In one week, Baby Botanica will open its doors to the community at our Grand Opening event! Guests will include families from New York and Connecticut, former and future birth clients, childbirth education students, care and wellness professionals, dear friends and families, and strangers I cannot wait to know who will arrive with friends, parents, significant others, children, and big round bellies.
On November 16th, this space that has occupied my imagination, intellect, time, and energy for many months (or, really, years) will go from a private sphere to a public place, and I am reminded of being many, many months pregnant, eager to meet my new child, but also relishing the intimate last days when that child was mine, all mine, just a bundle of potential with life awaiting. To be at the precipice of something new and beautiful but unknown both invigorates and intimidates, and at this point, in truth, I feel equally alive and apprehensive.
However, what I feel most of all, as the daughter of an urban planning father who helped create a utopian new city in the 60’s and the daughter of a mother of four who created a home for many more than four children, could best be described as a sense of arrival. I feel as though, in opening Baby Botanica, I have arrived at the destination I have been walking toward for many years, and now I am sprinting toward the door.
Baby Botanica feels just like home where the door is always open
My husband, Jon, and I have gone through many phases in our lives when we wake up and have to remind ourselves who is staying in our home. Since we moved in together at age 26, we have hosted hundreds of friends, family, neighbors, campaign volunteers, interns, children’s friends, and travellers, actually more nights than not. Pure joy to me involves pulling blankets from the closet for a guest bed, calculating scoops of coffee needed upon waking, chatting on my deck for hours about the stuff that matters, hearing fifteen voices singing around a firepit, and serving a meal family-style to the masses. Like my mother, I like a bustling home full of humans, pets, music, laughter, and sometimes tears. (Also, as I have learned in my 40s, I, like my mother, need many hours alone to replenish in order to re-engage with others.) Community and home are interwoven for me, and luckily, my spouse and three children all gravitate toward this philosophy of a door forever open.
Baby Botanica extends this concept of a space that welcomes anyone who wants to feel connected, nurtured, valued, fed, and loved, from our home to a public venue. My hope is that at Baby Botanica, beginning with the grand opening on November 16th, people can enjoy one another, celebrate life’s greatest joys and sufferings with one another, learn from one another, and be supported in meaningful, deliberate ways by one another.
Creating a village, because it does indeed take one
So who belongs in this new space? You! Truly anyone. If you are reading this blog (my first, by the way, ever), you are welcome at Baby Botanica. Have you ever been born, or perhaps you can’t read because you are about to be born? Well then, you belong at Baby Botanica! Let me tell you why:
From the moment my daughter, Michaela, was born 13 years ago, I sensed a deep disturbance in the historical human tendency to raise babies amongst many people. Having spent some time in Southeast Asia, I lamented the vast difference between a village where many women held, nursed, loved, and taught a child and one another, and, well, no village. I had terrific friends and family, yes, and when I was with them, having a newborn felt cozy and manageable. But most everyone was at least a twenty-minute to five-hour drive away, and almost every interaction with the outside world was a seemingly significant effort. Winter bunting, summer sunscreen, timing breastfeeding, car seats, parking, etc., I fluctuated between desperately wanting to be part of something bigger with my baby, and feeling daunted by getting out the door. And where to go? Target? Playground? Coffee? Library? The mall? What I wanted was a place to sit on a soft couch, be surrounded by beauty, breastfeed without judgement, and speak with others who might softly assure me that I was doing OK, smooth my brow and tell me that I would be fine, that my baby would sleep someday, that these days were both infinite and beyond temporary. Oh, and I wanted that all day, everyday.
As the years went by, I had similar cravings with my toddlers (i.e. wanting a place where we could spend a ridiculous amount of time without spending a ton of money, with people who would find my son’s obsession with the word “poop” – loud and repetitive – harmless if not entertaining). And enough of us yearned for this that slowly but surely neighborhood families started to create this space for one another in our homes and yards. We created a village, because it does indeed take one, and these were glorious years. On Fridays, all summer long, my family hosted “Friday Night Bites” when dozens of families, some known and some unknown, brought food and drink, ate on the grass communally, set up sprinklers and lawn games, wiped popsicle juice from kids’ chins, and treated each child or grandchild like their own. Over those evenings and years, people got pregnant, people miscarried, people lost elderly parents, people pursued career goals, people moved, people separated, people fell in love, people were born, and we joined together to support one another.
Baby Botanica is for parents, babies, and everyone in between
So now, with children seven, ten, and thirteen, I am opening Baby Botanica to provide the very things that sustained me through those early parenting years: physical space and community within it. Having been a professional doula to sixty families, and less formally to countless others, I can say confidently we all yearn for this, no matter where you are on your parenting or “child-ing” journey, or simply because you are human: we long to connect, in person, in a comfortable, safe, lovely place.
But perhaps we need even more: the one thing that would have made Friday Night Bites that much better, would have been if in our endless conversations about, let’s say, sibling adjustment to a new baby, there had been an actual early childhood expert facilitating these conversations, gently, lovingly, professionally. At Baby Botanica, right from the start, in one convenient location, twenty care professionals will use their hands, hearts, and heads to guide parents, children and all guests as they learn and grow. With mental health specialists, lactation consultants, childbirth educators, storytellers, artists, yoga and dance instructors, meditation and mindfulness experts, health and fitness coaches, a massage therapist, a pelvic floor physical therapist, a chiropractor, a midwife, a nurse practitioner, postpartum and birth doulas, and much more, Baby Botanica provides resources for newborns to people eighty years older and everything in between. And this great spread of people served, of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, political affiliations, and religions will also be one anothers’ most profound teachers.
So join me in all of our new home: Baby Botanica. I have arrived someplace new and wonderful, and you have too. The door is always open, and you are truly always welcome here.
Join us for our Grand Opening event on Saturday November 16, 2019. Learn more here.
Read more about Jeni and her experience as a doula.
Jeni Howe, CD(DONA), PCD(DONA), LCCE
Baby Botanica, Founder & Owner