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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Zone, Sort Of (Week 3)

Maddy's first trip to Lincoln Park!

Day 1 - 7:  

By week three I feel like I’ve somewhat gotten the hang of things - I’ve left the house several times by myself without any major disasters, have mastered the fold up stroller, and the baby is still alive, and seems to be thriving. All good signs. As an added bonus, the finnicky Chicago weather has finally started to turn favorable, and switched from mid April rain and snow (SNOW!) to eighty degrees and sunny. I take Maddy to the zoo for the first time, and am blissfully happy with the prospect of many more sun-filled days in the park with my daughter as we take advantage of every moment on my maternity leave.

Phil and I continue to get bolder in our new parent zone, and take Maddy out to brunch (In public! At a restaurant! And there was no screaming!) meet up with friends, and have family pictures taken with relative ease.  Maddy and I go for daily walks and coffee breaks, and I find that these moments out of the house, doing something normal that I would have done pre-baby, are therapeutic for me. I find that they help me clear my head, and connect with the outside world. While I’m focused every day on my adorable baby's not so adorable bowel movements, the world is continuing to spin, and these outings remind me and connect me back to society. I can easily see how a new mom could struggle with their emotions if they never left the house or made social connections during the first few weeks of motherhood - there are times where you lose track of the last time you showered, and don’t talk to anyone all day besides a 3 week old that really can’t understand a word of it and doesn't have much to contribute to the conversation. It can make you feel a bit batty.

Several people had mentioned I should consider joining a “New Mom Support Group” while I'm on maternity leave. I’m a bit skeptical at first - I’m a very social person already, and have lots of friends with kids, and am doing quite well getting out of the house and meeting up with people, and overall feeling great about me, my baby, and my maternity leave, thank you very much. But after the 4th person in 3 days mentioned how great they were, I felt I should do some research to see what they were all about.

New Mom Support Groups are in place for both moms planning to stay at home, and moms that are returning to work. Some are structured, paid programs that will bring new moms together (with their babies) and discuss specific topics. Some are run by pediatricians or lactation consults and focus on nursing or sleep habits. Others are set up through social media like Meet up, and can vary in networks from geographical location to age of child. When I thought about joining a new mom group, I really needed to sit down and think what I wanted to get out of a support group. One friend that has a 8 month old had mentioned she’d done a group and found that having a set appointment every week was helpful - it was something to do every Tuesday. Going from jam-packed meeting filled days in my career to 3 weeks at home with my babe and no set plans or appointments, and found the idea of a weekly event appealing. The other thing I wanted to get out of a mom group was meeting moms that had babies my age - I have LOTS of friends that have kids, but most of them are a year or older, and they don’t necessarily remember what their baby was doing on week 3. It would be great to be able to compare notes with other moms, and see how they are handling the nuances of motherhood at that particularly time period. The last thing I wanted to was to meet moms in that lived somewhere close by - I had seen a lot of interesting events or meet up opportunities, but didn’t realistically think that I would want to be schlepping myself or my baby across town to meet with other moms.

Taking all this into account, I decided to try out a new mom group that was close to the hospital where Madeline was delivered, and run by a pediatrician that is a leading expert on children’s sleep. A friend of mine had gone to it during her maternity leave and loved it, and I figured if I’m going to do a support group, I wanted to do one that I could learn something from. So on Tuesday of the 3rd week, I bundled up my baby girl and headed off into the unknown of new mom support groups. I was the first to arrive (still overplanning for operation “Get Baby Out The Door”), and sat and attempted to look busy on my phone until other moms arrived. When the doctor arrived, he had us all introduce ourselves and our babies, and launched into a mini lecture on sleep habits, specifically addressing the week each of our babies was currently in. After, he allowed us to ask questions, and then opened it up for mom’s to talk to each other. I came away from the meeting with answers to questions I’d had about sleeping and eating habits, as well as some insight into what the other moms were doing/trying to get their babies to sleep. Further still, it was a chance to engage with moms going through the same things I am, and reassure each other that we are all doing the best we can. I have to admit, I walked aware a believer, and have been going every week since.