Parenting Support Systems

Becoming a parent is a terrifying, isolating giant unknown for most people. Sure, it’s also miraculous and exciting. And moms are so conditioned to talk about how wonderful our babies are. But we rarely discuss how difficult this new life is and how to handle it.

This TED Talk describes the way that moms are born the same moment their baby is. Before that moment, we’re women. After that moment, we’re moms. And we’re never the exact same person again.

So, how do we go about life as this new person? Who can we rely on to remind us of our goals, encourage us to revisit those goals realistically as a mom, and hold us accountable to the new version of our life plan?

Partnership

The first place to look is your partner. Our partners are the first and primary resource. They’re also the ones living this life, right there with us. They’re also waking up in the middle of the night, entertaining well-meaning visitors, and wiping meconium off of everything.

That said, when are you supposed to talk through these big feelings? Showering, using the bathroom, and sleeping tend to take priority in those early days! Also, your partner isn’t simultaneously recovering from a major medical procedure or encountering dramatic hormonal changes… So, where else should we look for support?

Hospital Classes

Most hospitals and birthing facilities offer classes before and after baby is born. We took a class on birth and another one on parenting a newborn. Picture several couples – each including one with a giant belly – moving around the room, attempting different birthing positions. There were also graphic videos, lots of breathing exercises, and some not-so-realistic-looking baby dolls.

While these are incredibly useful for specific purposes, they focus heavily on baby and not so much on us parents.

Other Moms

This is the most valuable support system for new parents – other parents, new or otherwise! And first on that list – our own parents! Though both of our sets of parents live more than 2,000 miles away, we received so much care and support both from afar and from their early visits when each of our kids were born. And by extension, their siblings and other relatives living nearby were willing to jump up and help. Our kids are the first grandkids on both sides, so our siblings are excited and young aunts and uncles and A & B are becoming the spoiled grandchildren our parents dote upon!

Richard and my mom (Nonni) with A and B, sitting on the floor, reading a book
Parenting support in the form of my mom visiting

My mom and others of her generation really encouraged me to find a mom’s group nearby so I could spend time with other new moms. However, we were in a transitory apartment, hospital 30 minutes away, and knew very few other local moms. What I learned – community can be formed in many ways, and it doesn’t have to be in person anymore!

So, when A was on the way, I had three other friends who were pregnant with their second kids. They had all kinds of advice that google wouldn’t have touched. We started a text chain and shared all the gory details and questions with each other.

When B was on the way, another friend started a weekly email group. With 6 other ladies across the country, due within a few weeks of each other, we took turns asking a reflective question, and then sharing our answers with each other each week of our pregnancies. The first of that group delivered her baby in July, just 5 weeks before B was born, and we all felt the joy and pain (maybe not quite as much) that she did!

That group turned into a Whatsapp group, and we continue to message each other fairly regularly as we hit newborn, infant, and now almost toddler milestones and challenges. We share videos and pictures. And if we were ever to have a reunion (um, yes please!), it would be like we were all old friends, though none of us knew all of the rest of us beforehand.

After B was born, I joined a breastfeeding support group, which was my attempt at a local group of moms. It was priceless for the commiseration, the instant friendships, and the practical advice from the doulas, breasfeeding specialists, and other moms who attended. If you’re in the Portland area, I highly recommend Zenana for its post-pardum services and groups.

Four ladies with strollers and infants in front of a coffee shop
Breastfeeding group on the move!

Finally, once I hit the 6-week mark, I joined Fit4mom, an exercise group designed for moms. I participated in Stroller Strides 2-3 times per week and B slowly but surely learned to enjoy/sleep in his stroller while I worked my nearly petrified legs and arms. Paying in advance was the accountability I needed in order to continue to show up, and the community with the other moms added value as well! Mostly stay-at-home moms, the group inspired me through their skill handling kiddos while also being a human!!

How did you find support after becoming a mom? What were your most valuable resources? Leave notes in the comments!

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