Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Life Lesson:Getting involved with other mamas

It's easy to get sucked into becoming one of those mamas who eats, breathes and sleeps her baby because babies are so darn demanding, dependent and cute. It's normal for most of a new mama's commitments to fly out the window for the first three or so weeks of baby's life because baby, after all, depends on mama to meet all of his tiny-baby needs. He really cannot do anything by himself. Sometimes all a new mom can do during those first few weeks is take care of baby's needs and her own basic needs for food, rest and, if she's lucky, showering. But after the first three or four weeks, it's a good idea to get out of the house, start interacting with other mothers as well as picking up some previous activities.
If you don't, you slowly will go insane and find yourself only communicating with your hubby and friends in this new baby-talk language. (You know, the language where every adjective you use is "little" or "yucky" or "cute" and most nouns end with a "y". Example, "Awww, does Johnny's little heady hurt after a yucky day of worky?" It's an odd, yet highly addictive language most new parents engage in.)
You also may find yourself in need of other mother's advice and wisdom. I know my own mother couldn't remember answers to many of the questions I had about G when he was just a tiny newborn. And some of things I needed to know were not ever issues for her during my and my sister's infancies. I'm eternally grateful to the mamas who were in my small group because they were (and continue to be) only phone call away if I need advice or help. By the time G was born, all three women had given birth within the past two years and had experienced many of the same dilemmas I had experienced in that first month. They were so willing to help me, and I definitely took advantage of their support. It was and still is awesome to have them around to converse with and simply share our lives. These ladies also clued me in about the groups and professionals in our area.

Though it was a lot of work to get out of the house with a new baby, I tried to attend a few different group meetings and activities by the time G was a month old. And it paid off big time. I have built an amazing support system in addition to family support. Often, though, new mamas don't know where to even begin finding groups with which to be involved. Here are some ideas for getting connected:

Go to church. Many churches have women's ministries that cater to new mamas by offering support and help. Our church, Immanuel of Gurnee, plays host to Mothers of Preschoolers or MOPs. MOPs is a group that ministers to mothers and helps mothers connect with each other. Each new mother at our MOPs group is assigned a mentor mom who can help the new mama with any questions she might have. MOPs groups typically provide childcare in the same building at which the moms meet to have mommy time. Mommy time at our MOPs consists of either doing a craft or hearing a speaker as well as eating brunch and talking with the ladies in your group. The speakers are excellent. The food is wonderful. And most importantly, the relationships you form are priceless.Of course, you don't have already attend a church to join a MOPs group; You can visit the MOPs Web site to see if there is a group in your area or start a group in your area if one doesn't already exist!

Connect with La Leche League La Leche League has groups that meet all of the world. One of the main focuses of La Leche League is to support the breastfeeding mother and help her in breastfeeding endeavors. The La Leche League leaders are very knowledgable about the ins and outs of breastfeeding and offer support at the meetings, in-person help and telephone help! There are several groups that meet within 20 minutes of my home. The group I've attended doesn't just talk strictly about breastfeeding; there are many discussion which center around issues central to parenting. To find a group that meets near you visit La Leche League's Web site.
Talk to a lactation consultant, delivery nurse or pediatrician Often times a lactation consultant, delivery nurse or peditrician can be a wealth of information. One lactation consultant we went to actually told us about a babywearing group, the Lake County Babywearers, which meets down the street from our home at our local library. We went to the lactation consultant because G and I needed some extra help with breastfeeding. However, once we began describing Gabe's high-needs personality, she reccommended we wear G in a sling or a different type of baby carrier. She told us about the babywearing group, and G and I attended a meeting. Not only did we get help with how to use our baby carrier, we also met others moms who could offer other advice and friendship. I know babywearing is a new concept for many mothers, but that will have to be a post in itself! Coincidentally, one of our delivery nurses at the hospital is one of the leaders of the babywearing group. Had I talked to her about local groups, she would have been able to point me in the right direction. These people come into contact with new mothers daily and usually have a pretty good understanding of what's out there!

Sign up for an online forum There are many quality forums on the World Wide Web for new mothers. A few that are noteworthy include the babywearer, mamasource and diaperswappers. The mamas on these forums often can help you find local groups with which you can connect. In fact, mamasource connects you with other moms specifically in your area! It's pretty sweet. Check out those sites and learn more about what each has to offer; each spans beyond merely being a way to meet other moms.

Grab a park district or YMCA catalog Park districs and YMCAs offer classes for moms and babies and moms and tots. Some of the eye-catching ones I've seen include infant massage classes, infant water classes, baby singing classes, baby sign language classes and mother and baby exercise classes. The list goes on and on, too! The only drawback to these groups might be a high registration fee. However, by attending these groups you'll be connecting with other moms and learning a skill!

Happy group hunting! May you have a prosperous new year filled with many rewarding relationships!

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Thanks for taking the time to make these thoughts into conversation.

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