“It takes a whole village to raise a child.”
– African Proverb
This proverb has always been a goal for us in parenting, even when E was in the womb. With each of her kicks we made promises to E: promises to keep her safe, to make sure that she knew that she was loved and cared for, and that she would be part of a village. We didn’t realize how different her village was going to be from the one that we had planned.
Though it may seem that I revisit her NICU stay often, it was such an integral time of growth for us as parents, especially me as a mother. So, continue to bear with me. Once she was born, we immediately gave her over to the team of doctors and nurses and had to trust her to them. They were the first people of her village… The doctor who had to do an emergency intubation on her at 3 in the morning on her 3rd day of life; who then came down to my hospital room, sat at my bedside, and explained the whys, hows, and what next to her two scared, exhausted parents. The speech therapist who gave E her very first bottle because I was sick with a cold… who held E’s head tenderly and spoke soft words of encouragement as she attempted the difficult task. Then there was the nurse who I could always recognize had been with E through the night when we arrived in the morning because of how lovingly her blankets were tucked around her. E’s village was bigger than most by her second month on the Earth.
Her village then expanded to many, many therapists. A week after E was discharged from the hospital, we showed up at the outpatient rehab center with her, tubes, wires, and all. My instincts were telling me that something wasn’t right, that we needed to get started as soon as we could. We handed her over and told her therapists to get to work… And they did! They could have sent us away, telling us to give her time, come back when she’s older. But they didn’t. They listened to our concerns and began working with her immediately. They have been with us from the beginning. They go above and beyond: they are the ones who call after hours with new ideas they researched, whose eyes fill with tears when E finally begins to gain a skill, the ones who greet us with hugs and words of encouragement when we show up, bleary-eyed and weary after many difficult appointments. Her therapists weren’t in our original plan for a village, but they are an irreplaceable part of it today.
The part of our village that has been simultaneously surprising, yet not surprising at all is our family and friends. We knew that they would be E’s village, because they were already ours… but we could’ve never imagined the beautiful ways they’ve formed into E’s village. They’ve become prayer warriors, meal-bringers, care-package-senders, babysitters, t-shirt wearers, cuddlers, 12-hour-drivers, grocery-buyers, listeners, readers, hand-holders, painters, packers, cheerleaders, coffee-bringers, resource-givers, and overnight host(er)s. Such tangible love. When my faith is weakest, I have seen the Lord reach out to me through these ways as a reminder of His constant, loving care. We are so thankful.
Our journey is only just beginning. Many difficult, joyous, tumultuous, and fulfilling years are ahead. What an incredible blessing to have such a foundation made to her village… and an amazing realization to know it will only grow from here!
My friend, are you part of someone’s village? Find some way to tangibly love them today. They need it more than you could ever know.