Posted by Jon Federman
Having a baby is an experience that's often filled with joy, love, and happiness, as well as feelings of stress, incompetence, isolation, and frustration. These challenging feelings can be amplified when a mom has no support system in place for this momentous change in her life.
The JF&CS Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program is for pregnant women and parents of newborns who need support and companionship. Visiting Mom volunteers come to the home of a pregnant mom or parent of a newborn, free of charge, for one hour a week; they visit for anywhere from two months to the baby's first birthday, depending on the family's wishes. Parents can talk confidentially and share their feelings and observations with trained and empathetic Visiting Mom volunteers.
It's not always just the parents who benefit from the wisdom and experience of their volunteer visitors, however. Quite often, the Visiting Moms share their sage wisdom with moms outside the JF&CS setting, from family members to friends and even complete strangers.
Recently, we heard from one of our Visiting Mom volunteers whose young cousin had just had a baby and was in the throes of early adjustment. Sensing her cousin's panic, she sent her this email:
Take it slow, and allow yourselves the time to figure things out. VISITORS CAN WAIT! And sometimes they stay too long. Don't be afraid to ask people to leave if you're tired, hungry, or need quiet time. The important thing is taking care of you and [your baby]. Don't forget to eat and drink, sleep when he sleeps. EVERYTHING else can wait...laundry, cleaning. Your body's been through a lot and needs time to recover and adjust to your new normal.
If you're nursing and need support, lactation specialists can be an amazing resource. I can put you in touch if you want. It's very common to have issues with nursing.
If I can be of any help, I'm here for you.
Penny Goodman, a JF&CS Visiting Mom as well as a member of the JF&CS Board, had a similar story. Her niece recently had a baby and was experiencing frustration and other challenges. She was getting tired of hearing "you should do this" or "you should do that" by well-intentioned people.
"I felt it was important to give her an alternative way of looking at things," explains Penny. "I told her to go with her instincts because they are usually correct – to do what works for her and not to do something if it doesn't feel right.
"As a new mom, a hundred people will tell you what to do but platitudes are not helpful and there are no right answers. The rules have changed and are continuously changing. What works for one mom might not work for another," she adds.
A Visiting Mom for more than 13 years and a mother of two children who are now in their twenties, Penny cautions that today, there is "too much information out there," from a myriad of books to the internet. "New moms want answers, but sometimes there are just no answers. As a Visiting Mom, you have to be a good listener," she adds.
"One of the many upsides of being a Visiting Mom is that [your skills] translate into your everyday life," says Penny. I've watched my niece become more competent over time. She had a good support system and has the happiest little baby. As a Visiting Mom, my goal is to give new moms confidence. It's about empowering a new mom to do what she thinks is right."
Jon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.