Friday, October 12, 2012

Group Pushing

What? Are you seeing birthing classes with women synchronizing their labor? No, I was trying to say that I'm a pusher. Of groups. One of the most valuable things to me as a new mom has been this moms' group I've been going to at Providence Hospital. I've written about it a bit, but it really deserves its own post. Any new mom I talk to gets an earful about how they should try the groups. Now that I'm back at work, I hardly ever make it now, and I miss it immensely.

The great thing about a group is that moms can get whatever they want out of it. I should say parents, because there are also some dads who come and seem to get a lot out of it as well.  The format is super simple: 8-20 moms (or dads) sitting around in a circle, their 0-6 month old babes on a blanket, talking, feeding, changing diapers, tending to the babies in groups There is also a knowledgeable facilitator who keeps things on track. Besides giving birth, this has probably been the closest thing that has connected me to the primal aspect of being a mother. Sitting isolated in an apartment, seeing only a husband all day is not the way that humans developed for millions of years, and it isn't the way to nurture moms and babies. As I learned early on in relationships with men, one person is not enough to satisfy me--I need a community of others, especially women, to feel fulfilled in my life.

But even if that is not you, the groups are incredibly useful. You can just go to hear others' opinions and advice on getting your baby to sleep, what to feed and how, breastfeeding advice and wisdom, etc. You can just go to see other babies and get perspective on what yours is doing and looking like. You can just go to hear the facilitator answer your one burning question about milk production. You can just go to see what the next stage will look like, after this one. Or you can just go to get reassurance about all the conflicting info you get on SIDS, cosleeping, car seats, whatever. Or, you can just go to get connected to one of the many play groups that develop out of the larger groups. Many of the play groups have lasted for years!

I've always known (and often forget) that I process complex issues externally, by writing about them or talking them out. Never having tried group therapy, this is the closest I have gotten, I suppose. Sometimes the topics get very personal, and you can choose how revealing you want to be. Mostly, though, they are right around most people's comfort level, not too intimate but still juicy enough to feel very relevant. 
O showing off

Oh, and your baby gets something out of it, too. At first it might seem hard to tell, but as they get a bit more aware, they are able to connect with and watch other babies more and more, and they seem to get inspired by each other. They might even start to show off a bit, like O is known to do. 

Groups are good for many things: prenatal yoga group, birth preparation group, miscarriage support group, surrounded-by-babies-and-not-sure-if-I-want-my-own group, depression support group, empty nest group, menopause group. It's a way to honor the stage in life that you are in and get perspective on from others who actually understand, especially if those around you are in a different life stage.

I'm sure that not all groups are as effective as ours, but even if a few factors are out of sync, I think there would still be great benefit to trying it out. My well-meaning husband does not know or research as much as many mothers put together, and I come back with the confidence and knowledge to help both of us be more effective parents. We have had meet ups with other parents, both moms and dads, met nannies for nanny shares, found products, shared products, and mostly shared our timely and important questions that needed supportive answers. 

Is that enough group pushing?