We found ourselves in the same position 11 years ago; we were all pregnant and due in the same month. None of us knew each other prior to when we all joined a due date group on the MotheringDotCommunity ("MDC") forums. Despite the fact that we came from different parts of the country and had different backgrounds, our common interest in natural parenting brought us together.
With so many women in the MDC forum, I was afraid I would get lost amongst the crowd. I was close to 40 at this point and pregnant with my 3rd baby. I felt a little like an outsider even though my ideas aligned with most other mamas in the group. We had just moved from Hawaii to a 200 acre farm in Texas and so had no friends in our immediate area. The MDC forum was a welcomed way to connect so I continued to participate.
Within the forum, I discussed the normal changes and fears that accompany pregnancy. I started topics on being an older mom, I asked advice on dealing with my older daughter who was in her "challenging twos" at the time, and I commented frequently on younger moms’ topics of fear or questions on first-time home birthing. This was going to be my second homebirth, so I found it comfortable to give support in this area especially.
Eventually, I found myself drawn to a few specific wom, whose souls I felt like I understood as well as my own. Our discussions had started growing from the obvious pregnancy commiserating to more personal topics and I looked forward to the daily online conversations. We began exchanging group emails rather than sticking solely to the threads in the forums, and as time went on it became obvious that we needed our own virtual home.
Just before giving birth, we started a new forum, The Mothering Tree, on our own site. We called ourselves the Tree Mamas -- a name based on the idea of the Tree of Life. The roots of our friendship were planted deep in the earth which allowed the strength of our bonds to coalesce and solidify our center - our trunk; the branches represented the arms with which we hold each other and our families. Many of us got a a stone pendant upon which is carved the image of a large tree, and I wear mine every day, along with a more permanent reminder of this bond: a tattoo of a tree of life on my left forearm.
During the forum's early years, I spoke with these women every day. I told them my fears, listened to their problems, fought with them, cried with them, and cheered them on. They became my family, my extended sisters. I never felt judgement, or like I was being treated differently, even though some were 20 years younger than I was. I looked forward to our monthly gift exchange where we gave each other items we no longer used or just shared gifts of support.
One of my favorite exchanges we did was a bead exchange. Each of us picked beads to represent ourselves and sent one to each mama in the group. I picked the Kukui nut because we had lived in Hawaii for several years and I loved the spiritual significance of light, hope, and renewal. I wanted to offer that to my sisters’ babies. After all the beads were gathered, they were strung together as nursing necklaces. This necklace still hangs in my bathroom where I can look at it every day and see each bead that represents one of my friends.
As due dates drew near, I remember a particular phone call the day my dear friend Michelle gave birth to her huge baby boy. Michelle and I were the oldest of the mamas and had forged a strong bond. I cried with happiness that he was healthy and she was fine! She'd been struggling for a few weeks with fear surrounding the birth, so this was wonderful news. I felt honored that I was given the role of being the messenger to the rest of our tribe that this beautiful new boy was finally here!
Over the years I have had the privilege to meet several of the Mamas in person, and I speak to a few on the phone regularly. Meeting in person is always an enormous gift because I finally get to hug my friend in real life. One year, when meeting another mama, Jill, at the convention we were both attending for our oil businesses, I nearly broke down from the sheer joy at seeing her in person and the joy of finally getting that hug!
All of us Tree Mamas are getting older, as are our babies. Our website has turned into a Facebook group and I actually work with a few of the other forum members in my business. I still speak to several women every day, and the rest of us make it a point to catch up every couple weeks or so. We've gone through moves and divorces, deaths and renewals, more babies and last babies.
When I first joined the MDC forum, I felt alone and nervous. As an older mom, I didn’t know if I would find any common ground. I reached out because I craved connection, and didn't care if it came in the form of an online forum. How blessed I was to have met my my soul sisters in that community. There was no way to imagine back then the kind of lifetime bond that we would form.
Through the years of mothering, these friendships have been a backbone -- a place to turn when I wanted to share the joys and fears of this adventure. This group of women knows everything about me; I don’t have to be anything other than who I am in their company! In such a competitive society, this is a beautiful gift. I can't imagine my life without these strong, beautiful mamas walking beside me.
We're more than a tribe; we are the Tree Mamas!