The saying goes: “It takes a village to raise a child….”
…and there I was on the fringe of exhaustion from being up all night with a newborn who was struggling to gain weight, with my being unable to nap while he napped because my 4 year was now home with me full time (because who can afford daycare or preschool while on unpaid maternity leave? Certainly not us…..but that’s a whole other blog post.
Where was my village?
After my mom left and returned to her home and my partner went back to work, I was alone all day trying to keep three fragile humans alive and surviving by myself, and it was pretty ugly. All of my mindful parenting and education as an LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist) couldn’t help me figure out how to breastfeed this baby and get more sleep, and, despite having been told by 3 providers that there was nothing wrong structurally with my son’s tongue, my mommy gut told me otherwise.
So, I turned to the Internet.
The Internet was great for fast information, but the amount of moms in groups needing help was overwhelming as was the amount of differing and sometimes nasty opinions. As a therapist, the caretaker in me had a hard time walking away from all the lost and hurting postpartum birthers out there; people whose partners were distant, unsupportive or abusive, people who were without access to IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants), people whose babies needed and wanted help and support but only had the one unhelpful, outdated and uninformed opinion of their pediatrician that did not match their inner wisdom. They, too, were desperate for a village. But I help people parent for a living. I had to either disengage from social media or risk spending hours glued to a screen, working for free and still without my own sense of support or connection. Besides, a mom in Texas can’t watch my baby for me while I go to the dentist. I didn’t need advice. I just needed to be a mom with other parents parenting together in the same direction while having access to everything I needed to optimize my child’s growth and development.
So we packed up and drove 45 minutes to a breastfeeding support group run by a lactation consultant associated with the hospital where my midwife had helped me deliver my baby. I got lost on the way, but we made it. Frazzled and wearing pretty thin, I set up in a big chair as other moms shuffled in.
Enter Karen Meade, IBCLC.
Sometimes I feel like she should have been wearing a cape. One suck assessment and 3 recommendations later, we were on our way home with a list of IBCLCs who could do a home visit, I dove deep into my son’s treatment.Figuring out how to successfully breastfeed him was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. We spent hours in the car each week getting to providers and attending groups.
It didn’t take long for Karen and I to become friends. We had the same dreams and ambitions of seeing families get off to the best possible start through meaningful connection. But, at the time, neither of us were in a place where we were ready to do our own thing together.
Building a Village
Fast forward almost 2 years, and suddenly the universe decided that the time had come. It started with a search to find and share some office space.
The idea was that we would start off small and do our own private practice things until she was ready to leave her hospital job and I was ready to work full time. But as we began to walk this path together things beautifully evolved. We both knew in our deepest heart-space that what we really wanted was one place where a family in the childbearing year can come and get everything they needed to launch their family… and have enough to offer for them to stay there to nurture their family and watch it blossom. We saw a few small spaces, but the village whispered to us…keep searching.
At our first unofficial business collaboration we talked about our name. Karen has joked for quite some time that her business is, “all things birth, boobs and babies.” B4 was her name idea adding the “beyond” to include toddlerhood (and to make sure no family felt left out if birth or breast/chestfeeding is not a part of their family formation). As we toyed around with words to name the community space we were creating, something sparked inside us when I got to the word village. B4 Village: for Birth, Babies, Boobs, and Beyond. It was magical.
When we walked the space of our now soon-to-be office location, we knew immediately that it had the capacity to be the village that we so desperately wanted to create. My head swirled with ideas of what this space has the capacity to do. This was going to be bigger and better than the one room office space we had originally imagined for ourselves. The closer we got to opening, the more excited I got to start seeing the babies crawling around while their parents sipped tea and talked about teething and play-dates in our play space all the while the pregnant people upstairs rocked a modified tree pose in their prenatal yoga class. And I will be comforted knowing that these parents did not have to spend hours in the car, because we are right around the corner. And these new parents can get everything they need in one location (and you can even bring your toddler with you while you attend a yoga class or have your lactation consultation).
Brick-by-brick, we are building this village for our community. Is Karen’s and my sincere hope that B4 Village will sustain and nourish local families in a way that I so desperately needed every day during that first year.
Molly Modica, LMFT B4 Village co-founder and VP (she/her)