New moms can be overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and fear — but having a non-judgmental support group can work wonders for both mom and baby.
A recent Birth, Baby and Beyond program from the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is so popular that some moms have taken an additional eight-week session because it helped them so much.
For Mariana Esnouf, the program was exactly what she was looking for and once her son, Thomas Charles, was born, she made sure she was registered.
"I'm a very social person," said Esnouf. "I need to get out and do things. It's the one thing I made sure I went to every week."
The closed-group format fosters a commitment from those who enrol, and ensures a non-judgmental environment in which to share feelings of frustration, or helplessness — and joy.
Esnouf echoes the safe and nurturing mood of the group. "I could say whatever I wanted, nobody was judging me for what I was saying."
Kevani Macdonald, who took daughter Izzabella to two sets of the program added, "It was just a very open forum for discussion.
"It prompted us to focus on the challenges, the successes — and just share how you feel, and in a really safe place."
The loneliness a new mom can experience can be difficult for others to understand, said Macdonald.
"It's a very weird time because I have this baby but I feel lonely — we definitely discussed that.
"You could voice those concerns you have in your head."
Candace Postal, clinical counsellor and one of the creators of the program, said of these feelings that, "Those are the thoughts as moms that we don't talk about and this gives them a place to voice it and feel normal."
Postal and Jackie Dickinson, the interim outreach supervisor at WCSS, designed the program specifically with a mental-health component in mind, but new moms need not have a diagnosis of anxiety or depression to attend.
"Moms can feel overwhelmed," said Postal. "It's really a place where they can talk openly about complexities — and the beauty of motherhood. Just seeing moms empowered and knowing they can do this thing called motherhood together."
Dickinson said she was seeing lots of new moms who were trying to figure out who to reach out to.
"Some of the anxiety and fear was the result of isolation," said Dickinson, who explained that most people who live in Whistler don't have extended family support. "I think a lot of women are at risk (for anxiety or depression) because of the rural nature of our community."
Postal said the results are obvious.
"As a counsellor working with anxiety and depression, that's been the beauty of this. No matter the severity of anxiety or depression in the moms that we've seen, after eight sessions it is definitely reduced," said Postal.
Dickinson said what the program works toward is a postpartum adjustment.
"Anxiety or depression look and sound and feel very different for many people," she said. "We ensure women feel they have support."
The eight-week program is free and childcare is available. For information, go to mywcss.org/programs/birth-baby-and-beyond.
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