Bleary-eyed and both excited and exhausted, I dragged my freshly postpartum body, new breast pump, brand-new baby, diaper bag and husband directly to a lactation consultant upon leaving the hospital. She had stayed late 2 days before Christmas to meet with us. While she certainly helped me with initial breastfeeding (a whole other blog post on feeding!), one thing she did changed my life and my postpartum experience, perhaps more than anything else.
She invited me to her Parent Group. Sounds simple and like no big deal? It. Was. Everything. The parents (mostly moms) in that group and the leader herself guided me, listened to me, loved me, supported me, took care of me, and just spent time with me. They became my village, my community, my emergency babysitters, my shoulder to cry on, my second home, my park date, my teachers, my best friends. These people enhanced and bettered my entire postpartum experience. Without them? Well, I don't even want to think about that.
Once Upon a Time 'we' lived in community. We didn't necessarily have our own houses or apartments, miles, states or countries away from our family of origin. We lived WITH or very near our extended families and very closely with neighbors and friends. We were taken care of and we, in turn, took care of one another. We learned from the people who came before us. We witnessed births, breastfeeding, baby wearing, and infant care. When our time came, the women (usually) of the community came around us to support us through labor, birth and postpartum. We were fed, nurtured, and supported BY our village. Some cultures still work this way but often in western society, we are somewhat on our own.
Enter the Parent Group. Humans are smart and we know deep down that community is where it's at. We remember in our bones that we once thrived in and on community support. So, we seek it out when we enter times of need. Well, having a new baby may not sound like a traditional 'time of need'. But it is. And at no other time is it more important to surround yourself with other people who GET IT. People who are literally also living in this exact life stage. Right now. There is nothing better than showing up at Parent Group with spit up in your hair and baby poop under your fingernails and you look over at your new friend and they have their shirt on inside out. They get it. You get it. You're in this moment together.
" Love you guys! I had therapy yesterday and mentioned my mom's group, and my therapist said she is still in touch with her mom group and her girls are 17 and 20. That's going to be us."
Parent groups can look like many things. Perhaps a local doula (me!) runs groups for parents of newborns out of their home. It's a safe space to talk about what it's like, complain about how little sleep you got last night, cry because your baby cried the whole car ride, or vent about pumping. You come as you are. You don't need to dress up or even shower, because 1/2 of the others haven't showered either. Perhaps the leader will hold your baby so you can have your arms free for a bit. Have a snack and drink and lean back and relax. Maybe it's a music class for babies or story time at the library. Your group might even be virtual (perk: staying in your jammies!). Some groups are built around specific needs or populations like groups for same-sex parents, adoptive parents, NICU families, single parents, breast/chestfeeding parents and so on.
Whatever is right for you, there's a group out there. And if there's not? Maybe you could start your own! Or ask a local doula or lactation professional for ideas of groups in the area or online. But, know that you don't have to do this alone. The village might not be automatically built-in so much anymore. We might have to seek it out, but man, it's worth it!!
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