The Giving Tree (A long story of Mamas banding together)

Earlier this year a dear Mama friend of mine was sick and then sick again and then her husband was and then her one year old… and then her again. Sick with a baby is horrible, sick while breastfeeding is hard and sick while caring for your whole household and trying to cover them in health, meals and love is darn near impossible. She  reached out. She sent out an email to a few of her mama friends and put herself out there, in love and honesty she poured out her need free of pride. And Mamas delivered. Was there any doubt that they would? Moms might make for flakey playdate friends but when a need is presented; they deliver and deliver in spades.

It sparked an idea- we all need this support and community. There are plenty of times I want to post to my FB a question about “normal” toddler behavior, a need for meals and words of encouragement or just a hilarious (to me and other parents, maybe) story about Nolie and I wouldn’t- because my Facebook is filled with family, friends, old co-workers, friends from high school and people I hardly know from my past. I am not a super selective Facebook friender (and I probably should be). So we started a group- a Support Network for our community.

We each invited all the mamas that we knew and they in turn invited their friends who spread the word further. This turned into women  making real life connections, play groups, support for teething-diapering-birth-birth healing- postpartum depression- milk-sharing… big stuff. And eventually into a group that runs the gamut from attachment parents, baby wise parents, formula feeding, extended breastfeeding and all the rest. And for the most part? These women are endlessly supportive, caring in their words and willing to put aside differences for the sake of understanding and learning. There are snafus here and there but in a  group of nearly 700 (and growing!) it is a pretty impressive group of women.

A couple of months ago a Mama posted asking for information about how to list her family on the Salvation Army giving tree- she found out that it was too late to qualify. It seemed obvious the next step. Offer to cover her daughter in Christmas gifts. This was a branching out for our group- this wasn’t a need for help with budgeting, babies latch, OB or Midwife recs this was a need that showed vulnerability. A Mom who wanted to provide a Christmas morning with a few gifts under the tree and she couldn’t. Then I realized the truth outside my bubble- this group is huge and she is probably not the only one with this need.

So I put out the call- any Mamas who needed help this holiday season, contact me. And; any Mamas who wanted to help other Moms this season, contact me. And contact they did. And then some more. The list of kids in need grew and grew. From one Mom in need and one little girl to ten, then 25 and finally settling at 33 kids. Then it got bigger. Moms donated their kids toys, their kids picked out toys and brought them. The gifts arrived at my door in boxes and bags of love. And when we realized just how big this was, how huge the need was… it grew further.

An incredible local coffee shop contacted me- they wanted to put up a giving tree and a donation box. I wrote each of the kids needs on a darling tag (that another mama designed and printed free of charge) and the beautiful (and soon to-be mama) owner hung them on a Giving Garland in their shop. The tags disappeared and incredibly generous gifts arrived in their place. Kids not just getting a gift this season, but a bounty of thoughtful and wonderful gifts.

Last night I hosted a Wrapping, Wine and Wassail Party at my house. Moms came together and brought treats, paper, more donations and even handmade scarves and hats for those who are cold this season (we also had a mama contact us with needs from a shelter that gets often forgotten). In less than an hour we wrapped well over 100 gifts. In donated paper, donated boxes and all done with donated time. This was an image of Mamas coming together and doing something big and so good.

Not only were gifts for all of these kids given but also cash donations to buy the Mamas some Grocery Store cards- the total is at $400+ and still growing…

I am humbled. These women, this network, they all came together not under one God or one Holiday. Not because of obligation or because anyone is watching. The people who picked up tags and gave money at the Coffee Shop weren’t doing so because they were told to by anyone else or because we there was any sob story. People gave just because. Women helped, donated, knit and gave just because these were other Mamas in need. A mothers love is beautiful but it goes further than that- a mothers heart for others mothers is huge and beautiful.

After having Noele, I felt connected and broken to other Mamas. There is a raw beauty in understanding the exhaustion of pregnancy, the power of childbirth and the setting aside of self for another. There is a beauty in putting aside differences and knowing that the baseline commonality of mothers is that their heart is stretched to accommodate another in a way that is painful and abrupt.

This Holiday season I was so blessed to be able to put together a giving tree that showed me the roots and arms of what Mothers can do when they strive for giving without question. You Mamas are beautiful and inspiriting… thank you for being vulnerable and asking for help. Thank you for giving and giving beyond what is easy.

I was going to post pictures of this but they all seemed worthless in comparison to the reality and the weight. The images for me are of mamas laughing, wrapping and putting faces to profile pictures. A box overflowing with gifts in a local shop that could easily decline to donate due to size. A garland hanging full of tags that gets lighter and lighter each time I visit. And most of all- a sweet girl who came with her mama to pick up gifts and her eyes lit up at the bag filled with wrapped and bright boxes.

Merry Christmas Mamas.

 

Comments

  1. This is truly a great Christmas story worth sharing. And very inspiring! It warms my heart that you did this and makes me realize I want to do something like this as well. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Jessica G. recently posted..Twelve Dates of Christmas {five}My Profile

  2. This is such a wonderful story – you are amazing for making time to do this among your own busy life – there will be some lucky families out there having a wonderful Christmas thanks to you. :) I would love to be a part of this next year if you do it again!! Merry Christmas!
    Emily recently posted..Happy HolidaysMy Profile

  3. Absolutely wonderful! This is what I like hearing at Christmas. There is nothing more important than joining together to support mothers and PROVIDE for children. Well done. Happy Christmas.
    Maggie recently posted..Cold Weather GirlMy Profile

  4. what an awesome amazing thing!
    tristan recently posted..December TWENTIETH*My Profile

  5. Katie Borovina says:

    Hi Autumn,

    I recently joined the FB Mamas Support Network and am truly amazed at how much of a success this was for these families in need. I wish I would have known about this sooner because I would have loved to donate a present, money, and/or my time. Growing up my mom would take us to K-Mart and my siblings and I would each pick a name from the tree and pick out a gift for the child in need. As we wrapped our two-year old son’s presents tonight I couldn’t help but think about these families you all helped out. Thank you for being such a positive representative for the Bham, and all other mamas out there! :)

    -Katie B

  6. Your heart is so big, your energy is boundless and your efforts will make such a difference to so many on Christmas morning! Thank you for reminding us of what Christmas is all about. I love you…Dad.

  7. Simply beautiful! I love it!

  8. Autumn,

    Thank you a million times over for all that you did, this season. I am so inspired by the selflessness and warmth displayed in my community, and by ordinary(EXTRAORDINARY) women like you. My shop will gladly do this again next year! Also, it’s good to know I have such a wealth of loving women in my town, as I get ready to welcome my first little girl to my life and this wonderful city that I love. Kudos for a job well done! <3

Trackbacks

  1. […] you so much to the incredible and beautiful Mamas who shared their photos with me. Remember that awesome group I am a part of (and my various rockin’ mama Facebook friends)!?  I am so blessed to see not […]

  2. […] year a giving tree sprung up organically from the Mama Network I help to moderate in my town. This year it grew, and […]

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