After Maya was born, it took about 6 weeks for us to realize we hadto get out of the house on a weekly basis. We needed to see other parents who were facing similar challenges with their babies. I wondered about diaper rashes, about gas, about how Maya would just cry and cry for no reason (thankfully those spells were rare, but still frightening). I wanted to talk about Maya’s birth. We wanted to meet new friends who knew why we couldn’t come over for dinner at 8pm, and who would laugh at baby poop stories.
The information package from the hospital included information for a Healthy Beginnings group that meets weekly in our town. Each session is mediated by a nurse from the health unit who is a wealth of knowledge on all things baby & toddler. Having an expert to see weekly, in a fun and casual atmosphere, is every new parent’s dream! A short chat with the nurse and the other parents made things like starting solid foods, continued breastfeeding, and sleep problems infinitely more manageable.
Simon was the only dad there (though a few other dads have made appearances since!), and there were lots of babies very close in age to Maya. In the 15 months since we’ve been attending the group, I’ve watched these children grow. No longer are they teeny bundles, snoozing away the meeting while their moms chat. Now they toddle around the room, “sharing” snacks and toys, knocking each other over, and making so much noise you have to shout to keep up a conversation!
Facebook has allowed a number of us to keep in touch outside of the group, and it’s a great way to organize impromptu outings or weekly playdates. But I really do look forward to the organized meeting each week, and it is a bright spot in my week to see familiar faces who have also been up from 2-5 am with a teething baby, and who understand.
So maybe you can imagine our outrage when we learned that the group would be shutting down. Sadly the government only looked at the numbers of the group… and while they are consistently helping a few dozen people each week, it’s not enough to be “worth it”. I was very sad to learn that prenatal groups are also being cancelled.
Parents who do not have support from their community and from other parents are not able to do their best. Parenting is HARD WORK. We know now how important the first few years of a child’s life are, and how parenting techniques are formed very early on. Communities that do not stand behind parents and young children are failing their citizens.
I’m thinking of ways to keep our group afloat, and to continue to offer it to new parents as well. I know how deeply our weekly group has affected me and improved my parenting skills. I can’t help but think there might be a family out there with a 6 week old that cried all night, and they just need somewhere to go where someone understands. Somewhere they can find babies the same age, who will grow so quickly (too quickly!) into teetering toddlers. And maybe, just maybe, somewhere they can tell their stories about baby poop.
Have you attended a parenting or prenatal group? How did it affect your parenting?