A mom mentor can help a new mother through a rough patch
Experienced mothers provide advice and support for first-timers.
A woman peered into the double stroller and asked, “Are they twins?”
“Yes,” I responded.
“That must be difficult,” she said.
I heard this comment often when my twins were first born. It was difficult. Really difficult. When I think back to that time period, two things helped me get through it. One was joining a group for moms of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) and the other was having a mom mentor.
A mom mentor is someone who is a parent to older children and is matched with a first-time mom. She provides support and feedback for the new mom. In my case, she was assigned to me through a moms’ group. She called me weekly in the beginning and then less often as I became adjusted to my new role as a mother of twins.
My moms’ group is called Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles. The mentor program began after Donna Baker and Pam Pace met in the hospital in 1994 when Donna gave birth to triplets while Pam was on bed rest, pregnant with triplets.
Sweeney and Pace said mentor programs provide a support system for first-time mothers who might feel alone after the baby is born. If you don’t have family or friends nearby who understand your experience, it can be isolating. Even women who do have family or friends say they didn’t always feel comfortable sharing the negative aspects of being a new mom with them.
Provide a support system
Mentor programs can also be hospital based. Christine Sweeney founded Parent Connection in 1991 at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, MA. It was created after OBGYN nurses noticed many of the new moms felt overwhelmed or showed symptoms of postpartum depression. Baker became a mentor to Pace when her triplets were born three months later. They continued to support each other and founded the nonprofit, Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles. Their bond became similar to sisters, which is what they hope to provide for other mothers.
“We’re still supposed to subscribe to that Hallmark-approved enjoy-every-moment, romanticized view of motherhood,” says Alexis Petru, who participated in Mentoring Mothers in San Francisco, CA. She notes that there’s still a stigma for women to talk about the “dark side of parenting.”
“In my mentoring group, it was the first time I could really vent about my complicated feelings of motherhood ... the anger, frustration, sadness, and loneliness that goes along with the joy and wonder of raising children.”
Sweeney noticed a similar experience in her mentoring program. “Since there isn’t an agenda, expectation or judgment, women feel safe discussing their struggles,” she says. “Some women who had difficulty getting pregnant may think they can’t complain about how hard it is to be a new mom. A mentor gives the new mom a sense of relief and safety where she can talk about her feelings.”
Increase moms’ confidence
Being a new mom can be overwhelming and some new moms question whether they are correctly taking care of their babies.
“A lot of new moms have questions about breastfeeding. Their mentor can provide answers and give them a sense of what is normal,’’ says Sweeney. When the mentor lets the mom know that she is making progress, it increases her confidence.
A mentor can also help when a new mom might not know how to ask for help or realize she needs it. “Sometimes the new moms might have marital problems or financial issues and the mentor will help them get the resources they need,” says Pace.
Sweeney says mentors are sometimes the ones who identify when a new mom is struggling with postpartum depression and will get them the proper mental health services.
Mentors help care for the new moms when they are focused on caring for their newborns and that allows them to be better moms to their children. Just a weekly check-in phone call can offer a new mother the support she needs.
Check with local mom groups or the hospital where you gave birth. If none are available, ask a friend or family member.
Cheryl Maguire is a freelance writer.