New moms coming out of the pandemic may be feeling a strong sense of isolation. Here’s how moms can meet.
Postpartum education and support are seldom discussed and frequently neglected. After going through labor, new mothers begin their journeys confused, overwhelmed, and most importantly, alone. Blend in a pandemic to create the perfect storm of anxiety and isolation.
According to a recent 2020 study, while the percentage of women already struggling with moderate to high anxiety was 29 percent, that number skyrocketed to 72 percent after the pandemic hit. Prior to the pandemic, 15 percent experienced depressive symptoms and after the pandemic, the number rose to 41 percent.
Having a support system is crucial after having a baby, and living through a pandemic where social contact was prohibited undoubtedly contributed to a decline in new moms’ mental health. Difficulty balancing multiple parental roles, obtaining child care, as well as balancing other responsibilities during the pandemic have been strongly associated with depressive and anxious symptoms in several studies. Some behaviors to watch for that might be indicative of postpartum anxiety include constant worry, feelings of dread, uncontrollable or unwanted thoughts, inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, changes in appetite, restlessness as well as nausea, hot flashes, sweating, racing heart, chest pain and/or rapid breathing. Warning signs of postpartum depression include insomnia, changes in appetite, irritability and intense mood swings, fear or rage, hopelessness, unexplained crying or tearfulness, lack of concentration, and difficulty bonding with the baby. The most important thing is to get help right away if you suspect that you need it.
Fortunately, however, it looks like the pandemic is getting under control, more and more people are getting vaccinated, and the rate of COVID infections is declining. As things start to open, our advice to all new moms is to get out. Go to parks, talk to new moms, join mommy-and-me classes or a Stroller Strides class, and have fun. Take care of yourself, and take some time off for yourself. You already do so much — you do not need to do it alone.
I learned these things the hard way. After my son was born, I suffered from extreme anxiety and loneliness — even before the pandemic hit. I struggled making mom friends and getting support during the difficult first year. My son was (and still is) very spirited and my experience was far different from what I had expected. I felt like the people I knew could not relate to my struggles. That was until I joined a local mommy-and-me class and was able to meet other moms with babies around the same age. After the class finished, I missed regularly seeing a group of moms, so I started organizing weekly playdates. I met so many moms and was able to help other moms connect through the playdates and moms’ nights.
However, much of this came to a screeching halt when the pandemic started. I found myself feeling just as down, if not worse, than I did during my first year as a mom. I felt like so many aspects of my life were taking a turn for the worse — including my relationships with my husband and son. Given the difficulty and isolation I had gone through, I spent a lot of time going to therapy and reading many books on various subjects pertaining to parenting and relationships. I started to grow as a mother, a wife and a person.
I also realized that I was not alone, and that many have struggled and continue to struggle like I did. I started The Mommy Center in Orange County because I saw a need in our community for a place that can offer new moms much needed support where they can grow as mothers and partners, help their children’s development, and importantly, make lifelong friendships.
The Mommy Center offers a variety of services including Mommy and Me classes, Positive Parenting classes, Chat ‘N Play classes, Speech and Language BOOST workshops, Sleep Consulting and more. During the 10-week series, experts in the field share their wealth of knowledge while supporting moms and letting them share their struggles and thoughts. For example, for our newborn Mommy & Mini Me class, moms learn healthy sleep patterns from a certified sleep coach, attachment and bonding with the baby from a renowned psychologist, speech and motor milestones from a certified speech therapist and occupational therapist, self-care talk, postpartum adjustment and marriage advice from a licensed MFT, nursing support from a lactation consultant and more.
Cristina Gamarnik, M.A., CCC-SLP, is founder of The Mommy Center, www.themommycenter.com.