Pregnant Parents Collect Info, Friends

It’s tough being pregnant. (I am told.)

It can even be tougher once your baby is born — particularly if your partner works long hours, and you’re home alone. (That makes sense too.)

Every new mother has questions and concerns. Every new mother needs a support network.

The Brits have an answer. Their National Childbirth Trust offers pre-natal classes — organized by neighborhood and due date. Mothers-to-be receive important information — and new mums have a ready-made, nearby group of friends.

Melissa Griffin is a native of London. When her daughter was born 5 years ago, the NCT was a godsend.

Jessica Hill is American. She spent 10 years in the UK. When her son was born there 7 years ago, she was an ocean away from family. She too found education and friends at the Trust.

Melissa Griffin and Jessica Hill.

Melissa Griffin and Jessica Hill.

Melissa and Jessica did not know each other in England. But a few years ago, both moved to Westport. Both had children at the same pre-school. As they became friends, both realized that nothing like the National Childbirth Trust existed here.

So they set out to create one.

“So many newcomers in Westport are pregnant,” Jessica says. “It can be an isolating experience. You have no way to meet people. And once the baby comes, you’re on your newborn’s schedule.”

Beginning last fall, the women conducted focus groups. Out of those discussions came The Parent Collective.

Parent Collective logoIn some ways, it’s even better than the NCT. Melissa and Jessica reach out to women pregnant with their 2nd or 3rd children. Husbands are warmly welcomed too.

The Parent Collective launches its first classes this fall. They’ll be taught by labor delivery nurses, childbirth educators, lactation specialists and therapists, from Yale and St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Each group of 12-15 couples will attend 4 sessions (once a weekend, for a month). There’s 90 minutes of content, and 30 minutes of socializing (“tea and biscuits,” Melissa calls it).

First-time parents will talk about labor and delivery, pain management and relaxation, breast and bottle feeding, and new baby care. Second- and 3rd-timers get a refresher on delivery and newborn care, plus sleep training and scheduling tips, strategies for helping older children adjust, and — kids are encouraged to attend — how to be a good big brother or sister.

Classes are “judgment-free,” Melissa notes. “It’s not about breast feeding or bottle feeding, or natural childbirth versus Caesareans.”

The women begin with 3 locations: Intensity Fitness on the Westport/Norwalk border, Magic Beans toy store in Fairfield, and Go Figure barre studio in New Canaan. All are “peaceful, beautiful, clean spaces,” Jessica says.

(Photo/courtesy of Classic Kids Greenwich)

(Photo/courtesy of Classic Kids Greenwich)

Sure, hospitals offer informational sessions for new parents. But, Jessica says, they don’t include the social aspects. It’s important for wives (and their husbands) to form friendships with others whose kids will be born around the same time. They can offer each other help — with newborns, and with life.

Jessica’s husband reluctantly went to the London NCT group, she says. He quickly learned how to help her in many ways.

She recalls an exercise the men went through: Donning a backpack filled with water bottles, and wearing it around their chest and stomach. “It was eye-opening,” she smiles.

The response during this roll-out phase has been uplifting. Mothers-to-be are delighted to find both support and friends. Ob/Gyns are recommending it to their patients.

Jessica couldn’t imagine being pregnant, and then a new mother, without the NCT. She recalls her last session, when the group planned a party before their due dates — and scheduled a morning coffee for after their babies arrived.

Her new British parent friends acted collectively.

Now — thanks to the Parent Collective — Fairfield County parents can do the same.

(The Parent Collective is accepting applications for its fall classes. Parents who are due then — and any others — can click here for more information.)

3 responses to “Pregnant Parents Collect Info, Friends

  1. Janette Kinally

    What a great idea! We need this so badly in this area. I would attend, but I am done having kids! I will be referring people in to you. Dan, thanks for sharing this with us. It is so valuable to have resources like this one.
    Wishing you much success with this new venture ladies!!!

  2. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    As a grandmother I applaud this. When I was a new Mom a thousand miles form home and new to the area this would have been exactly what I needed. More importantly, one of my daughters in law was able to join a similar group in Montana. That grandchild is now almost five. The Mom’s from her group still get together and the children are all friends. This type of support group is wonderful for new and expectant Mom’s and Dads. (Did I mention… all the dads are friends now also?)

  3. When I had my daughter 18 years ago Norwalk Hospital had a program called “The Fourth Trimester.” We met every Friday morning for much of the same sorts of learning and sharing opportunities. We continued after the program ended and about a dozen of us met at each of our homes until the kids were five years old! It was a great help, and created some treasured friendships.