The baby is bawling as you lift yourself off the bed, inhaling deeply to numb the pain in the stitches. Still struggling to master breastfeeding, you hopelessly watch the dirty laundry pile up each day. The breakfast dishes still lie unwashed in the kitchen sink; the dirty-diaper bin needs emptying. Tenaciously trying to succeed at multi-tasking and time management, the only thing you can manage to do when the baby naps is to fall asleep yourself! Showering, cooking, and going outside for errands is something you leave for when your ‘significant other' is around to help.
For most new mothers, the first few months after having a baby are an emotional and physical roller-coaster ride, with their feelings swinging between joy at beholding a new life in their arms, and anxiety at juggling their new responsibilities amid a changed routine. Even if she's had babies before, nothing can fully prepare her for another one coming into her family -- it needs tremendous adjustment over a period of months, and major doses of willful patience.
To say that urban life has changed, over the past two decades, would be a gross understatement. Nuclear families living in smaller, confined spaces are the norm now, with little interference from neighbors or distant relatives. Because of everyone's increasingly busy schedule, no one has the time to look after someone else. The lack of meddling in each other's lives is a positive by-product of this modern-day urbanization; however, the lack of moral support for others in their time of need, is not.
Most new mothers face isolation after childbirth, as a result. Their mother or another relative might come for a few weeks, cooking and freezing some meals, and cleaning her house. However, after the latter leaves, the new mother feels forlornly lost and alone, having to face long, "depressing" days on her own with the baby, after her husband and children have left for work or school.
To say the least, every new mother needs support in the form of positively reassuring conversation amid the company of sympathetic, encouraging women who have "been there, done that". She needs to know that other women are also experiencing what she is going through; that they face the same challenges and problems. She needs to vent her frustrations, share her concerns, and exchange notes with other mothers. All of this can only be done by forming a mothers' support group.
- Get online and join a virtual mothers' group:
There are many ways of discussing parenting issues with other mothers via email-groups, forums, and chat-rooms. A forum is where everyone signs up and posts answers to a question or a discussion started by another member. Everyone can see and benefit from the answering posts. Many moms are online 24 hours a day to provide advice and help! Yahoo Groups and Google Groups have many mothers' groups in which women with children of all ages discuss common issues and help each other out. All you need is a simple search to find the group for you.
- Browse blogs and websites for mommy advice:
There are tons of websites that offer excellent articles imparting expert advice about every aspect of parenting, from how to give the baby an oil massage, to the pro's and cons of cloth-versus disposable-diapering. These online resources are a wealth of information. Examples of such websites are CafeMom, Momtourage, BabyCenter (pictured) and Parenting. Pediatric websites such as DrGreene.com and AskDrSears.com have pediatricians' expert advice on a broad array of topics, available at just a click! Further, many mothers regularly blog about their baby experiences; these blogs may be added to an RSS feed-reader (such as Google Reader), which automatically brings updated content via feeds on one page.
To find these websites and blogs, a mother must become an expert in searching on Google with the right keywords, such as "baby care", "parenting tips for toddlers", or "potty training made easy". The best websites she finds may then be added to her feed-reader or the browser's Favorites menu for easier access in the future.
- Start your own blog:
Wordpress, Blogger, MySpace and Windows Live Spaces allow anyone to register and start uploading their personalized content for the world to read and benefit from. After a new mother finds other mothers' blogs and becomes a regular reader and commenter on them, she'll become part of a network. Eventually, she might find it beneficial and very rewarding to start her own blog, where she can post content such as text (personal experiences, advice, and parenting tips), photographs, links and videos.
It's a slow process at first, but even by posting something just once a week, the blog begins to take off, and after a year or so, it starts reaping benefits as more people stumble across it in searches, leave comments on it, and link to it with their own blogs. Blogging has been known to give new mothers a very creative and satisfying outlet to vent their emotions, share their parenting experiences and garner advice from experienced mothers in the global blogosphere!
- Get on the phone with friends who have recently had babies:
Catch up with that old school or college friend whom you haven't spoken to in years, but who is on your Facebook or email list. Get her phone number, call her up, and just share! Every new mother knows at least a few friends or cousins who have had babies recently. Get in touch with them and just talk.
- Go to the nearest neighborhood park when the children come to play:
This is an excellent way of starting a neighborhood mothers' support group. All mothers bring out their children for playing at the park at the same time in the day. If you are relatively new to your neighborhood, you can meet them this way, and your infant or toddler will also have fun and make new friends. Plus, the outdoor activity and fresh air will work wonders for you, becoming an effective means of stress relief.
- Organize rotating, potluck meetings at each other's houses:
These could be weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, as per need or convenience. Once you have acquainted yourself with the neighborhood mothers, arrange regular, casual get-togethers at each others' homes in order to be able to interact and share. Every mother can bring a different snack so that the hostess is not burdened with the menu.
These support-group meetings will enable everyone to have access to baby-sitters in case of emergencies, regular play-dates for their children, and the option for all the parenting couples involved to go out intermittently without their children in tow.
Mothers can also benefit from each other's toys or gaming facilities via such meetings; for example, if one mother in the group has a swimming pool, another a trampoline, and a third one a play-gym, everyone's children can avail these at the group meeting, and "have a splash" together!
- Focus on talking to mothers in your age range:
This is essential, because mothers of the older generation tend to focus on their own parenting style and tactics, which might not be applicable in today's time. For example, a new mother I know was forced by both her mother-in-law and her own mother to cloth-diaper her first baby, simply because that's what they did in their time, and because they insisted it would save money. As a result, the first-time mother was left washing dirty diapers all day, with her C-section stitches still hurting, when what she really needed was rest.
New mothers should therefore, focus more on talking to mothers of their own generation, because their mother or aunt might not be well aware of the latest developments in the baby-care world. An example of this is how pediatricians advise starting solids for infants at 6 months now, including honey and egg yolk. Mothers of the past generation, on the other hand, were used to placing a fingertip laced with honey or egg yolk into their newborn babies' mouths!
One thing to keep in mind is that if you have just had a baby, you should not allow yourself to be so overwhelmed by the new care-giving routine in your life, that you overlook your own needs as an individual. You need the "me" time -- the hours to yourself in which you can feel good about who you are, whether its by taking a hot, aromatic bath, or going for a walk in the park. So join a virtual or real mothers' support group, get talking, and get out of that bed, back in control of your productive life!
Sadaf Farooqi writes articles for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine, Helium and Muslimmatters. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.