In my last post I wrote about Longing for a Community in which to feel at home. While I haven’t quite found it yet I know that it is out there. I know because I have experienced it several times in my life when I have found groups of people who were nourishing and stimulating – both of which I need to feed my soul.
One such group was the volunteer Leaders of La Leche League International (LLLI). I became a Leader in 1991, and was most active with them up until I retired from being a member of their International Board of Directors in 2007, even though technically I am still considered an active Leader.
During the time I was most active I came in contact with other volunteer Leaders from all over the world as well as in my own backyard. When we lived in the bay area in the 1990’s it was these women who sustained me during hard times and with whom I shared many wonderful, joyous times too. They helped me move into four homes, held my hand during two terrifying health scares, nursed me through two surgeries, and celebrated one pregnancy and all sorts of other events.
Together we raised our kids while learning how to help other mothers get breastfeeding off to a good start. We took workshops to learn better communications skills that we then applied to help tearful mothers on the phone at 2 am with a crying newborn who wouldn’t latch, or with a biting toddler who is wild with teething pain, or with a baby on a nursing strike. We brainstormed insightful questions to help us ask the right questions so that we could provide the help these mothers wanted. And in the process we developed close and intimate friendships with each other. In other words, we mothered each other as we mothered our growing families.
We hung out at parks and zoos and beaches and as our kids ran around, we shared our inner thoughts and dreams and hopes and sometimes nightmares. Even when I had a hard time getting pregnant while everyone around me seemed to be able to do so effortlessly, I found other League Leaders experiencing that same aching heart and empty arms.
When my longed for second pregnancy turned out to involve abdominal surgery at 25 weeks gestation –one of the scariest times of my life — it was my LLLI friends who stepped in, cooked meals, watched my active firstborn, and comforted me on the phone at all hours of the night. After the surgery I held my breath for my last trimester, only letting out little bits of air when these women scooped up my energetic 5 year old son took him off to playdates and field trips while I was on bed rest. It was a group of them who organized a Blessing Way Ceremony right before I gave birth and presented me with a beautiful handmade quilt that I still hang on our bedroom wall 19 years later.
After the birth these same woman once again brought meals, did laundry, and mothered me as I mothered my new daughter and young son. And then eighteen months later these same women stepped in to hold my hand, bring us meals again, and distract us with love as we faced my husband’s cancer.
I had high hopes that our son’s private school community would also help us out during my husband’s cancer, but they let us down. I was so disappointed from their lack of support during our time of crisis that we moved him to a new school. Staying in that community was not healthy for me or my family after being let down like that.
A community that will rally round the wagons for you when you are sick and tired and then throw a party for you to celebrate the good times is an important part of how I define community. So many of us live isolated lives, separated from extended family, we need a community of people to step in and help us out at times. It has become a bit overused, but we really do need a village as our community. It is up to us to find and create that village for ourselves and for our families.
What kind of community do you have to help you get through the hard times and to celebrate with during the good times?
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