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Challenge: Finding Your Village

The M.o.C.h.A. Tribe Diaries - Introduction

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Oh social media how I fear thee. Let me count the ways.
For fifteen years I have watched the shock and dismay on people’s faces and sometimes even heard them involuntarily gasp out loud when they discover I don’t have MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Snapchat. I decided early on this year that my one word for 2018 would be BRAVE and I would start by tiptoeing my way into this crazy scary social media world with this blog. Let me assure you that for someone like me to make myself this vulnerable to all of the bored internet trolls of the world, it must be for a very worthy cause.
It all started with a baby. A baby that would take me on a journey I could never have imagined, dreamed, wished for, and definitely not a journey I thought I was capable of handling. In the spring of 2017 I decided to write a book about this journey with two very important people in mind. The two people that will one day finish the journey with that same little baby who is now almost ten years old, her sister and her brother. As I approached the ending of the book and began my futile attempt at editing (which really was just me rereading it hundreds of times because professional editors are expensive) a couple of things continued to resonate. I noticed how many times I used the word “google” and “lonely” or “alone” and how much I relied on the internet and other people’s social media platforms to help me find answers, cope, and sometimes even make huge decisions. I also took time to reflect on the person I was at each step of the way and I tried to identify what was the actual thing I needed at that time. What would have really helped me in those life-changing and sometimes staggering moments?
The answer was obvious … elephants.
Once upon a time in my undergrad years, before love-handles and stretch marks became my most loyal companions, I faintly recalled a professor discussing matriarchal animals in the wild. I remember that day as I sat listening I felt so empowered and was moved practically to tears but now years later I couldn’t quite remember the details of the story or what animal was being described. So I googled matriarchal animals and got a short list of nine as the first hit.
Honeybees: Female is the ruler, the largest, lives the shortest life span and specialty is reproduction.
No, just no.
Killer Whales: The offspring stay with their mothers for life and after having babies of their own they all travel together and are very protective of all the babies.
Eh, maybe?
Bonobos: Great apes that live in female-led groups are known as some of the most peaceful primates and use sex to settle conflicts.
Spotted Hyenas: Larger and more aggressive than the males, females dominate their social group and their genitals resemble the male genitals.
Sweet Jesus, please help me erase this mental image quick. Too late, the photo loaded crazy fast. Ugh!
Lions: Female lions do the hunting while male lions stay home BUT the males get to eat the kill first.
Oh come on!
Mole rats: The mole rat queen is the leader and chooses the biggest and baddest males to mate with then delivers up to seven offspring every two months.
Sign the petition…free birth control for the mole rats! They need our help.
Then after meerkats and ants was elephants. Yes. This is what I remembered from that biology lesson so many years ago. Elephants practice allomothering which means all of the females that comprise the herd help raise each little elephant baby. Great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and cousins all travel together. It is the epitome of “it takes a village” in the wild.
But here is the part that got me all teary-eyed years ago and still does even as I write this.
Through studies and research elephants have been found to be genuinely empathetic towards each other and even wince when seeing that another elephant is seconds from danger. There is an incredibly powerful phenomenon that occurs when one of the females is giving birth or when a female is injured. The internet has many descriptions and stories but basically as the female elephant lies on the ground with labor pains or in pain from injury, all the other female elephants of the herd back up into her forming a circle that completely surrounds her. They stand shoulder to shoulder so close and so tight that sometimes you can’t even see the elephant lying in the middle. They stand together as a massive, strong protective wall, a fortress of females kicking up dust and grass so predators will not catch the scent of the blood being shed. There are eyewitness accounts of these female elephants working together to lift the injured up to her feet. Sometimes this takes two or three of them with one lifting at her belly, one lifting her trunk and the other lifting her hind legs. Other eyewitness accounts confirm that as a laboring elephant gives birth the impenetrable circle of females begins to cover the baby with dust and dirt to protect its new skin from the elements. As the new mother stands to her feet, her new calf wraps its trunk around her tusk and she pulls it up to its feet for the first time. Then in victory and praise all of the female elephants raise their trunks high in the air and begin to trumpet. They celebrate. Literally. Can you hear it? Oh people you need to google elephant trumpeting sound clips; they will stir your heart. As the air flows forcefully through their trunks loud and strong the wild is filled with trumpeting females congratulating their sister, welcoming her baby, encouraging healing and confirming to the world they are not a tribe to be messed with.
I needed elephants.
Gosh, I think it’s safe to say EVERY woman needs her elephants.
When I got the autism diagnosis that January day it was terrifying, lonely, and I had never felt so helpless and vulnerable in my life. Although I did have many family elephants that loved and cared for me, not a single one had experienced autism in their own personal life. Yes, the internet was chock-full of resources, information, autism mommy blogs and studies but I lacked the human connection. The single support group near me was valuable and helpful for some but for me was intimidating, impersonal, and downright scary. It may sound cheesy to most but I really needed a good hug and to sit with someone that had gone through what I was going through for real, tangible one-on-one moral support. As a Mom of a Child that has Autism, as a M.o.C.h.A.™️, the whole purpose of this site and blog will be to build a tribe of women that will stand together, shoulder to shoulder, with other M.o.C.h.A.s as they get a new diagnosis, face a major setback, or deal with the cruelty of the stigma.
This is how it will work.
I will start by sharing my story with a M.o.C.h.A. that has been referred to me. Once she is done reading, we will sit down face-to-face in a coffee shop, sip mochas and I will simply listen. I will listen to her story, however long or short, simple or complicated, joyful or sad. I will listen and probably ugly cry and laugh and encourage and make a new friend then share it with you all. Starting April 2 you will have the opportunity to read new stories of a M.o.C.h.A. that has walked or maybe even crawled through the lowest valley of her mommy life and reached the other side blessed, strong, and changed.
I never imagined that writing down my story for all to read would be and feel so cathartic and liberating. There is a peace that comes with those closest to me knowing the truth and the crazy details of my story without having to repeat myself or constantly explain. I realize that not everybody will write a book or start a blog but everybody’s story is so equally important. My prayer is that by sharing a collection of unique stories we will eventually build a tribe of women in which we can rely on, love on, learn from and pass no judgement in the process. A tribe of women that truly can empathize.
It is by no coincidence that I decided to post this first blog entry on Valentine’s Day. That baby I mentioned, my beautiful girl, her middle name is Love. So this is my way of spreading a little love in a world that is so desperately in need of it. It is also my way of giving back to every blogger, author, motivational speaker, researcher, mom, dad, doctor, and therapist that through social media has guided me all these years.
I encourage you to take time today to reach out to your girlfriends, your sisters, your tribe and love on them. Especially if you know someone that has a child with special needs; call them. Be their fangirl today. Lift them up.
Join me as I delve into the hidden worlds of your fellow M.o.C.h.A.s, your coworkers, your daughters, your friends, your sisters. Get ready to view the world with a whole new per-spectrum.

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