I was driving home from visiting clients yesterday, and the CBC radio host was talking to a guest, asking if she lived in Van"cool"ver. It made me laugh, but it also made me think about one of my clients had been talking about her experiences at a Mum's Postpartum Drop-in. The women she had described sounded just a little bit to "cool" for a brand new mum to embrace.
I mean...imagine you're a brand new mum...you've made the first trek out after being trapped in your house by the snow for WEEKS. You've been looking forward to this first drop-in mum's group - "Maybe I'll meet some new friends...and we can go out for coffee...our kids can have fun..." You get your baby tucked into her stroller. You dream about how great it could be as you sweat and grunt and push that stroller through the snow and ice.
Then you arrive, feeling pretty good about yourself. It's the first day of the new class... You look around, still unwrapping your scarf from around your face - and you realize that everyone there looks like they know each other. You realize that you're the "new kid".
Inside jokes are flying back and forth. One mum suggests to the group that they all trek over to the North Shore to take in a "Mum and Babe Snowshoe Trip". "They even have a breastfeeding tent!" Another mum turns and asks if you know any new spelt recipes...
Van"cool"ver is right. And now you've lost all the happy expectant energy that you had...
Now, I know that there's a point in the life of a new mum where things have finally fallen into place, and you can happily head over to Cypress and strap on those snowshoes. That's fantastic! But should you (with your seven month old) be in a newborn drop-in class still? Or, if your talk about snowshoeing is masking your inability to cope, and you still really need the support, could you please spend some time including the new mums in your conversation? Those new mums would really appreciate it.
I have to thank my best friend of 25 years for being that stranger, that veteran mum (her daughter was a whole 5 weeks older than mine), who welcomed me with open arms at my first drop-in. She had just watched my daughter throw up ALL over me (I mean, drenched!), and saw the look on my face. She came right over and said, "Would you like to come over to my place for tea and muffins afterwards?" Her invitation made me smile, so I just grabbed a receiving blanket, and mopped up the mess without a bother.
My mum's group got me through many months of struggle. We started out as a diverse bunch of strangers, and then became friends. The veteran mums told me to turn on the fan over the stove - great white noise to help the baby sleep. They helped me negotiate the emotions of those first few months. They'd come over to my house, and we'd sit on the kitchen floor, watch our babies learn to roll over each other, and burst into tears at random points - but it would be okay....better than okay...it would be wonderful. We graduated from the mum's group when it was the right time to go, and organized our own group play-dates for another few years.
So, to the new mums who didn't take notice of that new mum in the corner, didn't notice that she'd been really courageous that day, didn't notice her personal feeling of triumph after making it through the snow to her first mum's group...please say "Hi" to her next time - she's quite amazing! I was her doula, and she was powerful in labour, and is a wonderful mum. She's just not ready for baby snowshoeing or spelt...yet.
Jacquie Munro, founder of the "Slow Birth" movement, is an experienced doula and childbirth educator and is well-known for her individualized, intuitive approach to supporting families in the childbearing year and beyond. Since 1987, she has provided support at over one thousand births, at home and in hospital, and taught thousands of expectant parents. At home, Jacquie lives only a bike ride away from four generations of her family. You can usually find her at the park or beach, playing beside her twin grandsons who call her "Deecy".