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Friday, August 1, 2014

Elizabeth Street

HOW MY MOTHERS GROUP LEFT ME FEELING MORE ALONE

Oct 29, 2013

How My Mothers Group Left Me Feeling More Alone

When I became pregnant, I was told that joining a mothers group was essential for first-time moms. I’d find camaraderie, support, and build lifetime friendships with other new mothers going through the same thing. By the time I was eight months pregnant, I had already signed up to be in a "Mommy and Me" group, organized by women in my prenatal yoga class

I started receiving emails from the mothers group, but I declined going to any of the meetings initially. I didn’t leave the house for the first month after my baby was born. My son had a series of feeding issues: He wouldn’t latch, he had acid-reflux, and he was colicky. I could barely take care of my baby, let alone think about getting myself ready to socialize with the outside world.

When my son was six-weeks-old, I felt it was time to get out of the house and face the world with baby in tow. I got out of my pajamas, brushed my hair, packed the diaper bag, and set out for my first mothers group meeting. I felt like a kid on the first day of school, excited and a little nervous. I walked into the meeting to find about ten other moms with babies about the same age as my son. We introduced ourselves, chatted, and nibbled on some snacks. The other moms were friendly and easy to talk to. I felt comfortable and at ease. We went around the room sharing our birth stories. The majority of the women went on and on about their home births and how they avoided dangerous drugs that would harm their baby. I started to feel a little out of place. When it got to my turn, I was embarrassed to reveal that I gave birth in a hospital with the help of an epidural. I felt like the black sheep of the group.

I also noticed that all the other babies were very quiet. The second one of them made a peep, their mom would whip out her breast and the baby would nurse until falling into blissful slumber on their mother’s chest. When my baby cried, I whipped out a bottle, much to the horror of the other mothers. I explained that despite trying everything, all my efforts to breastfeed were unsuccessful. Another mom simply said, "Breastfeeding just comes naturally,” to which all the other moms nodded in agreement. I was beginning to hate my new mom friends. I couldn’t help but feel judged. I joined a mothers group to find comfort from other women, and now I was feeling more insecure about myself as a mother.

When I got home, my husband could tell by the look on my face that I wasn’t happy. I told him I couldn’t connect with any of the other moms and I felt even more depressed and isolated after going to the meeting. My husband said I needed to be in a mothers group where the women sat around and bitched about everything. After searching, I finally found a group of mothers in my similar situation. We met weekly and all we did was complain about our crying babies, the difficult transition to motherhood, the unreasonable expectations on new mothers, and dealing with unsolicited advice from parents and in-laws. It felt good to bitch. These were my kind of mothers and this was the kind of mothers group I needed. We didn’t keep in touch after the group meetings ended, but I still cherish their support during those difficult first months as a mother.

When I went into labor with my second child, the baby came so fast that I didn’t have time to get an epidural. After giving birth, my husband said, “Now you can go back to that mothers group and tell all those moms that you had a natural childbirth.” True, but I’d rather have had an epidural.

By Catherine Lo

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