Why New Moms Need Peer Support

Why New Moms Need Peer Support -postpartumprogress.com

At a recent mom’s night out, a friend of mine said, “Nobody really tells you the truth about motherhood,” which sparked a discussion about how blindly each woman goes into life as a new mom. Some of us said we were warned about how hard it would be, some of us were given no heads up, and we all agreed that until we had experienced it for ourselves, we weren’t certain we would have believed well-meaning friends and relatives anyway.

The truth is, that no matter how much you read about the sleep deprivation, the witching hours, and the lack of what used to be essential personal grooming (there are still days I don’t shower), it’s not really believable until you’re the one in your pajamas from the previous day, microwaving your coffee for the third time while you try to measure formula powder through barely-open eyes or attempt to unhook your nursing bra only to remember you aren’t wearing one. We see others with their babies out at the grocery store or library and think they look great. They probably even ate breakfast. And we think we are the only mom who is fumbling and faking their way through a new life.

Being a mom? Is HARD.  

For many of us, the difficulty of new motherhood is compounded by a mood or anxiety disorder that leaves us raw and sensitive to each stressful situation. By their very nature, such disorders are also isolating and carry a huge amount of shame and stigma.

So, as much as a supportive partner or spouse, food from friends and neighbors, and advice from your own parents can ease the strain, I believe all new moms need a support network of women who are experiencing the same adjustments and struggles. Finding a small group of peers with babies the same age can significantly ease some of the emotional stress of those first few weeks and months (and years). There is enormous value in being with a group of women who don’t necessarily have answers for your parenting questions, but instead completely relate to how exhausted and overwhelmed you feel.

There is a collective sigh of relief when, upon hearing of new trials and tribulations, a room erupts with a host of “me too,” and heads knowingly nod. A mother can walk away knowing she is not alone.

I’ve asked some of the wise women from my own support network (local and online) to share their motherhood truths; the things they wish someone had told them in the early days and the days before parenthood.

 Everything is a phase. Everything.  -Jess

I wish I had known how comfortable I would need to be in my own skin—trusting decisions I’m making for others.  -Megan @nerdmommathfun

I wish I had known that it’s a constant learning process. -A’Driane @addyeb

I wish I had known that your parenting choices will be determined more by your kids’ personalities than the philosophy you thought you had going into it. -Melissa

There’s no such thing as being perfect. As a mom you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to lose your cool. Your kids aren’t always going to be happy with your decisions. And that’s ok. Before becoming a mom I wish I wasn’t so quick to judge the mom allowing her kid to throw a tantrum in the shopping cart. I get it now. -Sara

I didn’t know how much you actually sacrifice. Not eating full meals, hot showers, sleep, new clothes, even your favorite tv show. You give up so much, willingly and unwillingly. The level of respect for my own mother skyrocketed. -Shiloh

Just to go with the flow. Can’t control everything. And to put the books down. -Leelah @leerion

That even if everything isn’t perfect, love and affection and time are all your children need. Not a perfectly clean house or a perfect mom! -Annie

I had a therapist, but after being part of the mom’s group, I felt no one understood me better than other new moms. My husband, mom, my sisters, friends, acquaintances, co-workers all gave me advice (many times unsolicited). However, being able to share my day to day fears, concerns, uncertainties, feelings of inadequacy AND being able to share my positive day to day experiences, successes, and happy moments with other new moms was very empowering as it helped me witness, understand, and accept that being a new mom is wonderful and very challenging at the same time.  -Claudia

 

My own bit of wisdom? It’s okay to ask for help. More than okay. It’s necessary.

If you are a new mom?  Please seek out a group near you.  Many hospitals run free groups and parenting companies like Isis Maternity offer many playgroup classes that help new parents find peers as well as professional support.  It’s not always easy to get out of the house, and perhaps seeing other people feels like the last thing you want to do, but I promise you will be glad you went.

Find a local support group near you:

 

About Susan Petcher

Susan is a two-time survivor of antenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety. She is on staff at Postpartum Progress, where she is the Program Manager for Education & Training, and directs both the volunteer training program and the yearly Warrior Mom® Conference. At home, she has her hands in a bit of everything, from parenting to teaching private music lessons. In her spare time, she pimps her crocheted wares for yarn money at http://etsy.com/shop/learnedhappiness, and tweets @learndhappiness.

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  1. Our local hospital offered a free new mom’s group. Even though I didn’t give birth in the hospital, I was still welcomed. 3 years later, the moms I’ve met there are still great friends and support – even if they didn’t have PPD. I only regret that I waited so long to go after my daughter was born!

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