Becoming a mother for the first time is an intense amount of change in a relatively short time. Women are pregnant, on average, for 40 weeks - and yes, that’s TEN months, not nine! That’s nearly a year of gradual change, some that is so subtle that it goes undetected early on even by the mother. You have forty weeks to get used to being pregnant, and if you’re lucky you get to enjoy most of it, and if you’re like many, you are ready for the end of it. And just when it’s time for a change, labor begins. And everything changes. Fast. There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot to process. It can be overwhelming to think of doing all that on your own in a vacuum.
There are many different New Moms Groups out there – some are free and run by volunteers trained by an agency; some charge a fee, whether it is a drop-in fee with different people coming and going each week, or a set group of people making a weekly commitment for a defined period of time; some are run with subtle differences, depending on if the facilitators hold degrees in health/human services, psychology, or nursing. Some have focused populations: breastfeeding moms, adoptive moms, lesbian moms, single moms.
Whatever group you choose, here are six compelling reasons to go:
1. Other Mothers. Three women walk into room: a poet, an attorney, and a librarian. What is the one thing they have in common? Motherhood. They are all new moms to brand new babies, and that’s no joke! Nothing unifies women more than the visceral experience of giving birth, caring for a baby around the clock, and the philosophical and emotional changes in the aftermath. It doesn’t matter if at any other time in your life you never, ever could have come up with a single word to say to these other women -- because these days, you have a lot to talk about. So whether you are building your tribe, cultivating community, or finding strength in numbers – a new moms group is the place to do it.
2. A Place to Go. The logistics of driving alone with a baby, or clicking together the infant carrier and the stroller, or getting tangled up in the baby wrap may just be too much to take on. But it's good to get out and get a change of scenery, despite the enormous effort.
3. A Place to Go Outside the House At a Particular Time. Numbers 2 and 3 are actually closely related, but they are indeed separate goals and double the victory when achieved. Getting out of the house by (insert whatever o’clock here) seems reasonable, when all you have to do is get yourself and that little person dressed. But it’s amazing when you’re up at 6AM to feed and change the baby, that suddenly it’s 6PM and it’s time to feed and change the baby. You are still in your pajamas, and you figure– I may as well stay in them, and stay home.
4. A Place to Go Where People Want to See YOU. When you do leave the house, you’ll go to the pediatrician’s office, where you’ll talk about the baby. You’ll go to the box store where you’ll buy things the baby needs. You’ll call your mother/sister/girlfriend who will ask: “How’s the baby?” You’ll talk about the baby at a moms group, to be sure; but in moms groups, you’ll also talk about yourself. Or you’ll talk about wine. Or you’ll talk about the last time you ate out – and some of you may live vicariously and therapeutically through those stories. But you’ll have the chance to remember that in addition to the wonderful experience you are having as a mother, there are thoughts/desires/actions you have outside of your new identity, too.
5. Q&A Like You’ve Never Thought Possible. What is that layer of flaky grease on my baby’s scalp? How much sleep is normal? My breasts will what?? How do I use that babycarrier? Is that cry normal? There are 100 million possible answers to a million questions – and while that can be overwhelming, it is also a way to learn from one another, stay creative, and keep on trying.
6. Perspective. For the better part of your pregnancy, you saw babies everywhere you looked –particularly in glossy parenting and pregnancy magazines, as well as TV commercials. Those babies were sleeping, cooing, or smiling (or sleeping AND smiling, and I’m about to explain why that’s ridiculous). If I had to guess, as the mother of 3 babies and as a doula who has seen over 100 babies born, those beautiful,chubby-cheeked baby models are perhaps 5 months old. A 5 month old is no longer a newborn baby. A newborn baby, a baby that is perhaps 1-2 weeks old, is an entirely different creature. A newborn baby is truly a helpless being, with only instinctive reflexes as their movements. They are not smiling at you or cooing; they may not even have their eyes in focus. Instead, you are protecting the pulsating soft spot on their head while trying to keep a nipple and not their fists in their mewling mouths.You are trying to figure out how to weave their tiny arms beneath the strap of their car seat, which dwarfs them in size. In fact, at the right moment, they are at once beautiful and helpless and terrifying. When you are with a group of women and their newborn babies, some who are 2 weeks old, some who are 10 weeks old, you will understand just where your baby is developmentally and how you can realistically expect to interact with your baby. It may be a few weeks before you get those smiles. But hold on, the mother of the 10 week old will tell you –those smiles are coming. And weeks later, when your baby is 10 weeks old, and you meet the mom of a 2 weeker and in whose eyes you see your own reflection, you’ll tell her the same thing, and you’ll realize that not only have you come a long way; you, too, are an expert.
There are many new moms groups in Boston. Find out more about New Moms Groups at A Mom Is Born at http://www.amomisborn.com/Boston-New-Moms-Groups.html