When I was first pregnant nine years ago, I found so much information and comfort in online groups. All the questions about strange body changes, sharing fears and hopes, and potential baby names – nothing was off limits. There was some freedom in the relative anonymity. It was definitely convenient to be able to carry on a conversation over time around work, sleep, and other life commitments.
As my online cohort all became new parents with babies on the outside, our conversations were just as important in sharing tips and information and commiseration. And we all needed more.
By about week four postpartum, the visitors had stopped. My husband was back to work. It was February in New England. (It’s probably not a coincidence that women who have babies in the late fall and early winter are more likely to meet criteria for Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety.) I stopped by my local mom and baby store to pick up an actual decent nursing bra and speak to another adult human. I fed my son and sloooowwwwly wandered around the store, not wanting to go home quite yet. And then I saw it: a New Moms Group was starting the next day.
I’m not a “joiner.” I have a hard time with small talk. But I whipped out my debit card and signed up, certain that this was one of the best things I could do for myself. I was so right.
The power and reassurance of sharing space with a group of people who are having a common experience cannot be underestimated. The information from the group leader was essential (learning that once babies stopped pooping overnight, you don’t have to change them before putting them back to sleep was seriously life changing), and the connections that I formed with my fellow mamas of newborns helped me build the parenting village I didn’t know I needed, but now couldn’t imagine living without.
The weekly group helped me feel more confident at getting out of the house, knowing I was going to a safe and supportive environment where I could feed, change, and soothe my baby as needed. We stayed in the room long after the group leader left each week, getting to know each other and our babies without the distractions of the outside world. We started to meet up on other days, taking walks as the weather got milder and tentatively trying out different kid and family activities together.
Our group has supported each other through returning to work and not, feeding, teething, and nap time struggles, daycare decisions, moves and job changes, new babies, preschool searches, and homework and elementary school friend struggles. They are my people, my real life people who show up at my kids’ birthday parties and my mother’s funeral. We have the kinds of conversations that there is never enough time to finish. We are each other’s touchstones for all of the developmental changes that our children are experiencing and that we as mothers are experiencing.
When the opportunity came to blend my professional pursuits with the chance to help create this kind of connecting space for new moms, I jumped at it. For the last 6 years I have seen on a weekly basis the power of women coming together in real space and time to trade tips and extra diapers, gush over each other’s babies and cheer on new milestones, and form relationships that I see last for years beyond the end of the group. As someone who is dedicated to helping moms and babies get off to the best possible start, I cannot overstate the value in finding your tribe.
To steal a slogan: I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy to get out of the house with a newborn baby when you maybe haven’t even showered in two days…but I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it. Come as you are, you will be among friends.
(If you are local to Rhode Island or Southestern Massachusetts, come join me at Bellani Maternity for groups with your 0-18 month old! If you are reading this elsewhere, check with your pediatrician’s office, your local mom and baby store, your local lactation or babywearing group, or the hospital closest to you to see what they offer for new moms.)