#mumlife: finding your Croydon mum tribe

By - Friday 11th May, 2018

Becoming a new mum isn’t always easy. Here’s how to find support groups close to home…

Photo author’s own

During my pregnancy, I spent a lot of time worrying about maternity leave. I wasn’t sure that I’d enjoy it. Living in a cosy (let’s be honest… small) flat, unable to drive, I was scared that I’d become isolated when my husband returned to work. My daughter was due in September, just as the nights were drawing in and the weather was increasingly cold and wet, and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get out and about.

For someone used to commuting five days a week into a busy, open-plan office, it was going to be a huge change, and that’s even before you consider the stress of looking after a newborn. As someone who has struggled with anxiety in the past, I was worried that familiar demons may once again rear their ugly heads.

Luckily, help was at hand. While scouring the internet for antenatal classes and pregnancy yoga in my local area, I came across an amazing Facebook group local to Croydon called CR Pregnancy & Birth Support. Run by the phenomenal local hypnobirthing guru – and utter force of nature – Leah Freeman (aka The Pure Peach), the group provides a space for local mums to compare notes on all things pregnancy-related. From local hospital and midwife provision, the best places to go for a last-minute reflexology session to try to get things moving, or the best local taxi firms to get you to and from hospital, it is the most brilliant local resource.

I found a wonderful group of mums-to-be before I’d even given birth

Thanks to the group’s monthly meet-ups at the wonderful Mother Kitty’s in Coulsdon, I managed to meet some great local mums and dads before I’d even given birth. It also helped me to find a wonderful group of mums-to-be (my ‘mum tribe’, if you will), with babies due around the same time, who have been my chief confidantes ever since. Along with the great people whom I met through my NCT (National Childbirth Trust) antenatal classes and my ever-so-relaxing pregnancy yoga sessions, by the time my daughter arrived I had a rock-solid circle of amazing local mamas to chat to/compare notes with.

I cannot stress how important this has been to my wellbeing and mental health. Having a ‘mum tribe’ doesn’t make you immune from postnatal mental-health issues (sadly), but it can provide you with a strong support network as you embark on the bewildering world of parenthood. It is estimated that perinatal mental health issues affect 10-20% of mums and identifying the symptoms early – and enabling women to seek help – can help to hasten recovery. By talking to and sharing our feelings with friends, there is a better chance of someone spotting the signs early.

Giving birth and looking after my first baby has been completely overwhelming at times, and Dr Google has not always been my friend. Real-life parent friends understand the impact of sleep deprivation, they empathise with the feelings of helplessness when your child gets sick for the first time, they ‘get’ the awkwardness of those first breastfeeding sessions (and – the women at least – will often be there right alongside you, riding it out together because there is safety in numbers!).

There’s no substitute for mum mates who can pop over at the drop of a hat with a grizzly newborn in tow

So I would encourage all expectant parents to get out there and find their tribe. Even if you have a million friends already, there is no substitute for those who can pop over at the drop of a hat looking equally unkempt with a similarly grizzly newborn in tow. For those who have already given birth (firstly, you are amazing!), there is also a ‘CR Mums on Maternity Leave’ group. Here you can find loads of information about things to do once your baby arrives and how to take advantage of the considerable provision for new parents in Croydon. Becoming a parent is far less scary – and much more fun – when you have friends by your side.

If you are worried that you may be suffering from postnatal depression, you can seek support from your GP, health visitor or PANDAS Foundation. PANDAS helpline is open 9am-8pm, 7 days per week: 08432 898401

Rachael Cox

Rachael Cox

Rachael Cox is a local first time mum, muddling along on maternity leave. Her day job is in politics, negotiating the wilds of Westminster.

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