Monday, 18 March 2013

Community




Today I wanted to write down some words I have been meaning to share for a while, about the amazing community of our Hampshire village.

DH and I moved here from Germany 12 years ago. We only planned to stay 3 or 5 years but Life had other ideas! And in these 12 years we have truly made our home here.

I got pregnant not long after we'd moved in the village. I didn't know anything about NCT or toddler groups so I didn't really socialised much with anyone. We were also planning our wedding in France and were at first going back quite often at the week-end.
The first contacts we made were through church. We are both Catholic and discovered (after a few months!) that there were Catholic services every week in the village, in the local church (kindly shared by the Church of England). It so happened that one of our neighbours attended the same church and we became friends with her over the weeks, sharing a  cup of tea with her almost every Sunday morning.
When we lost our baby boy at 32 weeks the people from church were the ones who supported us and grieved with us. The first time we went back to church, our priest, who had come to see us and the baby in hospital, had shared our sad news with everyone. There were arms to hug me, for which I was very grateful. A lovely couple also took me under their wings and they remained close friends, acting later as surrogate grand parents for all our children!

But away from the comforting Sundays, the days of the week were really hard. I barely dared to go to the shops - I actually didn't go to the closest convenience store for weeks - afraid that somebody who had seen me pregnant would enquire after the baby. Just walking outside made me feel painfully self-conscious, with my flat belly that said that the baby was born but no baby to present to well-meaning strangers... Or worse, a flat belly and empty arms that said that I was not a mother yet, when I felt very much that I was one.
But as time passed and a we actively tried to be included in the village life I discovered that a lot of people actually knew about my baby. We live in a village after all, and as a newly arrived French couple we were naturally the subject of talks! And it was actually really nice when, out of the blue, someone would mention our son, just to say sorry...

When we were expecting our second baby our friends from church were expecting with us. We realised it when she was born and had the surprise of a welcome party one Sunday after church, and more hugs!

Then we made many friends in the following years. And when we lost our fourth baby it was almost the whole village, our community, who knew and grieved with us. When I came back from hospital this time I didn't feel afraid to go outside. I had my closest friends all around me to support me. Everyone knew I was a mother and everyone knew my girls had had a new baby brother who had left us far too soon.
For weeks after he was born, it wasn't just on one occasion that people hugged and comforted me, but on a regular basis! I have often said that, in the first days, I couldn't go 10 paces without somebody hugging me and it's hardly exaggerated. It was truly amazing to feel all this love and support. 
The outside world wasn't anymore outside of the house but outside of our village. I remember two occasions in particular where I found distressing to have left, although very temporarily, the village.

One was going to church around our baby's anniversary. By then we didn't have services in the village anymore and had to go to the main parish church. As the priest said the usual words about remembering those whose anniversary occurs around this time it dawned on me that nobody in this church remembered my baby... 

Another one, much earlier, quite soon actually after we'd lost him, was a simple shopping trip in town, DH, me and the two girls. For a reason I don't remember DH and I went back to the car by separate ways, the children being with me. I took the wrong exit from the shopping mall and into the car park and could not find the car. It was easy enough to go back in and out again through the right exit but I couldn't do it. I felt completely and utterly lost, probably in more than one way. In the end I had to call DH to have him tell me where to exit the mall.

How insanely happy I felt that day to be back in our village, our haven.

I'm linking up with Sarah Miles' Monday Club.

4 comments:

  1. There is something about village life. It can be a bit nosey at times, but when help is needed, people do pull together x.

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    1. They do indeed. Couldn't change village life for anything else now! xx

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  2. It is so comforting to know that there is still such community spirit in an increasingly disparate world.

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    1. It is, especially when you're at the receiving end! It really was a wonderful revelation :)

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