Every New Mom Needs A Place Like Virgin River
I know I did.
Spoilers for Virgin River Season 5 are ahead.
They say raising children takes a village. And it’s true. There’s around-the-clock breastfeeding sessions. Non-stop diaper changes. Potty training fiascos. Cheerios strewn across the floor as milk spills helplessly over the edge of the table. There’s waking every few hours through the night, then beginning your day before the sun rises to the shrilling cry of a baby waiting to be picked up. Motherhood is the most wonderful, overwhelming chaos that exists. We love it. Yet sometimes it consumes us and we become lost. A place like Virgin River could make it so much easier.
When my second son was born, my older son was 3 years old. He treated his baby brother as if he were a toy to be picked up, curiously, then dropped once his fascination ended. I had to be on every moment of every day, even when my brain was off. Early mornings ran into never-ending days that seeped into sleepless nights. Every moment became one in the same. My husband was working to support my ability to stay home. We had food on the table and relatives nearby. I wanted for nothing, yet a remarkable void existed, and it widened with each passing day. I was missing my Virgin River — a welcoming community to support me through it all.
I was a stay-at-home mother in my 10th year of living with undiagnosed multiple sclerosis (MS). Symptoms weighed me down like dried cement. Some days I could barely walk. And when I could, I couldn’t go far. Between motherhood and disabling symptoms, I was depressed and worried and completely overwhelmed. Only the few closest to me knew I was living with an unnamed disease. I didn’t have a community that knew me deeply — that cared for me despite my faults — that understood my ins and outs. There was no Hope to organize a food chain and no Mel to provide the words I never knew I needed. There wasn’t a Doc listening to me, believing me, and providing the medical assistance so vital to my existence. I didn’t have a Virgin River, so my battle was mine and mine alone.
I yearned for validation — for those around me to say you’re doing a great job despite what I was dealing with. I wanted to stand up in front of my son’s Mommy and Me class to admit my secret. To explain why I sat every chance I had, why I existed with a pained look on my face during moments mothers should be kvelling about. I wanted everyone to understand me and my situation, so I didn’t have to pretend to be okay anymore. But I didn’t have a community ensuring I felt safe enough to do so.
For the first time in my life, when I needed deep connections more than ever, I struggled to find the people I could vent to and, in return, listen to in their times of need. My parents lived nearby, but they were working full-time. My husband worked like a dog and at times it felt like it was just me and them. I was their mother — their whole world. Meanwhile, my world was crumbling. How was I supposed to be everything they needed when I didn’t have everything I needed? In 2014, I didn’t have a name for it yet, but I desperately needed a community. I needed somewhere like Virgin River.
I realize, while the setting is stunningly breathtaking, it’s not the mesmerizing waterfalls and the gorgeous vistas working this magic. It’s the tight knit community that accepts you for everything you are.
Over five seasons, I watched Jack deal with recurring post-traumatic stress. I saw Lilly find a way to peacefully leave this Earth while leaving behind a new baby. I observed Doc struggle to accept a progressive diagnosis and Hope learn to compensate for cognitive difficulties. I cried with Mel as she lived through yet another miscarriage. But through it all, I knew each one would find a way through their conflict. Because they had a community surrounding them. They had support at every angle. Any direction they fell, there was someone to catch them. It’s what every mother needs when her children are young.
In Virgin River, conflicts are solved. The health problems of each individual are eased by the support of the greater community. Catastrophes like wildfires that bring destruction and devastation deliver hospitality and hope simultaneously. No one struggles alone. Suspects are caught. Good people are saved. And when they can’t be, the town they once thrived in celebrates their life as if their disappearance left a huge, gaping hole — because it did.
I’ve often wondered if a real-life Virgin River exists. I imagine a town where everyone knows one another’s name, where the landscape is more beautiful than any vacation destination, and where you have a long list of friends who would have your back in a moment’s notice. Somewhere, I hope there’s a small town where new mothers are cared for immensely. Where neighbors check in to see if a new mom might need a nap — where food trains deliver sustenance to mothers who never expressed a need. A town where you can unapologetically be yourself and they’ll love you no matter what that looks like.
Every new mom needs a community that shelters people in need and changes them for the better. In Virgin River, Lizzie finds the home she’s been searching for and women who believe in her after being doubted by her own mother. Brie escapes past trauma and finds renewed strength. Paige finds people she can trust with her son’s safety and later finds the courage to move on when it’s time. Virgin River has a way of providing individualized guidance no matter how deep or complicated the situation is.
Every time I finish a season of Virgin River, I find myself daydreaming of a vacation to Vancouver, where the show is filmed. I swipe through Airbnbs and research tourist attractions and must-see sites. But as I’m drooling over pictures of Snug Cove, Bowen Island — where the show’s vistas are filmed — I realize, while the setting is stunningly breathtaking, it’s not the mesmerizing waterfalls and the gorgeous vistas working this magic. It’s the tight knit community that accepts you for everything you are. With the right people, Virgin River can be found anywhere.
I suspect one day soon Mel will become a new mother as she’s always dreamed of. Luckily, she’s right where she needs to be.