You have probably heard the phrase, “It takes a village.” Usually, this phrase refers to child-rearing and birth, and while it may not take a literal village to successfully give birth and raise children, it does take a metaphorical one. That is why we encourage you to find your village.
Women have very powerful instincts. When a baby is conceived, a mother is born. This adage is true! Hormones and changes in the brain that begin at the moment of conception and continue to cascade throughout her life help a woman to become a mother and to hone that thing we call the “mothering instinct.” This all happens as a matter of biology and physiology. It is important. It is what has helped the human race to survive and thrive! But this instinct does not teach a woman how to be a mother. This is why you need your village.
Motherhood is beautiful but not without challenges. The mothering instinct can tell you intuitively that when your baby cries, he or she needs you to hold and snuggle them. It can help you tell the differences among a hungry cry, a scared cry, and a tired cry, but it can’t show you the secret to swaddling a baby perfectly, or the special trick that keeps water from getting in baby’s eyes during a bath.
Your mothering instinct can help you know when your baby is getting sick, and when he or she is overstimulated. It can help you meet his or her needs. But it can’t show you the time-tested tricks for soothing a colicky baby or how to give him or her Tylenol without spitting it back out. This is why you need your village.
Your village picks up where your instinct leaves off. In a different era, a woman learned how to be a mother and how to hone her mothering instincts from other, more experienced women. Growing up, working, and living alongside women who imparted their wisdom and offered opportunities for “practice” when little ones needed watching allowed young women to learn the art of mothering. It gave them opportunities to learn how to tap into their instincts. Today, in our fast-paced, busy commuter culture we don’t have this same opportunity all the time. Mothers are often left to fend for themselves. You deserve a village!
Sometimes our village is our family: mother, sister, cousin, or relative, sometimes our village is made up of close friends or coworkers, and sometimes our village is one we construct ourselves by seeking it out. If you don’t have a village, build one! There are many ways you can find a village for yourself! Maybe you will have two villages: one for labor and delivery and immediately postpartum that consists of a labor doula, postpartum doula, monitrice, and lactation consultant; and one for life as a new mother that you find by joining due date clubs, moms groups, book clubs, mother of multiples meetups, church groups, community clubs, hobby circles, or play groups. The possibilities are almost limitless.
However you go about finding your village, we encourage you to build it. You have an amazing inborn instinct to be a mother. Let your village help you use it better!
By Laura Ricketts