.

Johanna Hatch is a feminist activist, writer, and amateur hagiographer. She currently resides in Wisconsin with her spouse Evan, son Liam, and their mostly blind dachshund.

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