HOW WE LOST THE MOM GROUP.
Something happens once we've gotten past that postpartum stage of motherhood, and it seems (to others at least) like we've got this mom thing down: We lose many the support systems we once acquired as new moms. What are those systems? Well, for many women (of a certain socioeconomic status, and let's just get this out of the way -- privilege), new motherhood comes with many built-in caregivers and communities. For one, we have our OBGYN's, midwives, and/or doulas -- to whom we bring our newly postpartum bodies with all their fresh wear and tear. In addition to tending to our physical needs, these healthcare workers ideally follow up on our emotional one as well. (For example, I was lucky that it was my OBGYN who was the first person to diagnose my postpartum depression, and who saved me from having to endure more than the hellish first few weeks of despair I had experienced already.)
We also meet other new moms -- whether it be through organized mom groups, through the parenting classes we may have attended, local parent and baby classes, or just by being out in the neighborhood. These friendships afford us the opportunity to find connection and community. And even for those of us who have trouble connecting to people in real life -- there's always the Internet. We can go on mom boards and post late into the night about our latch problems or the color of our baby's poo, and simply knowing that someone else is awake can make us feel less isolated. Lastly, we have friends and family members checking up on us -- to see how we are doing as a new mom and how the baby is doing. For maybe up to a year, we -- the newish moms -- might be just about the most interesting people in our entire families -- and even to our friends, if we are among the first in our groups to have babies.
Fast forward a year (more or less), and the doctor visits are now only annual ones. We've likely gone back to work, so -- bye bye baby classes and mom groups. It's become too hard to see the women who we felt as close as sisters with when we were in the trenches of early motherhood together. And no one seems to call to check and see how we are doing, emotionally, in this enormous, challenging role of Mother (not to mention all the other roles we play). Plus, forget about posting about our problems online. They're far too "weird", nuanced, or embarrassing. They feel to revealing about us, our children, or our partners; and make us feel vulnerable.
Without even realizing it, we've lost the mom group. In fact, it feels like we've lost all of the groups that kept us supported and balanced during our first steps into motherhood. But Motherhood does not cease to be isolating after the postpartum period is over. In fact, it can intensify in its feeling of "otherness", the further we are removed from opportunities to open up to others about our experiences. So where do we go to find our tribe in this new stage of motherhood? Who do we look to for connection? And what are the resources we can turn to to help us navigate this particular time in motherhood -- after the baby years have passed, but long before we really feel we've gotten your footing?
I have felt this hole in my own life, and in creating Not Safe For Mom Group, I am attempting to re-build a community of women around me to help fill it. The content posted here will be a catalyst for conversations that we need to be having. I believe that the more we talk about the things we try to hide inside, the more we find we are not alone. This is where connection lies. There is no greater connecting experience than that of motherhood.
Photograph of Linda Evangelista by Helmut Newton (c) Helmut Newton Foundation