By: Marla Hamilton, Postpartum Doula
Postpartum group support is one of those things that you know you probably SHOULD find when you’re having a baby, right? So why is it so hard to move our little fingers to sign up? I’ve had the honor of facilitating Fourth Trimester Support Circles for the Nesting Place for the last three years and truly believe, wholeheartedly, in the magic of these groups. But also, I deeply understand the very human emotion of feeling anxious and strange about joining stuff! With that in mind, let’s go over my responses to some of the frequent questions and fears about joining a FTSC that I’ve heard from my postpartum doula clients (and people in my regular life, too – I really do tell anyone who will listen to sign up for one!).
The postpartum period can be a truly weird time, and so many of us are afraid of doing something that is going to make us feel even weirder. So I’m structuring this info as answers to “Will it be weird if…” questions.
Will it be weird if I cry?
NO WAY. You just brought a human being into the world who will never be this little again, you simultaneously love them more than you’ve ever loved anything and also feel like maybe you’re not cut out for this. Now it’s your 24 hour a day job to keep them alive on less sleep than you’ve ever had in your entire life! Of course that’s going to bring up a lot of feelings, and of course those feelings are often going to squirt out of your eyeballs!
A Fourth Trimester Support Circle is a judgment-free place to let your tears flow and begin to process those often confusing, conflicting feelings. One of the most touching moments that I’ve witnessed over and over again is someone crying immediately, at their first check-in, right after they say their name and before they’ve even shared anything else. The relief at being in a safe place and not feeling alone sometimes wants to come out immediately.
So if you cry, it won’t be weird, it will be great to do it in a caring space with people who understand. Crying is normal, healthy, and healing for both you and everyone else in your circle.
Will it be weird if my baby cries?
Not even a little bit. Babies cry! Infant meltdowns will not faze a single soul in your group, other than to make everyone feel a little bit better because they’re not the only one who doesn’t have a robot baby. If your baby is crying, they are giving everyone in the group a moment to draw on that evening around 5pm when their own baby is acting like a tiny demon. Breathe deep and know that your baby having a hard time does not mean you’re doing anything wrong, as much as your brain might sometimes try to tell you otherwise. For any in-person groups, I can almost guarantee that your facilitator (or another mom who isn’t having her turn in the crying baby lottery) would love to give you a break by holding your baby if you feel comfortable with that.
(It also won’t be weird if your baby projectile spit-ups everywhere, or has a loud gurgley-sounding infant poop! You are in a safe space for emotions and bodily functions for all!)
Will it be weird if this isn’t my first baby?
Definitely not! There’s usually a nice mix of first time moms and those with older kids. You deserve everything that a Fourth Trimester Support Circle has to offer, no matter how many times you’ve done this. You’re adjusting to the challenges of growing your family and juggling multiple kids’ needs, and that adjustment is easier when you’re surrounded by supportive people and learning from helpful professionals.
Also, you can glow with pride when the first timers stare at you in wonder because every single moment of their day and night is being stretched beyond belief, how on earth are you fitting older kids in there too? You’ve had a baby before and lived to tell the tale and made the choice to have another one?! You’re an inspiration! Your wisdom and perspective will be priceless to your group.
Will it be weird if my baby was just born five days ago? Will it be weird if my baby is five months old?
No and no! Fourth Trimester Support Circles are open to moms with babies from 0-5 months old. Some people realize how much they desperately need group support right after their babies are born, and some like to wait awhile after giving birth before interacting too much with the outside world. Both (and anywhere in between!) are great!
For moms of brand new babies, it’s a gift to know that you’re not alone and have a source of support and education immediately. For moms of older babies, it can be a source of strength to share all that you’ve learned with newer moms and realize how far you’ve come in just a few months. Also, it’s amazing to see and share the actual living proof that squirmy, crying newborns will indeed become smiley, interactive babies one day.
I wish I could bottle up the transformative power of Fourth Trimester Support Circles and share it with every postpartum person in the world, but in the meantime I hope my answers to these questions illustrate the nurturing, accepting environment that we work hard to create. Please reach out to me or any of the amazing, compassionate, helpful team at the Nesting Place to answer any of your other questions. I promise, it won’t be weird! Find upcoming circles at www.thenestingplaceli.com/schedule or www.fourthtrimestersupportcircle.com