Motherhood: the importance of community
Don’t navigate the journey of new motherhood alone. Communities can offer support.
An eager mutt on a leash was anxious to explore the park’s wooded trail, his attempts to propel forward in vain. His master had stopped. The man, presumably a young father, stood next to a flushed-faced young woman with a cloth backpack straining her shoulders and a small, ruddy-faced baby in her arms. As my young-adult daughter and I passed them on our walk, I overheard the couple discussing the shortest route back to their car. It was August.
Quickly, my mind unreeled a tape of August two decades ago. In my memory, I could feel every sensation she probably felt, as if it were my own again. The backpack overloaded and adding much unwanted heat to my fatigued body. The clammy baby, also heavy and hot, in my arms. My breasts, filling with milk waiting to be expressed into a warm, expedient suckling mouth.
August, almost 23 years ago, Grace was 2 months old and I was awakening to the need for community. Quickly, with a little networking, I formed the perfect group for us. Like the milk that sustained our infants, we six mothers sustained each other with friendship and joint navigation of our own new paths through the woods of motherhood. It wasn’t so much about getting our children together but connecting, sharing and communing with each other at the launch of this exciting, life-changing and a bit perilous pilgrimage upon which we’d embarked.
By the time our babies reached age 3, we had begun traveling different routes, enrolling in different preschools nearest our homes scattered about town. Grace would be diagnosed with autism, and soon, elementary schools in different parts of town would further widen the separation. Soon, only two of us remained in Nashville. But I think back to 20-plus years ago and recall how formative those connections were for the early days of raising my daughter.
Community is important. If you are a new mother, reach out to find yours. This is not a journey to navigate alone.
Motherhood generates natural bonds for women, but for some, creating relationships isn’t easy. Maybe it’s even a bit scary. Please push on through those fears. There’s manna out there. A lifeline, even. I promise.
It may take a few tries to find a group that suits you. For me, it was important to find people with common ideas. I reached back to women I’d met at birthing classes and prenatal yoga, or those I was meeting at La Leche League meetings. For others, simply being a new mother is the only needed connector. Mothers’ groups can be found in local newspapers or magazines and online, or through “mommy and me” classes.
One of my mothering friends Anne said back then (and the truth still holds):
“You don’t realize how good it feels to have mother-to-mother support and what you’ve been missing, until you find it.”
My mothering community was a priceless gift that still gives. Seriously, I continually unwrap and treasure mine after all these years. It gave me a foundation of support and confidence I could not have mustered going at it alone. Motherhood is meant to be experienced in community.
This post was written by author-blogger-speaker, Leisa A. Hammett, While the days of frequent nursing and cradling a hot, clammy baby are remote history, Hammett is still helping foster community with the creation of a pending 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, called Art Tank, for artists with disabilities.