A dear friend of mine, with whom I see eerily eye to eye on most things, hates mom’s groups. Granted, she hasn’t had a baby (yet), so it’s probably more accurate to say she hates the idea of mom’s groups: a clatch of Lululemon-clad stay at home moms clogging the coffee shop with their SUV-sized strollers and noxious air of self-entitlement.
Ask me about mom’s groups two years ago, and I might have said the same thing. But then I got pregnant — and all of a sudden, all I wanted was to geek out on the intricacies of pregnancy, labor, and delivery with women whose abdomens were expanding as suddenly as mine. “Pre-natal Yoga” is a bit of a joke — or at least our class was — it would have been more accurate to call it “Pre-natal Group Therapy.” I loved the community, loved the insta-intimacy and shared understanding among a group of strangers, loved meeting women who understood how nauseated, freaked out, and ridiculously excited I felt because they felt exactly the same way.
After G was born, I tried to keep the warm fuzzies going by joining a facilitated mom’s group recommended by a new mama friend of mine. Part of me worried that the group would devolve into navel gazing gripe sessions — or, even worse, one-up(mom)ship: weird, competitive, back and forths between type A Super-Moms, out to prove they birthed the best eater, grower, pooper, napper, slash Happiest Baby on the Block.
Given the hormonal PTSD of new motherhood, my mom’s group might easily have gone that way. But it didn’t. Instead, we 18 moms and babies (the largest in the history of the program) hold absolutely no pretenses — everyone is riding the same roller coaster of parenting ups and downs. Yes, sometimes we wear Lululemon and turn the coffee shop into a stroller parking lot. But we also genuinely applaud each other’s milestones and breakthroughs and offer advice and support during the (endless?) challenging moments. Joining the group has turned out to be the smartest move I made post baby.
Mamas at the park
Now that our facilitated sessions are over, we continue to meet in smaller groups throughout the week and stay in daily communication over email (an email chain way more worthwhile than any BabyCenter newsletter — with all the babies the same age, we’re all grappling with the same stuff). In this way, we’ve supported each other through ongoing breast feeding and sleeping woes, and more recently, the struggles of going back to work, introducing solids, finding and keeping quality care givers, and navigating the relationship and family curveballs fate throws our way.
The early years of your child’s life are such an emotionally fragile time for a first time mom. A friend of mine, a mother of a toddler, put it this way on her blog: “You are always going to feel envious of somebody else’s parenting situation, for what you realize are totally inane things. See a family whose kid is eating and *gasp* actually sitting down for an entire meal in a restaurant while you chase after your little pest, trying to convince him he’s not allowed in the kitchen? Read someone else’s facebook post about a 6-month-old baby who’s learned to sleep through the night like a champ? You’re going to start hating people — people you would otherwise adore, for the most ridiculous of reasons: they seem to know something you don’t.”
No one tells you this while you’re pregnant and starry-eyed waiting to meet your bundle of love: parenting an infant is LONELY. You’ll never feel more Woe Is Me than when you’re looking out at a world (wide web) full of parents who seem to be keeping it all together as you’re falling apart. That’s why I am so thankful to my mamas for their honesty and friendship. If they didn’t have my back, it would be that much harder to get up each morning and do it all over again.