Diapers are overflowing from the bin, there’s either spit up or this morning’s breakfast on your shirt, the counter is brimming with bottles or sippy cups, and you spend most of your day speaking to a tiny human that can’t respond. Now imagine that there’s a place where you can step away from all of this for an hour to enjoy conversations with a licensed professional counselor, experienced mother-baby nurse, and other moms in the same position. Imagine no more! The Huntsville Hospital Mothers Offering Mothers Support (MOMS) group is just what you need!
What is MOMS?
MOMS is a welcoming and open support groups for mothers of all walks of life with the goal of helping new and toddler moms feel less alone in the challenges of early motherhood. The group is open to all individuals, regardless of where you delivered, and offers a safe space to share your struggles, receive advice, sit in solidarity with other mothers, and feel less alone. Meeting every first and third Thursday of the month from 11 a.m. – noon, the group is the perfect self-care opportunity – no childcare required!
Although the group primarily consists of a group conversation from participating mothers, it is led and facilitated by Alicia Schuster-Couch, a licensed professional counselor specializing in perinatal mental health, and Katrina Stevens, a registered nurse that has been a licensed childbirth/parenting instructor for the Huntsville Hospital parent education program for 17+ years. So in addition to receiving encouragement from fellow moms in the trenches, this group provides experienced and professional help from healthcare providers that care.
The Importance of MOMS for Local Families
A healthy baby can’t happen without a healthy mom. One important way to take care of yourself is through building community. The MOMS group offers that community and a place where isolated mothers can feel less alone with their thoughts.
“We just have a lot of affirmations and encouragement that most of the things are normal – its normal to be anxious, normal to be fearful and frustrated. And we’re also working through some of those guilty feelings of ‘I thought it’d be this way and it’s not’ and any condemnation involved with that. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, and thats okay. Especially with Alicia being a licensed professional counselor she is able to offer tools for what everyone is struggling with and work through different spectrums of anxiety – even determine if it is postpartum depression and when to get help,” Stevens said.
Schuster-Couch shares similar sentiments and says the group is a safe space for mothers to feel heard and even help other mothers going through similar struggles.
“From my point of view I think it’s really normalization and sharing the story. I think with any mental health issue there is a degree of isolation – what’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? So when you’re in a group and someone says something similar, that can be really validating. I think being able to ask the question to moms first of all and to two licensed professionals can be important to get some factual advice,” Schuster-Couch said.
Why It Matters
It’s estimated that 15 – 20% of women experience significant symptoms of depression or anxiety, but with many suffering in silence, it’s likely even more than that. Even without the added complications of a postpartum mood disorder, mothers experience a high level of stressors in the early years of motherhood.
Between sleep deprivation, changed relationship dynamics, increased pressure from friends and family, and the constant demands of parenthood, mothers are in need of support more than ever. The MOMS group aims to offer that encouragement and a sense of hope from other mothers that have been through it before.
Having experienced postpartum depression after the birth of her first child, Stevens says the groups is something she wishes she would have had access to then.
“I also personally had experience with postpartum depression with my daughter and didn’t realize that was what it was until she was 18 months old and it felt like a cloud lifted. Being able to be a part of something like this – I wish I had been able to have support similar or knew of opportunities for more support back then,” Stevens said.
Schuster-Couch said taking that first step and admitting that you need help can be a challenging task, but worth the effort in the end.
“I think with anything related to saying ‘I am struggling and I need help’ is really hard, but you are not alone and this is totally normal and totally treatable. Take the risk and show up and see what happens.”
The MOMS group meets every first and third Thursday of the month from 11 a.m. – noon in the Huntsville Hospital Medical Mall Wellness Classroom. You can learn more and register here.
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Lauren Lee is a longtime dog mom transitioning to life as a rookie human mom. She is married to her college sweetheart, Josh, and they welcomed their son, Oliver, to the world in June. Lauren is a Jacksonville State University alumni and has been a published writer since she was sixteen. In her free time, Lauren enjoys reading, writing, knitting and hiking with her two dogs.