Daily Archives: September 16, 2011

going tribal

When my wife and I moved to this new area three and a half years ago, we came here seeking our tribe. We loved Humboldt in so many ways, but that place was holding us back. We had found that with each passing year, we were just stagnating more and more, holding onto unhealthy behaviors, and generally becoming more and more depressed because we wanted–needed–to be around people who were more like us. There, we were surrounded by academics and old college friends, none of whom wanted children. The lesbians we knew were the sort that hated children. In fact, many of our friends, gay and straight, were disgusted by talk of procreation in general. Of course, this was one of many reasons we needed to leave, but it was  big one.

When we moved, we were still trying to conceive. We sought out other lesbians on the TTC journey in our new area. In fact, in our first month in the new town, I posted an ad on craigslist to find lesbian moms and lesbian moms-to-be. We even met up with two couples–but we didn’t hit it off. So we gave up on that for awhile. We did make some casual local friends, and while we didn’t have that larger supportive community we were seeking, there were people in our lives whom we could have fun with.

After BG was born, a larger local lesbian community began to organize online, and within that, there was a mom’s group. Score! I thought. Well, it turned out that one of the couples we had met previously were organizing it (and we really did not click with them). There were others, and we even befriended one couple for awhile, but ultimately, we found ourselves scratching our heads looking for a larger connection. We had assumed that our tribe was going to be made up largely of lesbian moms. We were so sure of it. But when it came to actually meeting these moms locally, we were lacking that crucial chemistry that leads to friendship. It was frustrating, but it was an important lesson.

Over the summer, my wife began taking BG to swim lessons at the local YMCA. One day, she came home, and she said, “It happened.” I thought she meant BG did some fabulous thing at swim class. Maybe he blew bubbles in the water or dunked his own head, but no. “Another mom asked me to come join a mom’s group. She gave me her number. She wants to hang out! She wants us to hang out.”

It is so hard to explain the significance of this moment. My wife and I have been so lonely, especially since our big move this summer. We’re still in the same county we’ve lived in for three years, but the new city has been big and crazy and full of absolutely no familiar faces. This summer we hit a low point. Some friends we had made through that original mom’s group sort of ditched us because we weren’t paranoid enough about plastics or nitrates or something, and our attempts at getting together with other friends kept being thwarted by tantrumy toddler days. So this invitation could not have come at a better time.

The mom’s group were were invited to meets at a local birth center. In fact, it’s the center where I want to do my doula training. The day we went for the first time was nothing short of magical. On our drive, moments away, BG fell asleep. By the time we arrived, he was in full nap-mode, so we carried him into the room and found a circle of rocking chairs and sofas and a few moms  (one of whom was the woman who invited us) with their kids sitting around and nursing. We sat and rocked the sweet, sleeping BG taking it all in. As more and more women arrived, as we introduced ourselves, we felt instantly home. Many of the women are breastfeeding well into the second year. Many of them cloth diaper. Most of them avoid television. A good lot of them are still cosleeping or have coslept with their kids. One of them–one of the other new moms that day–was also a lesbian. But the majority of them–99% of them–are straight women who happen to be mindful attachment-oriented parents.

Those women embraced us right away. We have this one organized activity when we meet where we go around and share highs and lows of the last two weeks. People offer bits of advice, condolences on lack of sleep, cheers and applause for potty training and kids’ own beds and sleeping through the night. And then we talk while the kids play. Everyone looks out for other people’s kids. If a kid is kicking another kid, the nearest mom says, “Jane, please stop kicking Sam!” And Jane listens, whether it was her mom talking or someone else entirely. The room is loud, filled with moms talking, kids crying and laughing and squealing and dumping toys around.

And the nursing, oh the nursing. My son is down to about two or three nursing sessions a day, but when amongst these kids, he wants to nurse constantly because there are boobs everywhere. In fact, I get the impression that most of these kids are close to weaning, but at Mom’s group, they can’t help themselves. They see one child nursing, and they’ll run to their moms, asking for “na-na” or “nu-nu” or “boobies” or “num-nums.” Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bare boobs in one room in my life. We complement one another on our bras. We remark on nursing habits. It’s really lovely because it’s all so comfortable with these women.

Since our first mom’s group meeting at the beginning of August, I’ve gone to several park playdates and even more meetings at the birth center. I’ve got potential childcare trades for date nights. I’ve commiserated with other moms who are struggling in their relationships. I’ve shared tips on how to find the cutest shoes on ebay. I walk away from these experiences full in a way that I haven’t felt in years. These women, who are already friends, have so easily welcomed me into their fold, and while my wife can’t typically be at these events because she is teaching, they still include her too, asking about her, wanting to know how life as a mom is for her. In fact, she and BG are on a playdate with one of the mom’s and kids now.

I’m so grateful that we found these women, that they found us, because for the first time in a very long time I really do feel that I’ve found my tribe. There is no replacement in the world for that feeling of belonging, of having others who understand you, and most of all, having friends. Oh, how I’ve missed this.

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