It takes a village to have a child

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I’ve always loved the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. I like the powerful community implications, the way that it mandates a certain kind of connection between people–even complete strangers. The connection implied is one I often fear the world is losing: even as the globe shrinks, even as online users compile Facebook friends by the hundreds and Twitter followers by the thousands, it still feels that we are losing meaningful touch with one another.  It feels like we are losing our “village”.

When I became a teacher, this phrase took on practical importance in my life, as I watched struggling students and saw a common thread in those who found the path to success. That thread was a village. When students parents, teachers, and administrators worked together, success was always faster and easier than when the parties played on different teams, or worse, never came together at all.

When I became a parent for the first time, the phrase once again played in my mind as I watched my own family, my in-laws, teachers, coaches, and friends all take a role in the growing-up of my child. In the best of circumstances, I would stop thinking of him as “my” child and think of him as the child of all of those players, a child of the whole village, preferably a child of the world.

The village appeared again when my second son was born. I was the one with the belly. I was the one at whom total strangers smiled and for whom total strangers moved so I could sit down. But I was not the only one in the story.

When the time came, there was the willing babysitter who came over in the middle of the night. And then, waiting for me at Vanderbilt hospital, there was a whole village of strangers. After my husband half-carried me through the halls to the delivery room, I was immediately swarmed by nurses, my midwife, my husband, and my doula. For them, it was all about me–telling me when to breathe, feeding me ice cubes, cheering me on. But for me, it was all about them–I was hanging on to their every word as if for dear life. And, in the end, I guess it was for dear life–the dear, precious life, of the small bundle that was born that day. Even though I don’t live in a small village, even though I delivered a baby within the white walls of a large institution, I found the support of a village of people, people whose names I will never know, but whose spirits I will never forget.

I can only hope that I will continue to find such villages as I raise my sons and that they will find them for themselves and their own families. I truly believe it is how humans are meant to live.

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Wendy spends her time momming, blogging, freelancing, and writing children’s books.

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