Seriously, support groups are amazing. If you’re a first-time Mom, or just someone who appreciates the kind words and advice from experienced parents, I highly recommend finding yourself a support group for the camaraderie. The hospital where I delivered Sage provides a free breast-feeding support group that meets once a week. I started attending when Sage was 11 days old and I frequented the group until she was about 15 weeks old. It was so incredibly refreshing to sit in a room full of Moms and their new babies; a judgement free zone. Many Moms would get emotional while introducing themselves and say things like,
“I’m *so and so* and this is my baby *insert adorable name here* who is *this many* days / weeks old and… I’m sorry. *chokes up* I haven’t had much sleep… and this is the first time we’ve left the house… and I haven’t showered in 4 days… and… *sobbing*…”
OHHHH MAMA! I feel you girl. I know it sounds dramatic and it can be, for many. I was fortunate that I never really experienced postpartum depression, but emotions run deep in those first few weeks regardless. In the end, the meetings became less about breastfeeding and more about being surrounded by women also seeking support, and human interaction – which made a big difference in a little way.
Mothering is hard – and that is not a complaint. If I told you that being a Mother is an effortless, seamless experience, I’d be lying to you and to myself.
I love being a Mom. It’s what I was meant to do. But I question my mothering on a daily basis. “Am I good enough?” “Am I doing this right?” “Will I screw up my baby for life if I don’t do x, y, and z?” It is natural to be critical of ourselves. It is normal to stay up at night (even when your babe is sound asleep) searching Google phrases like, “my baby doesn’t like me” just to see what kind of information you can dig up. And yes. I actually researched that topic. I was convinced at 2 weeks old that my baby did not like me – and apparently thousands of other mothers felt the same way. Support. It makes you feel a little less crazy… and had I just waited a few more weeks, I would learn just how MUCH my baby loves and needs me. It just took a little while for us to figure each other out.
I no longer attend the breastfeeding support groups, but I have a group of girlfriends from high school that meet every month or so with our kiddos for a ‘play date’. We also have an on going thread of messages where we can “talk Mom”. It’s fantastic. I am also a member of several groups online. If you are a user of social media (that’s me, right here!), then an online support group can be ideal when you’re unable to attend a meeting in person or if you have a question you’d like answered on the fly. I found that private (and public) Facebook groups that are carefully monitored are much ‘safer’ than online forums. Plus, you can research to find the groups that suit your parenting style. I’ve gained perspective from experienced Moms through many of those online threads, more than I ever learned through the baby books. As I started to develop my ‘parenting style’, I found more and more women who were going through the same things and it was very reassuring to hear their stories. Even when Moms can’t offer advice, kind words are often exchanged. It’s amazing how comments like, “Hugs, Mama. You’re doing great” can be exactly what you need when you’re questioning your best-intentions.
Adulting is hard. Parenting is hard. If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s that it’s Ok to feel overwhelmed and it’s Ok to ask for help or to take a break. You will hear it from everyone – take time to care for yourself. Allow yourself some ‘me time’. Let those around you how important it is that you get some time in the day to exercise or knit or whatever it is that makes you feel like you. It will allow you to be the very best version of you, Mama.
*Disclaimer: it’s easy to read in to every piece of information online – be cautious of whose advice you take and which forums you are reading when searching online. Trust your instincts – but understand that support groups / forums should never take the place of advice from a medical professional. If you have to think “I should call the doctor”, you should call the doctor. *