by Jenny Johannsen
The story of motherhood is meant to be all completely “over the moon” joyous from the moment you set eyes on your precious bundle of joy. I know that when I became a mother it was one of the most emotional moments I will ever have. And the second time was just as sweet. Looking into the sweet face of your babies is so overwhelming and filled with joy, pride, and anticipation.
Those are the first moments and then after that the reality of motherhood sets in and your roller coaster begins. It is so much fun to be on the roller coaster, but in so many ways the hills and turns are very scary and unpredictable. After being an independent women for 37 years, it was a challenging transition at first. Being home and breastfeeding a newborn every 2-3 hours was so enjoyable for me, but also a struggle on many occasions. Everything did not go as planned and living in a new town it was hard to be on my own for the 9 hours, that I counted down, until my husband came home from work to help fill the quietness of our days. I really struggled with being home by myself and caring for a colicky baby. She loved me so much she had to be held all day or she would throw fits and cry and cry and cry if I put her down. I was so tired and so exhausted being up most of the night and then not receiving much of a break during the day. It never felt like I had any “downtime.” My husband would come home and as soon as he got there, there were tears streaming down my face. Tears of fear, struggle, facing that feeling of failure that everything was not going exactly as I expected.
I was very thankful for two things as the mother of a newborn; the first group of moms I joined, the breastfeeding group at the local hospital one day a week, and that group lead me to the second group of moms, our local chapter of Mothers & More. The breastfeeding group was led by 2 amazing lactation consultants and mothers. They were kind, patient, amazing women that helped me in the darkest of my mommy-fail type days. These were days when my little baby would cry and cry and I knew it was a problem with breastfeeding. They lifted my spirits, encouraged me to push through it, educated me on what was normal, and made me feel like it was not me and that many moms were going through what I was. It was in that weekly moms group that I met a mom that had been a part of Mothers & More of McHenry County for 5 years. She was the same age as I, her son was just 2 months older, we were both breastfeeding, and we were both social workers prior to staying home with our babies. It was such a great feeling to meet someone who was on the same page and lived in the same town. She immediately invited me to join Mothers & More. In fact, she was hosting a Bunco game night that very next month and invited me to join them. As a very social person, of course, I jumped at the chance to go out with other moms for a few hours. The sad part was, the whole time I was worried about my breastfed baby, since I always had a hard time pumping and her accepting a bottle. So I cannot say I really “enjoyed” my night, but I did love the ladies I met and knew it was the very thing that would keep my sanity in tact on this roller coaster ride that had just started.
And the group became more than I could ever have imagined. It gave me a place to ask questions and seek advice. It gave me a safe and trusted place to cry about my frustrations and challenges. It gave me great friends that without I am not sure I would have made it at all. It truly was and is my sanity. The social outings are spent laughing and sharing and making plans for other amazing events. The board meetings are about ways to improve our group and continue to engage the other mothers in the community to join. The group also gave me a way to become a part of something beyond being a stay-at-home mom. As I became more involved, I took on roles within the group not only to support the group, but to enhance my life with sort of a “work-life” again. It was nice to be so connected and a part of this amazing group of moms. Mothers & More is the single most important thing to me as a new mom. And the best part, I can stay in it as long as I want. It is not a group that is just for preschool moms or school-aged moms. That is the great part, I can be a seasoned mom with older children and still be part of this supportive group.
One additional thing that impresses me about this group is that the 2 hard-working employees at national really care about the group. As the treasurer of our local chapter, I have been able to connect a little with these women. They are honest, share their worries, reach out for volunteers, and alongside the board are looking for the best way for our organization to move into the future with a plan for success. I am currently on one of the committees that are focusing on ways to continue to grow and improve our group. When I look back at this time a few years from now, I will be able to see all the amazing progress we have made. With hopes that we have engaged our alumni, grown our local chapters and created new chapters, and most importantly helped new moms across the nation receive this group into their lives to connect them to local and supportive moms in their community. Every mother needs an organization like this to survive and conquer the joys and challenges of motherhood.