By Theresa Janaitis of Mommy Dearest Inc.
Let me just cut to the chase. Prior to having my baby, the term “Mom Group” made me, well, cringe. I imagined the “stroller parking lot” at CPK teeming with crusty strollers filled with gummed up yogurt melts, crushed Goldfish, Cheerio smithereens and a thick coat of apple juice shellac. I envisioned a herd of moms trying to hold a conversation and eat a civilized lunch while their infants screamed and toddlers built forts under the table. I feared that along with my bundle of joy, my “parting gift” from the hospital would include a pair of black yoga pants, a spit-up stained tee shirt, an eighty ounce coffee mug and a year subscription to the “I Only Wear Slut Buns” club. Let me also say that I was foolishly under the impression that everything would be all rainbows and gumdrops after MY baby arrived. My plan would look something like Reese Witherspoon with her new baby—pulled together, glamorous, calm and collected.
Little did I know the shit storm that was about to be unleashed into my world.
Fast forward to having an 8-week-old baby and after having yet another humiliating breakdown during my lactation consultant appointment, she kindly suggested (urged) that I join a Moms’ Group. I was so lonely and sad that I agreed to go, seeing that I wasn’t meeting anyone while holed up in my bathroom crying.
So ladies, I bestow upon you this pearl of wisdom: unless you are a “sister wife” (minus the total creeper husband) and have your Mom Group living with you, you need to get your hustle on and find yourself a team of supporters. Here are the top five reasons why:
1. Surprise! Your problems are not unique!
During the depths of our eight-week, pediatrician-imposed lockdown, I was completely unaware that there were other new moms out there struggling with the same problems. My baby who wouldn’t sleep anywhere other than the Ergo? Yeah, I had nothing on the mom who had to run the vacuum while bouncing on a yoga ball, humming and breastfeeding at the same time. Morale improved already!
Strapping on the Ergo began to actually heal my back; it was like popping a few Doans and washing them down with a slug of Wild Turkey. And what I had coined “The Warthog Routine” (the snorting, grunting and frantic head thrashing when feeding) was happening right before my eyes to other babies. Previously, I was convinced it was an early indication of some terrible and rare condition. Not that this is a contest in one-upmanship, but talking with other moms who are in the trenches with you is such a relief. Just knowing that someone else was raising a baby warthog was enough support to keep me going until our next meeting.
2. Bitches unite!
Perhaps you enjoy the alone time spent sobbing while folding onesies and listening to your baby howl, but believe me, you need lady friends. Your baby may be the sweetest, cutest little peanut in the universe, but after your partner goes back to work and you are flying solo—suddenly you are staring down the barrel of week six with 12-hour days ahead of you, and the one-sided conversation starts running bone dry.
After being out of normal society for weeks, I was so desperate to talk and be around other people, I didn’t care if you had 10 heads, horns, and a tail. If you were at this Moms’ Group meeting, you were fair game and I was going to be your friend, come hell or high water.
When I walked into that room, I reeked of desperation. I needed friends who understood what I was going through. Being able to commiserate over your newly found night sweats and hideous mood swings is something only a new mom friend would understand. (Bonus: Your husband will thank you for this since he bears the brunt of both problems.)
3. You need to get the hell out of the house.
Rejoining the free world seems like an insurmountable task during those first couple of months. Prior to my Moms’ Group, brushing my teeth required an hour of preplanning and scheduling. After joining the Moms’ Group, I would turn up the music extra loud to drown out the weird baby noises that gave me massive anxiety and gussy myself up, slap on some lip gloss, put my hair up, dredge up a cute outfit from the bottom of my closet, strap her into her car seat, then immediately take her out again to change her entire outfit due to an up-the-back blowout diaper and arrive with a few minutes to spare. No sweat (under-boob sweat doesn’t count).
Waking up knowing that you have a plan for the day is a game changer, even if it is just going to Starbucks. Everyone is just happy to get the f*ck out of the house.
4. Your breast pump is not talking to you.
The same phenomenon as the hairdryer applies to the breast pump: turn it on and suddenly you think you have heard the doorbell or the baby crying; turn it off, go check, find nothing and repeat.
I spent hours with that pump. HOURS. Three out of 4 times I would have to turn it off because of phantom noises. Chalk it up to reasons 1, 2 and 3. Or perhaps I was so desperate for someone to talk to that maybe I did just hear the pump say, “Your hair looks great.” Thanks, Medela! Love you too, guuuurl!
5. Your baby will be happier.
I know this sounds a little extreme, but hear me out. After I joined the Moms’ Group and gained a shred of sanity back into my life, I could see in my baby’s eyes a new sense of calm, a new understanding, if you will.
Despite being my personal stage-five-clinger, she was happy to be surrounded by other 2-month olds who also hated the car with a burning passion, and she thrived each time she spit-up someplace new. She needed all of the same things I needed: friends with something in common, new places to go and new people to see. And I swear, after I started slowing down a mile out from a red light so we never had to actually stop, when I looked in the rearview, she winked at me as if to say, “Yeah Mama, I got you.” We were a team.
The women in this photo are my Moms’ Group. They are the ones who welcomed me with open arms when I arrived at my first Moms’ Group meeting. I would not be where I am today without what they gave to me—hope that things would get better, shoulders to cry on, ears that listened to the good, bad and ugly. They never judged or made me feel like I was doing it all wrong (even when it felt like everything I did was wrong). They had advice and suggestions when needed, kept me company and gave me laughs through the long nights of breastfeeding on our chat group.
When everything else in my world was falling apart, they were there for me, and THIS is why you need a Moms’ Group.
This post was originally published on Mommy Dearest Inc.
Photo courtesy of Theresa Janaitis.
About Theresa Janaitis
Growing up in Upstate New York, (the real Upstate, not Westchester) I spent much of my childhood singing the soundtrack to “Annie” whilst dreaming of running away to Hollywood. Nowadays, I spend much of my time drinking wine with my lady friends at play dates and scrubbing permanent marker off of body parts. When I am not consumed with these activities, you can usually find me negotiating with my four year old or taking pics with my iPhone. Formerly, I was a number-hating number cruncher, a marketing gal, and a buyer of clothing and rugs. All of which led me to actually running away to Hollywood, where I am still an actor and storyteller. I wish I was as obsessed with SoulCycle as my cohorts, but the 4 day searing migraine accompanied by night sweats and a general feeling of malaise (plus the freight train-like breathing, beet red face, the inability to focus on anything other than the heat or worry that I may be on the verge of an aneurysm) outweighs the chance to pedal behind a celebrity. So, instead, I am on a quest to find a workout that involves less humiliation and anxiety and more dignity. Oh, and btw, I hate sand, know-it-alls, and whining. I am Theresa and I currently reside in Los Angeles with my surfer-dude husband and my sweet girl. Follow Theresa at Mommy Dearest Inc., on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter.