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Challenge: Bringing Home Baby: What Do You Wish You’d Known?

I wish I had known how much I would need other new parents

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​When my daughter was born 8 years ago, my expectation was that being a mom was going to be like any other project that I have managed as a professional person.  I think a lot of new parents feel this way - and then you are hit with the reality that you are NOT in control.  Lack of sleep, breastfeeding problems, c-section recovery, a husband who went back to work right away, no family or support system nearby - all these things combined to knock me over in a way that I never saw coming.  One of the hardest things was being alone all day with the baby. I knew I should get out and get fresh air and talk to other humans, but sometimes that just seemed like too much work. I had friends who had babies right around the same time that I did, but they didn't live close enough for us to meet up on a regular basis. Parental isolation, I know now, is very common after the birth of a baby, and is a risk factor for all kinds of problems such as postpartum mood disorders.  What helped me, and what I think all parents need - is finding my village of other parents.  Several people had told me about PEPS (The Program for Early Parent Support), but I thought I didn't need to join a structured program of any kind, until about 8-9 weeks into being a new mom, when I realized I was sinking and needed to get myself some support.  PEPS brings new parents together based on the age of their babies and where they live (zip code clusters in the greater Seattle area).  At my first PEPS meeting, I sat there with 12 other new mothers who had babies ages 4 weeks to 13 weeks old.  Some of us were doing fine, some of us were having struggles, but all of us wanted to be around other mothers.  It was amazing to hear their stories and to know that I wasn't the only one experiencing some of the issues I was having.  I met with those moms weekly for 12 weeks as part of the PEPS program, and then we kept on meeting - weekend play dates, ladies nights out, birthday celebrations, and swim lessons evolved into several of us using the same daycare, and our relationships keep evolving to the present.  Now our group includes our husbands and partners and lots of siblings. The kids are all in different schools, but we still get the entire group together at least 2x a year for a group birthday and Halloween party.  Several of the families have become very close friends and we see each other on a more regular basis, including at least one camping trip each summer. My own experience with PEPS evolved from being a participant, to being a volunteer group leader for 2 groups, to joining on as the Program Director in 2011.  It's an amazing organization, and is unique in the way it brings new parents out of isolation and helps them find their 'village'.  Whenever I meet a new mom or dad who has not had the opportunity to come together with other new parents, I feel so badly for them. However new parents find their village - whether thru a church, or a hospital, or an organization like PEPS - it is so important and really can be a life raft.  And - I really believe this - social media and online support groups are not the same.  I do believe they can be helpful, but the face-to-face support is different and BETTER and every parent should have it.

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