Posted by Debbie Whitehill

At the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS), we offer free weekly support groups for parents of babies in a variety of communities throughout Greater Boston. Our hope is that parents find our groups to be safe spaces to talk openly and honestly about the challenges and richness of parenting a newborn. Our best success stories are those in which people make connections and form supportive communities that last long beyond their attendance at our group.

Last week, we received a letter of appreciation from one such group member:

"Thank you so much … for providing a refuge for me …when the days felt very long, dark, and cold. The group became an anchor for my week, something I could use to push myself out the door and into the world. I am friends with many of the moms I met in the group and it has been a joy to watch as their babes have become little people and to have the continued support of a community. I was so pleased I could visit one more time to thank you in person and to see all the little ones and to feel sadness and relief that that stage is over!"

We also recently heard from a "graduate" of This Isn't What I Expected, our weekly group for moms who are struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety:

"I was glad that I could stop in on Tuesday for the moms' group. Listening to the other moms, it was so interesting for me to see how far I've come. I didn't know at the time I started coming when I'd ever feel better or even what "better" would look like. But I can say that I'm happy to be where I am now. Just wanted to say that I'm very thankful for you and for JF&CS being there when I needed help the most!"

We know that postpartum mood disorders affect at least 15-20% of new parents (and yes, dads can get it, too). There are very few places that women feel comfortable sharing their true feelings when they do not enjoy and are actually suffering during the first year after a baby's birth. Having those feelings often adds shame and guilt to the mom's experience. Providing a safe space to acknowledge the pain and to realize that you are not alone in this situation is one part of the healing process for these women that we are honored to support.

Debbie Whitehill, LICSW has been with the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support for 24 years, leading both the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms and Support Group programs. Debbie has completed a comprehensive program manual to facilitate replication of Visiting Moms, which has already been replicated nationally and internationally.