Healing In Tandem: What To Expect In Support Groups
posted by: Guest Blogger
The first support group I attended after the birth of my daughter was a long drive away from my house. Although I knew it would be hard to take my daughter outside of the house, I forced myself to go. I was feeling extremely isolated. I did not have a built-in support network and the other moms I knew all made motherhood look easy. I remember searching people’s faces and social media posts for some sign that their experience might be similar to mine. When I arrived at the support group, nervous and flustered from carrying the weight of motherhood literally and figuratively, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had made it. I found my network.
I continued to attend support groups after that day and along with the support of my husband and therapy, found attending support groups contributed to my recovery from pregnancy-related depression and anxiety. It actively fought against my belief that I was all alone. It also helped quiet the shame I felt for not feeling the way I was “supposed to feel” about being a mom. They gave me a structured and consistent opportunity to talk with other moms who could relate to my experience of motherhood through the lens of pregnancy-related depression. Each time I went, my voice grew stronger, I affirmed my feelings and experience more, and I offered a listening ear for other moms who needed to process their experience. Thinking back on it now, I can’t imagine anything more powerful.
I understand the prospect of being vulnerable in a group of strangers may sound scary so I want to give you an idea of what to expect when attending a support group. Here are common questions:
Who leads the group?
Most support groups are run by a mental health practitioner like a therapist, counselor or licensed clinical social worker. The mental health practitioner facilitates the group.
Do I have to talk?
There is no pressure on you to lead the conversation or keep it going. You can participate as much or as little as you want. Maybe the first time you go, you just want to listen. Besides introducing yourself, you are free to follow the conversation as an active listener. Being present and witnessing the similarities in other moms’ experiences may be just what you need to hear. Then maybe once you are more comfortable sharing your story, yours will be the story that gives someone else permission to tell their story.
What do we talk about?
The flow of the group often depends on who is present and what the group feels like talking about that day. The facilitator may suggest a topic or ask a question to help the group get started. Some of the topics we covered were:
- our birth stories
- our specific experiences with pregnancy-related depression
- the role social media played in our experience of motherhood
- lack of support
- pressure from family members, and much more
I found that in the beginning most people were fairly quiet, but once a brave soul started talking the conversation flowed naturally and more people would chime in.
Can I bring my baby?
I always brought my daughter with me when she was a baby because I had no options for childcare during the day and I was a stay-at-home mom. You can call the group in advance and ask if it’s okay to bring your baby with you. I know trying to find childcare, breastfeeding, or worrying about being away from your baby is stressful so I want you to know that it is not a sacrifice you have to make to attend a support group. That is the beauty of attending a group that caters to moms and their well-being.
Are support groups right for me?
If you are feeling nervous about attending a support group, know that you are not alone. Everyone is nervous, especially at first. If you can push past the nervous feelings and commit to at least trying one out, I think you will find with time that it gets a lot easier. Also, don’t feel like if one group doesn’t work for you, no groups will work for you. Sometimes the dynamic of the groups are different. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. As with all things in motherhood, find what works best for you and your family.
Where can I go to find a support group?
There are a number of great support groups available in Colorado. Go to postpartum.net/colorado to find the one closest to you!
– Kristina Newman