Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Support Only Mothers Can Give...

Do you remember those isolated early days when you had your first baby?

I can clearly recall that the support seemed to be everywhere in numbers and yet (impossibly), nowhere simultaneously. There were nurses, doctors, professionals and consultants, friends, family - even well-meaning neighbours, all gathering around at every opportunity, cooing and clucking, commenting earnestly with experience and education and everything in between.

And there I, (and most likely you too) sat, at the centre of it all, feeling bone-tired, deliriously proud, crazily overwhelmed and mentally scrambling for something (or someone) to anchor your rocking world.

Oh god, will I ever forget those days... (Will you?)

Whether you welcome it or not, your new baby and the new life that sprouts with it, is a magnet for advice and anyone and everyone will freely offer it to you. It's all part of the motherhood game, at least until you've quelled the masses with a bit of a brood and some associated experience to keep them all at bay.

Back then, I remember I used to crave the advice and support I would garner from those early-on scheduled visits with my maternal health nurse. She was a much older lady and had never had kids and yet she was to me, a beacon amidst the confusion.

Behind the security of her office door each fortnight, she was everything to this new mother: Her advice a virtual encyclopaedia on motherhood, her office a confessional, and her listening skills - that of a friend. She could see through each mummy's thinly-veiled and fragile veneer and grasp them at the core. This remarkable woman was my rock in those first early weeks and I will feel forever indebted to her for pulling us through some tough days, intact.

It was my wonderful senior maternal health nurse who suggested I join a new mum's group with a handful of other local women who had given birth within the fortnight that my first daughter had arrived. I erred immediately - the thought of being surrounded by even more people offering-up advice while my feet were sliding uncontrollably on the motherhood road beneath me, quite frankly, terrified me.

I declined, with insistence. I didn't have time, I didn't need it. I wasn't interested.

Thankfully she was gently forceful about it. (No doubt she was used to this reaction from lost first-timers.)

"This is something all new mums partake in - just try it once" she coerced.

My destiny was sealed then, scrawled in pencil into her jumbo date book spread across her lap. I bit my own lip and broke out in a mild sweat as I watched her scratch my name among the other women with whom I had been fatefully delegated.

My first official mother's group was scheduled to begin as a five week crash-course on newborn baby care at her office, almost immediately.

Nervous as hell was the only way to describe myself. (Plus excited, relieved and terrified as a deluge of jittery emotions swept over me.) Ultimately, (and wisely), I trusted this woman, and valued her judgement and so I went with the flow of the mums who'd trod before me.

From that very first meeting in our maternal health centre as a group of around eight new mothers, our friendships together were cemented, not just for weeks, but for years.

In the course of just five weeks, we came to know one other at our local maternal centre over instant coffee, cheap biscuits and the cries of our new and binding additions. Cautious and protective at first, we each took baby steps and carefully worded our conversations. Initially our chats were all about universally safe mummy topics - our birth experiences, the difficulties of adjusting to new motherhood and of course, the development of our babies.

With time, our burgeoning friendship ensured those meet-ups continued at the homes of each other and in local cafes. As our trust intertwined at the roots, we began to open up in the safety of our familiarity. Not surprisingly, the conversation regularly began to delve deeper into the truer areas of motherhood we were experiencing: the relationship issues, the coping issues, post-natal depression, the raw and abrasive emotions and the guilt we felt - the serious motherhood stuff that only other mamas know about bubbled readily to the surface at our weekly meets and vented there like escaping and cleansing steam.

Motherhood is not the glossy image portrayed in magazines and we were quickly coming to recognise that fact. Together we discovered and united in the realisation that it was okay to feel depressed, lonely, anxious, worn-out, un-sexy, teary and a million other less-than-glamorous emotions. At our meet-ups we shared, supported and listened to the plights of one another's experience of motherhood and it was welcomed, powerful and healing.

Cultivating your mummy friends is just as important as caring for your child - It's caring for yourself.

While you will no doubt find yourself surrounded by carers in those early baby days, none will truly understand your unique situation like another mama who has walked the very same road. Make sure you reach out to other mums and keep up with them as regularly as you can manage. There's no greater assistance and comfort available to you when you're feeling the full-spectrum joys and trials of motherhood, than the company of other women friends.

Are you / were you part of a mother's group?
Do you make the time to maintain friendships with other women?
This post has been written for and published on the Hello Mamas website where I am an Influencer.
Hello Mamas is a unique online social network for women where you can make new friends
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  1. I joined a due-in group through a forum and eventually on Facebook. So glad I did. I love those gals. Great support and so many laughs!

    1. I love to hear about the successful mother's groups. Not everyone had the same experience (some totally loathed theirs). An online one sounds fun and very convenient too.

  2. I remember the first few sessions of my Mothers group vividly. My luxurious yet humungous twin pram didn't fit in the doorway of the Baby Health Clinic where the meetings were held, unless I took off the wheels which I did the first time only to then have trouble putting them back on. Trying to put the wheels on with two screaming babies whilst the nurse and the rest of the group looked on was so stressful and horrible!!!!

    To subsequent meetings I brought the twins in in their car seats, struggling to carry everything in one go from the car park. As a result I hated those sessions in the clinic but I did grow to love my mothers group after it moved out of the clinic.

    1. Your post did make me laugh!
      How awkward were those early days? I remember struggling with equipment too. It's one tip I always share with first-timers - learn your goods to save yourself from sweaty situations! So funny that your early days are so memorable for this reason alone!

  3. I found mothers group helpful, although it was with my second child that I got most benefit because I had him so long after my first and I had moved down to Gippsland so I asked the maternal health nurse if I could join the group, despite not being a first time mum. I did it so I could meet people!

    1. You were so lucky that your nurse let you do that! Second time around I wasn't allowed to join as I was considered too experienced. :D
      The chance to do this when you're new to an area would be invaluable. Did you meet some new friends?

  4. I was part of a group but it all fell away after a couple,of years and I think it was due to going back to work and realising my similarities with these women were limited.

    1. We lost a couple too for the same reason. Some moved away as well. Still, they served a great purpose to first-timers and I think attending one for a couple of years at any rate, is quite impressive.

  5. I sometimes wonder how different things would be if they were parent support groups and the dads got to come too. It could change so much. I know my husband was my primary support in the first 3 weeks. After that he had to go back to work and it was so hard for him to stay in touch with the natural rhythm. #TeamIBOT

  6. I sometimes wonder how different things would be if they were parent support groups and the dads got to come too. It could change so much. I know my husband was my primary support in the first 3 weeks. After that he had to go back to work and it was so hard for him to stay in touch with the natural rhythm. #TeamIBOT

  7. I never got told about new mums groups, and it really bothers me now. I must have slipped through the radar somehow. I hear of the bonds formed at them, and I wish I had had that chance.

  8. I loved my mothers groups run through church. It made those early years so much easier when you could share with each other what we were going through. X

  9. How lovely recalling those connections and how your friendships developed. We have a really special bond with the other families we adopted with - we shared the actual adoption experience and travels in China and then we have kept in touch ever since (11 years now). We used to see each other with the kids a lot more when they were younger and although overall we see each other less (one family we still usually see once a week/fortnight) the bond will remain really important.

  10. What a lovely support network you had/have. I didn't join a mother's group, but I was lucky to have a sister who had a baby around the same time as me, plus I met two lovely mums at Gymboree when our kids were six weeks old. We're still friends today.

  11. How lovely. I missed out on the whole mother's group experience. I had to work full-time when both my babies were born. First time I was the major wage earner, second time, I was the only wage earner. And although I would have MADE time, a mother's group was never, ever suggested to me by anyone, even our health nurse (who was great). I worked from home, so was able to look after the babies and breastfeed at home too, with support from the health nurse and GPs, but I had no family support and really felt lost. I had heard about all these mother's groups, but there seemed to be none in my area. No surprises, I suffered from depression and anxiety. I did find support online and from my friends - most of whom lived around Australia and overseas. There was usually someone awake at the same time I was. That helped. It wasn't really until my kids started school that I found a supportive group of mothers to talk to in real life. My kids did swimming and gym and I did baby massage etc - but everyone was always in a hurry to get to somewhere else so there were never any coffees or catch-ups afterwards. I remember it as a very lonely time.


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