I don't know where the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" comes from, although Wikipedia informs me it's from an African proverb, but I first encountered it when former First Lady Hillary Clinton wrote her book with that title. I never read the book, but phrase stuck with me, the idea being that raising children is not an individual task, but rather one that involves lots of people. Although the concept resonated with me, I had no experience to confirm its accuracy.
Growing up, my family was something of an insular unit because we moved roughly every 2 1/2 years. Because my dad was a minister, although we were certainly part of the congregation, because he was often the interim minister, there was no sense of permanency or belonging. Even extended family wasn't readily available, with us visiting my grandparents once or twice a year, as they lived out of state. I can't speak for my parents or siblings, but from my perspective, we never had a village to belong to. Even though my family finally settled down in a single city, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, never to belong anywhere.
This feeling continued through college graduation. I moved roughly every year, sometimes even more frequently than that. All the while, I kept looking for somewhere to belong and never found it. After I married Phil, I thought having a ready-made church community would help. And, for a while, I did feel part of the church community. Here was a group of people where I found friends that really cared about me. I even found a job where I loved the people I worked with enough to hang out with them after hours. It was not to be, however. Having allowed myself to get attached and start to feel like I belonged, circumstances made it necessary for us to leave.
I didn't want to move to Michigan. First off, there's too much snow and cold and, as I believe I have previously indicated, I am not a fan. Second, it was a small city--about 8,000 people. My mind could barely wrap around the idea of a city smaller than my college. That, and the closest "big" city was Lansing--a city smaller than all but one that I had previously lived in. I was going to be living in a fishbowl and I wasn't particularly thrilled about it. Still, there wasn't really a choice. Phil had gotten a job there and I was going to graduate school.
Phil joined the community before I did, both literally and figuratively. He arrived in late September, whereas I didn't come until the following February. He also met and knew more people than I--from funerals, Rotary, and his chaplaincy with the fire department. I went to school in Lansing and worked in Lansing so, having spent most of my time studying or in Lansing, outside of the church, I didn't really get to know the locals. All that changed with the infertility.
We allowed the public in on our private journey, in part for self-preservation. I didn't want to hear people ask when I was going to have kids, as I would get angry and frustrated, and they wouldn't realize they were stepping on a landmine. It turned out that, by sharing my journey, I received advice from lots of women who had also struggled as well. I had joined a community--those who have fertility issues. Then, when we finally got pregnant, I joined another community--those who had experienced pregnancy. And, now that I have my daughter, I have joined the community of parents. By letting others in on our journey, I had managed to create a support system. I finally had a village.
As it turns out, next month will mark an anniversary of sorts. It will be the longest I have lived consecutively in a single place. And with that anniversary comes the recognition that I feel like I belong here. I love my friends, my job, my community, my church. I don't know that I will ever love the snow, or the weather patterns, but I do think of this place as home. This is my village. And my village is helping me raise Lil' Bit. And I wouldn't have it any other way.