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Get Connected: The Importance of Peer Support by Jen Wittes

In our work as postpartum doulas and educators, we make several recommendations which will set you up for success in the first few months of Baby’s life.  We ask that you plan for two full weeks of meals.  We tell you to plan for practical help from friends, loved ones, and neighbors—help not only with holding the baby, but laundry and grocery shopping as well. 

Often we focus on “getting through” those first few weeks, but I want to talk about something that we emphatically recommend for the second month and beyond. 

You must get involved in a new parents’ group.  Several options include Mommy and Me yoga class, La Leche League, ECFE, Yahoo! Groups, Meetup.com organizations, or your local chapter of MOMS Club International. 

At home with a young infant, we often feel isolated.  Then, when we dare to brave the elements—taking no longer than an hour and a half to get nursed, padded, diapered, and packed—to go out for a simple cup of coffee, we feel isolated still.  Look at everyone going about life as if life is normal.  Business suits?  Huh?  Make-up?  I don’t understand… 

You need to make contact with a collection of your peers. 

That is, you need to be around other folks with tired eyes and messy hair and spit up stained jeans.  It does not matter, I promise you, who co-sleeps and who cribs, who uses cloth and who uses disposable diapers.  You will learn from one another and you will commiserate.  You will feel somewhat normal in the midst of others somewhat like you.

In your new playgroup or postpartum exercise class, it will be normal to whip out a boob or bust out a diaper.  It will be normal to weep over a dropped pacifier.  It will be normal to admit that you’re jealous that your spouse “gets to” go to work. 

You will delight in watching your baby “play” with other babies (basically, they look at each other).  You will enjoy marking milestones and watching a group of children grow together. 

I myself have joined several “Mommy Groups” through the years.  Because we moved frequently during the first few months of parenthood, it was always a way to make an instant connection—not just friends, but peers—people living in the same wacky, wonky, sleep-deprived world of poop talk and soul-piercing love. 

Lately I’ve been thinking about the first group I joined, when my daughter was three months old.  I’m Facebook friends with a few of the now seasoned moms who I met in the very beginning of my life as a parent.  Most of us—having met in a military town—have since relocated, so we’re not good friends in the traditional sense.  We don’t talk much.  We don’t even write more than the occasional photo comment.  Still, I have such a fondness for these people.  They were incredibly important to me in that first year.  They understood the pace of a day with a newborn, and it was a joy to spend at least a day or two per week in something other than solitude. 

In our country, we like to say that it takes a village, yet we put a lot on the individual. 

Listen to your doula.  Don’t be lonely!  The true village may be hard to come by, but you deserve a community.  Get connected.

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