Unfit Radical (posted at Radical Mama, August 21, 2007)
Guest Posting from Unfit Mother
Last week, resident blogger, Radical Mama, asked me to fill in for her while she went camping with her three girls. I was ecstatic – of course! I agreed whole heartily; I was flattered. Like Mr., I am also new to blogging and spent the following 24 hours basking in radical flattery. Taking the adage “you don’t know someone until you walk a mile in her shoes” one proverbial step further, I took my three girls camping this weekend and offer my words in her stead. We wear a similar size, Radical Mama and I, and I love frequenting her written world.
But unlike, RM, I did not adventure solo with my brood in forested familytude. Instead I met 8 of my closet mama friends and their families for an annual camping reunion. When my oldest daughter, Ivy, was born I enrolled in a moms-and-babies yoga class. The studio was on a small side street and some mental or perinatal fatigue had me circling the block on three consecutive Tuesdays before I finally found the robins egg blue building. Once in class I positioned myself on the floor with assorted props and baby entertaining accoutrements (Ivy was 12 weeks old) and surveyed the room. No one I knew. Sizing up the other mamas, I recognized their familiarity with each other. All the babies were within weeks of Ivy’s age, but the mamas seemed to know each other in a much older and deeper way.
At the beginning of the class, each mama took a turn introducing herself and her baby and shared a moment about what emotional turmoil had reared its postpartum head that week. Between nursing, consoling our babies and reaching out to each other, we never spent more than 20 minutes posed in the one-hour class, but what has come from the contents of that room has lasted much longer. We began meeting outside the yoga class on Friday mornings with each mama hosting the group while we all brought food. While some mamas wore their babies in slings, permanently affixed and attached and others were of the ‘cry themselves to sleep at night in another room’ philosophy, we were all first timers together. Through our differences, we learned from each other and most importantly, with very little judgment, we supported each other.
Laughing and crying in our living rooms, the months wore on and soon we were celebrating first birthdays. Some mamas returned to work, but even in dwindling numbers we kept meeting with toddlers now in tow. We joked about who would be first to plunge back in to the depths of pregnancy to retrieve baby number two and we all watched in awe as the brave pioneer among us gave birth a mere 18 months later. Siblings joined ranks and still we met, circling our friends in supportive Blessing Ways. We made books, necklaces and lasagnas to empower each woman as she ventured back into that dark and foreboding recess of puerperium. We left no woman behind and soldiered on through hospitalizations and complications and miscarriages and weddings and deaths and injuries and failed conceptions and moves to other cities and still more babies.
As our first-borns grew older and we ventured into new realms of parenthood, we still connected in smaller groups and larger gatherings through out the year. And once the threatened end to baby propagation ebbed into our group, we decided to ritualize this connection, to commemorate that place we hold for each other in our hearts. This weekend, we met for the second annual family camping trip at a local state park. After the awkwardness and guilt of distance melted, we settled into the warm familiar friendships forged 6 long years ago.
There must have been some magic in that old cinderblock building way back then. I gained a community of mamas that is deep like family. Something solid and unshakable formed among us even through uncomfortable disappointments and unspoken grudges. These women brought me meals, held my babies and watched my children like their own and no one can asunder our bond. Returning to the same yoga class after my twins were born almost two years ago, I longed for a similar connection. But it never materialized. Instead I started blogging and quite unexpectedly, I found a different community of parents. It’s not the same physical manifestation, but the spirit is born of the same ether. I do not feel the desperate isolation of parenting with my community of mamas and papas, both online and IRL, and for that I am thankful.
And thank you, Radical Mama, for offering your shoes to fill. I return them to you and I hope to see more of you all ‘round the blogosphere.