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Creating Your Community

By Lisa Reagan

Pathways Connect continues to take off, as Gathering Groups are forming in practitioner offices around the country! I have been fortunate enough to attend and speak at a few of these new and established groups, and am consistently amazed by the passion, commitment and creativity parents and practitioners—and many times parents who are practitioners—are bringing to their local “conscious choice communities.”

What most of these parents know is what Robin Grille, the author of Parenting for a Peaceful World and Heart to Heart Parenting, so eloquently expresses in his books: “We were never meant to do it alone.”

Grille writes that he is constantly surprised at the amount of parenting advice he hears that is only about the child and the parent, when no culture in human history, until now, has ever raised children without extended family and community present for support. Throw into the mix a desire by a family to make conscious choices in this same fragmented, industrialized culture that views wellness as competition for its products and busyness lifestyle, and you can have a recipe for exhaustion, as well as isolation and confusion.

As Grille writes in Heart to Heart Parenting, “When it comes to our perceptions of what parenting is all about, we virtually need to start from scratch because of this remarkable phenomenon: The way we perceive our children changes altogether when we feel emotionally supported…. Our choices and responses are entirely different according to how well supported we are and how fulfilled we are in ourselves. Parenting is a pleasure and our children are more settled and happy when we parents have enough support.”

Pathways Connect is all about providing parents with the support they need to navigate their individual pathway to family wellness. This turnkey program provides groups with the practical tools of trustworthy information, a networked community and a Gathering Guide to help make the process of creating your own local group as simple as possible.

In my visits to groups in Virginia last fall, I had the honor of meeting practitioners who are teaming up to bring empowering visions of wellness and support for conscious choice into their communities with the Pathways Connect program. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Pathways Connect group is sponsored by three holistic practitioners: Christine Thompson, D.C.; Cassandra Mannhardt, N.D., R.N.; and Bernadette Wells, M.D., an integrative pediatrician whose door is being “knocked down” by parents grateful to find her! Suzi Croes, of the Weston A. Price Foundation and a board member of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, demonstrated how to make a variety of kefir from raw cow and goat’s milk, nut milks and even water. You can see what Suzi had to say on page 56.

In Chantilly, Virginia, Andrea Marconi, D.C., started a Pathways Connect group with the help of two midwives—Peggy Franklin, C.P.M., R.N., N.D., and Kim Pekin, C.P.M.—at the Northern Virginia Natural Birth Center. Marconi, a new mother herself, has great compassion for parents who are taking on the challenge of discovering wellness and making conscious choices. “Some of these questions just raise the hair on the back of my neck,” she says. “And especially now that I am a mother! Being on this side of the questions, I have a different awareness. It has been really cool to fine-tune my senses. It is so different than what I thought.”

At the NOVA Natural Birth Center meeting, I got to hang with the parents for hours, long after the group meeting time was over, and hear their concerns and excitement over creating their community, having a place to meet, finding holistic practitioners and sharing reliable information and resources.

In a very precious moment I will never forget, one of the midwives excused herself as someone else confidentially whispered to me that she was headed for the back door to meet a laboring mother and show her to one of the birthing rooms—where warm water was already running in her exquisite birthing tub. (You can see pictures of the meeting and their swanky birthing center online at our Pathways Connect Central page on Facebook.)