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    Mama's Hip opened its doors on Bardstown Road in the Highlands eight years ago this November 1. While the store carries amazing products and lots of handmade goodness from Squeaky Pieces, the bricks and mortar store has expanded into a common ground meeting place and community center for families from all walks of life in the city of Louisville. I sat down recently with store owner, Shannon Stone Porter, who also works alongside local crafting mama Bridget Kelly, who adds brilliance to the shop with all of her handmade items and runs all the retail at the store. We discussed what Mama's Hip has been, still is, and what it is transforming into. It is Louisville's parenting community. The sparkle about the whole thing is that people are doing the transforming, not necessarily Shannon herself, and definitely not the four walls of the store. What goes on inside the store, that's where you find transformation. 

    Walk into the Mama's Hip store space and you're greeted with a cheery hello from store owner Shannon Stone Porter. The hardwood floors hold your step and you're likely to hear Shannon talking with another mama about a product she sells or a class she offers, or more than likely you'll hear her lending a listening ear as a mama goes through a tough struggle she is having lately with her little one. Shannon is a great solidarity shoulder to lean on. As you step further into the store, you're guaranteed to hear the pitter patter of little people feet, the shrieks of sheer delight coming from the playroom, two or more mamas sparking up conversations together (and they just met that moment) and the sound of a sleeping baby nursing, among many other sounds. You'll smell friendship budding and you'll see love: the love of mamas who are learning to hold each other up amidst the calm skies and the stormy seas of this thing called parenting.

    According to Shannon Stone Porter, Mama's Hip is on a mission, and they need you. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, friends, uncles, older siblings, babysitters, nannies: whomever has a role in parenting and upbringing the children in the care of those who live here in this great city. Shannon says "Mama's Hip can be described in many ways - a space, a place, a shop, a community - as many descriptions as there are people that participate. It has become for many of us the village we depend on to get through those challenging parenting days. It is a living breathing example of kindness, support and nonjudgement. Together we are changing what it looks like to support each other, changing the conversation around motherhood. And we are on a mission to grow that support! Mama's Hip is what you need it to be. But what makes it super-special is that you are never just a face in the crowd. You – me- we – we all make Mama’s Hip what and who it is."

    It's that special bond that is charting the course and creating the change in the Louisville community of parenting. The people do the transforming. The people make that mama's day. The people help other people and children make the change they want to see. The people have the tough conversations with one another to create a dialogue that is fresh, new, uplifting and nonjudgmental.

    Shannon goes on to say and try to explain that parents are building a community every time they walk through the doors at Mama's Hip. "Whether it's for gathering together for play through our play group offerings or variety of classes, or to pick up something from our boutique, the community building happens. Every time you log into our online Community to share joys, struggles and words of encouragement, engagement and a sense of strengthening families happens. Every time you share a blog post written by mamas that inspire, challenge and affirm that each and every mama is enough, you are actively contributing to the Mama's Hip community of moms, which in turn spirals into community growth throughout the city. The ripple effects are endless and unstoppable. You are an invaluable part of this Community!"

    But don't just take Shannon's word for it. Listen to some of the mamas whose lives have been changed through their journey with finding Mama's Hip. The interactions with mamas, and the bonds and friendships that ensue, that's where the magic lies. It's in their own participation that the joy begins. Mamas might join the online Community where there are forums and a safe place to discuss real life and real parenting and real struggles and real accomplishments. After being an "invisible" presence so to speak in the online community, they feel safe and secure enough to meet a mama or two in person, so they head to Mama's Hip to try out a toddler art class or a singalong or a yoga session. They meet, they befriend, and their journey together as mamas/parents with their children begins. The path isn't as rocky or awkward because they already feel like they know each other because they shared their parenting stories in the forum space. Now, they're forming their tribe and becoming part of the village to hold each other up against a rainbow-filled sky or a storm-ridden night. Here are some words of what mamas have found through Mama's Hip and what being connected in this way means to them.

    "The online Mama’s Hip community soon became a critical space of support and sustenance as my pregnancy progressed. Reading and responding to the stories and questions, fears and concerns, triumphs and testimonies of other local mamas kept me from feeling alone in my journey. It gave me confidence to speak (type) my own story with trust that it would be received in whole. For the first time in my life, I felt I could truly connect with other women. Soon enough, these online connections emboldened me to seek real-life friendships. Attending a new mama group, Family Music Jam, clothing swaps, holiday fairs, and Mama’s Nights Out – and stopping in the store for a place to get out with my baby – strengthened my identity as one of the Mama’s Hip community. I laughed and cried with people who saw me clearly and showed me support. I felt empowered to tell the truth. I offered retreats for us to share our motherhood journeys in a contemplative space. I felt heard…and that I was given the gift of listening to and learning from other women. Becoming a mother intensified the longing in me to live for something greater: a more just, equitable, and peaceful future for my children, for all children. Mama’s Hip works from the belief that this future can be seeded in each present moment, person, child, and relationship, and that our common experiences across differences can make way for something much greater. This is the real door it opens. Mama’s Hip is a mission for a better world that carries us forward as community." ~ Mama's Hip Mama, Mandy

    "I treasure that Mama’s Hip provides space for parenting paradox – it is a rare gift. It is a space to be perfectly imperfect. A space to be utterly exhausted but still eek out the energy to make incredible things happen. A space to be a bit broken down and confused yet still know exactly where your heart lives and what makes it sing. A space to feel frustrated and overwhelmed yet still kindle a sense of joy and wonder. A space to be exactly the person you are right this moment and also to be in the continual process of becoming. Motherhood is both messy and beautiful, and we would all be liars to doctor up an image of perfect, blissful motherhood or to sell it all short as a excruciatingly difficult series of daily disasters. The truth is that it is all of the things all of the time. The truth is in the stories we share, both through laughter and/or tears. It is in the leaning – into the uncomfortable, confusing, challenging – and finding the magic happening just beyond our own comfort zones. It is in finding the courage to be a hot mess but show up anyway. It is in knowing that we don’t have to fit our lives into neat little categories in order to feel connected. In a culture that seems to want to sell you a membership to Club Motherhood where you have to fit in before you get in, it’s so nice to have a space to Keep Motherhood Weird." ~Mama's Hip Mama, Emily

    "We may not all agree, or do things in the same way, but that’s what makes this space special – we can all do things our own way, and it’s ok (and even valued!) In this season of our lives, there’s just not time for games, drama, or anything besides love. So we come together at Mama’s Hip, online or in person, so that we can fill our cups without wading through drama. We’re all met where we are with the understanding that we’re all doing the best we can with the resources we have. It’s just a happy place and for me, I can’t help but feel confident that I’m 100% safe to be both the mama and the person that I am." ~Mama's Hip Mama, Kristen

    "As I have grown as a woman / mama / friend / person, my relationship with the community has become deeper – more secure, meaningful, inspired. My meaning of Mama’s Hip has evolved for me, with me. And I think THAT’S what Mama’s Hip is – it’s what you need it to be. But what makes it super-special is that You are never just a face in the crowd. You – we – make Mama’s Hip. Your Mama’s Hip relationship can be deep and constant, or it can be casual and sporadic. Either way, you will be noticed and called upon. Your talents will be recognized, your gifts will be acknowledged. When you’re not around (physically and virtually), you will be sought and hugged and missed. When you’re hurting, someone will hurt with you. Beside you. Quietly for you. When you’ve done something amazing or mediocre or not at all, someone else will have done or not done the same. And she will celebrate with you. Or laugh with you. Cry with you. Mama’s Hip is a community of badass mamas doing badass stuff in-between making hundreds of mistakes, and we’re all just happily journeying not so alone." ~Mama's Hip Mama, Jamie

    The online community with Mama's Hip is thriving, and the brick and mortar space that is Mama's Hip is a physical structure where mamas come and grow. Within those walls, you can shop for specialty items like babywearing gear, natural soaps, cloth diapers and accessories and locally made and recyclable-based toys. The items available from partner Squeaky Pieces are so unique, and provide a way for families to shop locally for those treasures and gifts you can only find in a local shop such as Mama's Hip. You can also sit down on the floor and laugh with Shannon (as I did when I was interviewing her for this piece), or sit down on the floor and cry with another mama who will hold your baby for a bit while you talk out what you're going through. Mama's Hip is a local business in Louisville, but that is not the entire focus; what's equally important for Shannon is helping to have a small impact on also changing lives. Mama's Hip is intertwined with many collaborations throughout the city of Louisville, spreading love and compassion to countless lives, and that is a common thread with all of the active partnerships.

    Mama's Hip and the Kentucky  Science Center have teamed up to offer a free play date once a month. It is usually the last Monday of the month, and all parents have to do is say they are attending the Mama's Hip play date. Arrive between 9:30 and 10:30 and stay all day. The next play date is Monday, October 26. See the Facebook event page for more information.

    Metro United Way provided the Mama's Hip Little Free Library which sits right out on the curb near the store. They are collecting books for both the Mama's Hip site and the 40210 Project. You can learn more about that ongoing project here.

    Mama's Hip collaborates with a yoga teacher and music teacher to offer affordable activities and enrichment weekly at the store on Bardstown Road. You can find the plethora of offerings on the online calendar. Right now, Mama's Hip is running a One to One program to ensure that more mamas have access to genuine support. Every time a one year online community subcsription or Three Month Playgroup Pass is purchased, one will automatically be given to a mama who could not otherwise afford it. Many don't know that last year Mama's Hip was afraid of closing its doors and instead looked as it always does to its community for support, particularly to the retail and crafting genius of local mama Bridget Kelly and Squeaky Pieces. Kelly's unique style has made the store pop with one of a kind items.

    Mama's Hip also hosts free community support group meetings for the La Leche League, Kentucky Babywearers and Attachment Parenting of Louisville.

    Mama's Hip also has a connection to the community with its nonprofit organization, Mama to Mama. Those collaborations include a free monthly drop-in playgroup called Arts in Play. It occurs every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Family Health Center downtown. They partner with Louisville Ballet, 502 Power Yoga, a music teacher and other volunteers in the community to provide music, arts, crafts, exercise and storytime experiences. Through Mama to Mama they also partner with the Rebecca Foundation which is a national cloth diaper gift program. Other community connections include working with Volunteers of America, the Center for Women and Families, La Casita Center and Choose Well Communities. These are active programs for people to engage in all kinds of work.

    "To me, Mama’s Hip is a like a life vest when I otherwise might feel like sinking, a source of inspiration when I need some light, and support like non-other. So many mamas have helped me in ways I can’t even adequately describe. Like NYC is a melting pot of cultures, I feel like in many ways Mama’s Hip is a melting pot of mamas. So many aspects of motherhood are represented, single mamas, partners, multiples, etc…and everyone is accepted and celebrate, flaws and all. I turned to Mama’s Hip when I found out I was pregnant, not knowing where else to look, and the mamas guided and helped me find what I needed, encouraged me to come in and ask questions, observe, etc…I attended a new mom’s group while pregnant, without whose advice I wouldn’t have found a doula whose personality meshed with mine. What is most interesting to me, is that Mama’s Hip is a little something different for everyone, but all agree that it is a community where we can feel safe, accepted, loved, supported, and celebrated." ~Mama's Hip Mama, Kara

    As Shannon and I sat chatting and laughing criss-crossed on the floor by her checkout counter at the store, a mom and her little one came up as they were finishing up their Saturday morning yoga class together. I overheard her say she had been looking for something to do with her child and never thought to look here for a class. This mom was bold and brave enough to check something out that may have been intimidating to her, and that is just what Shannon means when she talks about the community. How do we reimagine community?  How do you fit in? "Just show up," Shannon admits. "People are welcoming here. There is no judgement. We are attempting to be at the front, changing how mom's support looks. Just your presence is an offering. What we are trying to do is grow our programming to sustain the community. I want all parents to know that they, the people, have the potential to affect change. This is community building within families and among families that fills in the gaps and ultimately strengthens and connects everyone to each other."

    So - get connected. Join the online community and find a new voice of a new friend. Meet at Mama's Hip this coming month for a fun class together. Be bold, take the step and be met with genuine realness. It's what we all need in this world of parenting. Don't go it alone. 

    Visit Mama's Hip:

    1559 Bardstown Road
    Louisville, KY 40205

    Store Hours:
    10 a.m.-3 p.m.

    10 a.m.-5 p.m.

    Photos courtesy of Mama's Hip & Squeaky Pieces

    Erin Nevitt's picture

    About Erin Nevitt

    Longtime Louisvillian, I am a children's librarian at heart and have a passion for children's lit. I am most recently a stay-at-home mom who is always on the move, searching for family fun in Louisville. If it's free, it's preferable!

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