Before I became a mom, I was familiar with the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I sat through many baby dedications; I stood and prayed committing myself to help raise the children being presented to God. Every time, after one of these baby dedications, I would also say a prayer of thankfulness. I grew up close to my mom’s family, and I have countless memories of my grandparents, my aunt, and my uncle, as well as the extended family. It was not only my parents who raised me, but a group of people that loved me dearly and invested in me.
When I became pregnant for the first time, I was saddened by the fact that we did not live close to family. Somewhat I felt like my children would miss growing up surrounded by their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins the way I had. The little phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” seemed to show up unannounced on those hormonal days of pregnancy where I wondered if I would be a good mom or fail miserably. I felt alone living away from my family. I wondered who would help us as we raised our child.
On a Sunday morning, a woman approached me at church and said, “When you have that baby, do not hesitate to call if you need anything. I will be glad to help.” With that offer, this woman challenged me. I had committed to help raise some of the children that were now running around in the church foyer but I was not a part of their lives. I looked at some of the mothers and saw how tired and spent they were. What struck me most, was that there were many willing to help. I had been willing and had offered many times to take some of these kids for a couple of hours. So what was keeping these moms from asking someone to step in and give them a break?
In the weeks to come, and after much prayer, I decided that I needed to create my own “family.” I knew I would need help being a first time mom, and I knew I would sometimes need a break. My husband and I were also committed to keep our weekly date nights and we would definitely need someone to watch our baby.
From the day Ellie was born, I surrounded myself with this new family. I knew that help was a phone call away, and I knew that Ellie was in loving arms while Andy and I went out to eat or spend time at a bookstore. When Nichole was born and we dealt with her diagnosis of Down syndrome, our “created” family was there for us, walking along side. When we adopted Nina and took on her diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, they were right behind us, supporting us, watching our children, giving us a break.
All three of my girls are blessed by the many people who love them. They have many grandparents, some biological, and some by heart. As I look back at the special people in our lives, at our family, I am thankful that God, who cares deeply about us, brought people into our lives to love and support us. Family has taken a new meaning, because it does not only encompass the ones that we are related to by blood, but also the ones that are created.