Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Support wherever you can get it! (part 1)

Every once in a while you realize you've been taking certain things for granted.  Today I was really reflecting on the desperate need for support and community of other moms.

There are the obvious places for support of course.  Family.  Old friends (especially if they have kids too!).  But a huge part of what keeps me sane as a mom are the groups of new friends I've made since my journey into "mommy-hood" started, both in person and online.

I was reflecting on this today as I drove home from a World Breastfeeding Week event.  When Madison was born, I knew I was going to nurse her.  I knew it would have ups and downs and it was something I would need to figure out, but my type AAAA personality still had me reading THREE, yes THREE, complete books solely on breastfeeding before Madison was born, as well as taking a breastfeeding class.

Madison was actually a pretty easy baby to nurse.  But there were still moments where she'd cluster feed for hours, or scream while she ate or not poop for days and I didn't know if that was normal!  And after her two week appointment and weight check, I realized I wouldn't get her weighed again for another six weeks.  That was really scary to me.  There were no measuring devices on me to figure out if I was doing this right.

I looked online and found a local La Leche League that met once a month.  I went once and really hated it.  Not my thing, not my people.  I was hoping to meet other new moms, but the group consisted of two moms who had elementary school kids and hadn't nursed in years (thought, bizarrely, were wearing nursing tanks).  I was really disappointed.  I went home, and naturally, posted on Facebook my disappointment.

Within minutes, three people told me about a group that met weekly at a local hospital.  They said it was really well attended, you could weight your baby, was lead by a lactation consultant, and it was an amazing community of support.  So I decided to try it.

I still remember driving to that hospital the first time and feeling SO SURE this group really didn't exist, since I hadn't found it online and was going off the advice of people I only communicated with on Facebook.  I was talking to my friend on the way there and was pretty sure I was chasing something that didn't exist, and even telling her I was going to turn around and go home before I embarrassed myself. Then I saw several moms with strollers in the parking lot and I stealthily followed them.  And I am SO GLAD I did.

That group was everything I hoped for and more.  Babies from one week (or less) to over a year, and moms helping moms!  I immediately looked for moms with babies who looked about the same age as mine.  It took a few weeks of small talk and reintroducing ourselves, but slowly, friendships started.  That big group became a staple in my schedule.

As it turned out, a group of us who all had July/August/September babies went back to work at the same time and knew we couldn't attend a 10 am group anymore.  But amazingly, one of the leaders had started an evening group for working moms.  From 5-6:30 once a week, we could not only share our trials and ups and downs of nursing, but of daycare, pumping, sleeping, milestones, routines and everything we could think of.  After only a few weeks, a group of us turned from "moms who see each other at group" to friends.  I can't speak for what they got out of it, although I have some ideas, but they got me through some really emotional, trying and frightening parts of that first year of being a new mom, and a working mom.  When Madison got sick and we couldn't make it to group for a few months, they kept me in the loop, kept me included, sent cards, and made it clear that they were there for me, however I needed them.  When other parts of my support system faltered, they picked me up.

We all weaned our babies at various times around that one year mark.  We stopped attending group.  But we didn't let that support system die.  Thanks to texting, Facebook, and playdates, we have stayed friends, and even better, our KIDS have become friends.  They went from sitting in carriers as we talked, to rolling and crawling on mats (as we talked) to chasing each other (um, as we talked.  And chased them).  Most of the girls are working, but we have really made the effort to try for a playdate about once a month.  Again, can't speak for them, but I really look forward to those days!

Today two of those girls and I went to the World Breastfeeding Event at the hospital.  I'm nursing again, but group isn't something I've been able to do with a lively toddler, so it's been a while.  We missed the walk (long story for another post...maybe) but we made it to the celebration.  The current leader, who led our evening group and was as important to me as just about anyone during that trying first year, asked some of us to speak.  She mentioned that part of the group was breastfeeding support (of course) but another part was the lasting friendships.  And she was talking about us.  I know I'm super emotional since having my babies, but I was choking up thinking of how lucky I am.  That by CHANCE I found out about this group by complaining on Facebook (how often does Facebook venting lead to GOOD???).  That I didn't turn around and I went upstairs.  That I kept going even when it became another thing to squeeze into my working mom schedule.  That they wouldn't let me slip away when things were at their worst.  That we made the effort to keep up the friendships even after the nursing was over.

Madison is two and Reagan is growing at lightning speed.  I'm getting sappy and nostalgic.  But when I think back over the last two years, I realize that I wouldn't have made it to where I am today as a mom without this support.  Would Madison be fine?  Sure.  Would I be fine?  Of course.  But would I be the mom I am today without the support of women who were figuring things out alongside me?  I don't know!  All I know is that I'm so thankful for the support they've given me.  And today was a great reminder of not taking those things for granted.  I will take support wherever I can get it.

Yes, Madison is the crying one.  She didn't have a snack.  My bad.

Coming next time...support from those I've never even met!!!


BJB said...

Beautiful post!

sebclar said...

How true this is - that group was a lifesaver for me as well. thanks for posting this meredith!

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