Thanks to a lot of emails from both those in my mama's group and those outside, and a nice surprise visit from the mama I mentioned in the last post, the one who left our group this fall, I've had a chance to think deeply about what the group is, and what I want from it.
The group was started in August of 2003; I was one of the three "charter members." It was originally conceived as a group to discuss parenting books. After a few meetings in Laurelhurst Park, with kids, we decided to start meeting in the evenings, without kids, and we picked a book.
Almost immediately, our group was nine members, and our first book was The Bitch in the House. I made a comprehensive question guide (being the resident English literature major, and all) and we had many excellent, deep, raucous discussions. We would have meetings where we would pass around tissues all night, and meetings where we all got a little drunk. It was my first experience with such a close, real group of women in my life. We got to know each other in a way I've probably never gotten to know any large group of women.
One by one (or, actually, three by three) we started getting pregnant, changing the makeup of our group from moms-with-toddlers to pregnant-and-nursing moms. The three holdouts from the pregnant plan started coming less often for a variety of reasons, and we added a few new pregnant women, so many group meetings were made up of six or seven pregnant women. I thought it was awesome, and sometimes felt as if the meeting was the warmest, most nurturing part of my life.
Then came the changes, the births, my health issues, and last week, the breakup. My missive that went something like, "hey, I need you guys, what's going on??" was met with two responses: "I need you too" and "sorry, I'm very busy right now and I need more 'intellectual stimulation.'" These split the group almost evenly.
On one level, I understand completely that some of "our" lives are in difficult places now, that the commitment to a weekly bitch session isn't necessarily the most important thing in the world. Our time is precious, and I'll admit that some of my one-on-one chats have been even more great than our group meetings. I don't think that (most of) the mamas in our original group will stop being friends with me - I just think I'll see them once a month or so, and half of those times will be at Trader Joe's. And we won't have the slightest idea what's going on in each other's lives, and we'll never get beyond "fine! Everett's getting so big..." And I need way, way more than that.
We're faced with a very serious change in our group, and it won't ever go back to its old self. I love the mamas who do need me right now, and I'm sure we'll forge a very supportive and long-lasting community. While I still feel a little hurt, a little sad, a little angry; I also feel more committed than ever to the belief that we all need this support, especially during the trying times of infancy and toddlerhood. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to welcome new members into our group, and to help support a few new mamas who will be giving birth this May and June.
Given that our group is evolving, if you live nearby and you, too, need that regular support network, please, get in touch with me. We try to meet weekly without our kids (excepting, of course, the infants). We're into eating and talking about our real feelings about things and just helping each other get through the isolating time that is mamahood. And yep: we need you, just as much as you need us. We all need each other right now, mamas.