Six Years of Preparing, Providing, and Pioneering for Women

Yesterday marked the sixth birthday of The Motherhood Collective, this organization that I hold so dear. Each year I recall the freezing cold temperatures of January 10, 2011 and the lack of experience our small team of five possessed as we launched our first program in a warehouse (temporarily without heat); we had 12 women in attendance that first day.
We couldn't have given you a mission statement, a catchy tagline, or a polished elevator pitch, but we each knew something had to change. We KNEW someone had to improve the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of women from preconception to postpartum. Our small team of five saw a need, and we embraced our responsibility. We might not have known it at the time, but we were pioneers.

Slowly but surely, women came to us with their needs and desires. As they felt safe, they expressed their insecurities, frustrations, and regrets. The more we listened, the more we learned. Soon we found that the women we serve are our greatest teachers and vision casters. Our mission became simple: Provide rich, evidence-based education and unwavering social support, allowing women to become equipped, educated, and empowered; at all times, assuring each woman that she is not alone and that she is, indeed, the best mother for her child.

So friends, the mission statements, taglines, and elevator pitches all came in due time. Volunteers, business partners, and board members arose, each taking responsibility, in their own unique ways, for the maternal health of THEIR community. Now, six years later, here we are, preparing women in our own unbiased, unpolarized, and judgement-free way, for a venture unlike any other: MOTHERHOOD.

So happy birthday, TMC. I love you and the women we serve so very much. This year, may our team purpose to prepare, provide, and pioneer in new and provocative ways. May the women that we serve continue to be our greatest teachers.

Thank you for all you have given me.

Relax and Pedal Harder

Relax and Pedal Harder

My daughter has been learning to ride a big girl bike; it is hard, scary, and frustrating (For both of us.) Re-perched after a fall, she began to sing, "relax and pedal harder; relax and pedal harder when you're scared on a bike."  I smiled and breathed deeply – those were just words Mama needed to hear.

Letters from Lauren: Responsibility

Letters from Lauren: Responsibility

As a culture, we tend to isolate and delegate the health and well-being of women and infants. We tend to make them "someone else's problem" instead of taking joint responsibility as individuals and as a community. Do we as friends, sisters, mothers, nurses, doulas, midwives, and more consider the comfort of the mother's environment, her quality of her story, her specific and unique desires? Do we consider her emotional, physical, and mental well-being during the labor process? 

Letters from Lauren: I See You

Letters from Lauren: I See You

We're taking a little detour from our usual 'Friday Introductions' and sharing our executive director's very personal letter this week. This letter serves as its own introduction of sorts, not only to Lauren, but to our organization. We hope you enjoy it.

Letters from Lauren: The Why

Letters from Lauren: The Why

Questions and information in hand, I found myself sitting naked in a paper gown in the office of a female care provider. I expected my questions to be met with a feministic cheer... maybe even a pat on the back! You can imagine my surprise when, instead of support, I received an eye roll and a trip to "blood work" without any explanation. No conversation, no questions, no referrals, nothing.

Being Known

Being Known

At the Motherhood Collective, one of our taglines is "no one is alone." The reason it is phrased this way is because often, we feel the opposite. We sit alone in our homes attempting to do "it” alone, while all around our cities and communities other women sit doing exactly the same thing. You are not alone, my friend--you just feel you are.

A season of thankfulness and giving.

Dear friends,

On this coming Tuesday (12/1) The Motherhood Collective will be taking part in the global#GivingTuesday initiative. We will have three amazing opportunities for you to give back to the organization and support our work in maternal health. We are excited to use this global day of giving to not only raise critical financial support, but to increase awareness surrounding three common issues we address. Be on the lookout for an upcoming email with additional details and social media notifications. :-)

During this Thanksgiving holiday, we would be remiss if we did not express our gratitude for a few of the many things we are thankful for in 2015.

1. Our volunteers. Our work simply could not be done without the commitment of our volunteer staff.

2. Our Board of Directors. Their insight guides the organization with with wisdom and heart.

3. Our program hosts. Mosaic and Wyndhurst Counseling Center have welcomed us and given us a home.

4. Our community cheerleaders. They sponsor our programs, reefer women in need, and champion for our cause.

5. The women we serve. Without your bravery and honesty we would never be where we are today.

Thank you to all.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends and supporters. Wherever this season finds you, you are not alone.

With love and THANKFULNESS,

We Are in This Together

"As women in this season of preconception through postpartum, we are united by a common thread. We need each other... Your stories remind us why we do the precious work we do. Your bravery inspires us. You are beautiful. We need you. "

New Seasons........

New Seasons........

Fall is upon us here in Central Virginia. The mornings are crisp and the chilly breezes hint at the swiftly approaching change of colors all around. 

In our programming over the last two weeks I have spoken to many of you who are also feeling the change of seasons, not only in the outdoors, but in your own bodies and in your own homes. Bellies are blossoming, babies are growing, for some hope seems almost touchable, and for some anxiety is clinging to them like a never ending Winter...

education AND support

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What a beautiful week for us as a staff of The Motherhood Collective. On Saturday we welcomed you to the Café Express. On Monday we held both the Café and our PPMD Support Group. Wednesday brought our Grief Support Group. What a gift to have the opportunity to serve so many women in such different ways. If you are new to our programming this week, welcome. As an organization we long to advocate for a societal shift in maternal health. We feel the way we accomplish this best is through education AND support by connecting you to each other and to your communities.

Education empowers. Education expands our knowledge. Education, on it's own, can also overwhelm and leave us without tools for success. This is where we feel woman to woman support must come in.

It is within the framework of support that women discover variances of normal. It is through the safety of support that women find assurance that they are not alone.

Thank you. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. Thank you for allowing us to learn what it looks like to connect you to each other and to your communities. Again, welcome to our new faces. Please let us know if there's anything we can do to further your education and support from pre-conception through postpartum.

All my love,

PS - Do you follow us on instagram? Here is a peek at what we've been up to this week!

Bravery.

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Last weekend our volunteer staff had the opportunity to spend an entire day together. We ate, played, and spent time digging into our own stories - in order that we might be able to better walk alongside you. There was a resounding theme that echoed through the day. We, as a culture, must seek to rid ourselves of assumptions. We must validate the unique stories of the women in our lives. We can walk alongside each other in pain and in joy.

Through education and support we strongly feel there is hope for a societal shift in maternal health.

We acknowledge that we all must become better listeners. In humility and vulnerability, we must also share our stories. For often, healing begins with one person's simple bravery.

Will you join us in changing the culture? Will you join us as we seek to better the health of women from pre-conception through preschool? Change begins with individuals. Change begins with us.

All my love,

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Are we worth it?

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As we have been working our way through Maternal Mental Health Month I have been mulling over the biggest obstacles that we, as women, face in achieving stable mental health. Continually, it comes back to this - we do not believe we are worth it. It takes time, sacrifice, and a mindset of worth to get to a PPMD Support Group. If we feel the time is too expensive, the sacrifice to our families too great, and our worth not equal to those we care for; then, quite simply, help will not be sought.

I would say, in this culture, that women have a history of being self-proclaimed martyrs. We learned these behaviors from the women before us. We eat the piece of chicken dropped on the floor, we share the cup - receiving backwash in return, we get up early and go to bed late all for these precious people entrusted to our care.

But, my loves, we must acknowledge that caring for ourselves enables us to care for those we love even better! The time taken to attend a Postpartum and Perinatal Mood Disorders Support Group is well spent! The walk around the park while a friend keeps the children is time well spent. The cup of tea sipped while still hot is time well spent. We must make our Mental Health a priority.

Depression and anxiety are the most common complications surrounding childbirth. They can be experienced in both pregnancy and the postpartum period. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there is hope. But we must take the first step - we must decide that we are worth the fight to be well.

Join me in encouraging mothers around us to fight for their Mental Health, together we are serving women and changing lives.

With all my love,

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Does our work matter?

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Does the unnoticed, messy, relentless, thankless, work matter? In a world full of big and grand, I have been dwelling on this recently. We applaud high attendance at events, we worship those with millions of Instagram followers, we praise leaders who bring help to thousands, and we yearn after bigger houses, bigger cars and bigger paychecks.

But what about the small? What about the mother with several children at home who bathes, feeds, and dresses the same little bodies every day? Does her work matter? What about the mother who balances daycare, employment, and bedtime routines? Or the mother who just gained custody of the older children? Does her work matter?

I would argue that, YES, her work matters immensely. For her investment is not in something that quickly depreciates or that will fade away with time. Her investment is generational. Her investment is in something greater than herself. Her investment leaves a legacy. Her investment, though quiet, teaches the most beautiful of all lessons. Her investment teaches how to love.

So keep up the good work today, my friends. I see you. THEY see you. You are changing lives in the most beautiful way.

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New Dreams

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One of my most treasured parts a a Café morning is having opportunity to sit in a small group with the women who attend. Last Monday in the late infancy group we discussed our well-being as women. How has motherhood changed us? Are we the same women we were before? Each of us said that we had difficulty discovering the new woman who is the mother. Our identity has changed, and with that; our hobbies, interests, and dreams.

We spoke about the struggle to surrender to the new woman who has been birthed through motherhood. Some of her life goals may remain, and how wonderful! Some of her life goals may have shifted, and that's wonderful too! But we must give ourselves the freedom to dream new and more incredible dreams. We must give ourselves the freedom to grow and expand with each new season we encounter.

We are ever evolving and ever growing women. We are mother. What dream will you grant yourself the permission to dream today?

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Dreams

Our stories.

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

Our stories. Are they important? Do they shape our children? Do they shape us? As a culture we are losing the art of storytelling. Oh, we can boast. We can complain. We can argue. We can "talk". I know I personally hesitate to tell my story if it is messy. After all who would want to hear my pain and my struggles, my unmet expectations, mistakes, and failures?

I know one person who would, my daughter. In fact, just the other day she asked about how I "disappointed my mama." What did I do to make her sad? How did I learn? It woke me up and made me realize that stories are not supposed to be perfect. Stories present us opportunities to learn.

Each of you, as women, has a story. You have a life story. You have a motherhood story. You have a narrative that is longing to be told and that just might encourage someone in a season right behind you.

Maybe you're in the midst of infertility struggles. Maybe you've just lost a baby. Maybe you're pregnant for the first time. Maybe you're the mother of twins. Maybe you're a mother through adoption. Maybe you're the biological mother of 10. Maybe you dislike breastfeeding. Maybe you long to breastfeed.

We need to hear your stories. I long for you to use them to encourage someone around you or to share a lesson learned with your children. You are valuable and so is your story.

With love,

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The Struggle of Self Care

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

At the Café yesterday we discussed self-care. This is an area in which my mother never excelled. There was always something more important to be done or someone more important to tend to. Rest was not valued nor encouraged. As a hormonal and sleepy adolescent this frustrated me to no end. Now that my mother is gone and I find myself in the role of "mother", I at last understand the enormity of her struggle. How do we as women with SO MUCH valuable work in front of us give appropriate value to rest and self-care?

I've heard it said that we are not fully able to, "love others as we love ourself" if we are not in the practice of showing true love to ourselves. What a true and convicting the statement. How will we expect those whom we are nurturing to care for their bodies, hearts, and minds if we are not setting an example?

Showing love to ourselves will most likely look differently for each of us. What can you do today, this week, or this month to thank yourself for the valuable work set before you?

I challenge you and I challenge myself. Let us see how we are better equipped to show love to those in our sphere of influence by caring for the very vessels of love.

Most sincerely,

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You're not alone.

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I've had two hard weeks personally. Snow, sickness and the lack of school has not really helped my outlook. Do you have weeks like this? Weeks where you can't get ahead? Where laundry piles up, emails go unwritten, texts and messages pile up on your phone? You ever feel like you're failing as a mother, partner, friend, employee? Perhaps your struggles run even deeper. Perhaps you roll your eyes at the things above and think, "if only she knew the extent of my pain." Well, I might not know each hurt, each ache, each problem. But I know this. You're not alone. I'm so sorry for your bad week. Your bad month. Your bad year. I'm sorry for the pain that might run beneath it all. My heart hurts for you that this journey of MOTHERHOOD is not as simple as we all dreamed.

It is easy to isolate myself when I feel this way. To imagine my problems (small or large) will annoy my friends. But we need each other, don't we? We need to walk MOTHERHOOD together. This is one of the reasons I am so thankful for this organization. I has brought me into relationship with women I never would have known. Women who are nothing like me, but are my who are my partners in MOTHERHOOD.

Even if your little world is pain free, don't do MOTHERHOOD alone. Pour into someone else now, today. For, together we are SERVING WOMEN and CHANGING LIVES. I know you've changed mine.

Most sincerely,

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