When I was pregnant, I had goals for my maternity leave. I wanted to get out and do things with my baby as soon as I felt well enough to do so. Making connections and having social support is so important for postpartum mothers – increased social support in the postpartum period is associated with decreased rates of postpartum depression.
Needless to say, I didn’t get my dream maternity leave because as soon as I was “free” from the 6-week (or so) recovery, and right after Maggie had her first round of vaccines at 8 weeks (thus, beginning the time period where I felt comfortable taking her out and when most mom and baby programs allow you to participate) the pandemic reared its ugly head.
I am thankful that we have been easily able to socially distance at home, and that my baby has stayed safe through all of this thanks to Canada’s generous 12-month (or 18-month) maternity leave. However, I was definitely bummed at 2 months postpartum that I, for the foreseeable future, would be house bound.
Even though we were stuck in the house, I was still able to meet new moms. Isn’t that amazing?! That wouldn’t have been possible when I was a baby – but the internet and the variety of apps available at your fingertips can work wonders. So, I’m going to share some of the ways I was able to connect – although many of the programs/suggestions are specific to my area (some are available other places), many of these things are offered in different forms in other areas. Also – if you’re becoming a new parent when there is less restrictions, there may be even more options for you to explore!
*Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information on this blog should not be used as a substitute to medical advice or medical treatment. As always, your Primary Care Provider, a doctor, or another health professional is your best resource for specific questions and medical advice. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911.*
Suggestion: Start Building Connections Before Birth through Prenatal Programs!
We did a prenatal class through our local public health unit, but I found it offered little opportunity to build connections. The two best things that I did in pregnancy to make connections were: prenatal yoga classes and using the internet!
I talked recently about my Fave Apps During Pregnancy, and I mentioned a couple of sites with forums as well as Facebook. I personally didn’t use forums very much, but I did use Babycenter very early on and found a Facebook group for Canadian moms who were due the same month or the month after me. Ends up, I still chat with these ladies regularly on Messenger! It’s also a great place to ask questions (nothing medical but more “has your baby done ____ before?” type questions).
There are some groups on FB that are quite large and quite… different, to put it gently. This was a smaller group and it has been very normal/respectful. For early support/questions it was nice in pregnancy and it has been just as great postpartum. It’s been so nice to see everyone’s babies growing too!
I completed my prenatal yoga classes through a local women’s fitness centre called Fitness by the Lake. I’ll talk more about this more in the next section, as I am still a dedicated member! Many yoga studios offer prenatal yoga classes – it’s a great way to stay active during pregnancy and I liked it as time went on because it was low impact. It’s also a great way to connect with moms around the same stage as you – many that I met in the class I also see in other classes I do now, or have met through other mom and baby programs.
Postpartum Fitness Classes – Many Are Now Offered Online!
Being active and working out have been a huge part of my life for some time. I knew that I wanted that to continue after I had the baby and was medically cleared to go back to exercising. I spoke recently about my postpartum fitness journey and I mentioned that I had been doing a few different things to workout in this period.
Most of my classes I have done through Fitness By the Lake. Deb, the owner, is so great and accommodating. When COVID hit, I was worried about how I would get some variety into my workouts. If you read my fitness journey post, you’ll know I’ve been doing Brittany Lesser’s 1Hera program since 7 weeks postpartum, but I knew I wanted to try and add some other fitness in during the week for variety. I personally thrive on variety and so does my body – some people can do the same thing or similar workouts several times a week, but I like to switch it up.
Deb adapted her programming to be available by Zoom! It was awesome – it meant I still got to “see” other moms and babies while I worked out from home, which was actually incredibly convenient being Maggie was so little and it was generally easier for us to be at home at that time since everything she needed was right at our fingertips. So a few days a week, for a low price, I was able to have access to different classes to mix in with my 1Hera schedule. Some of my favourites have been: strength & tone (low impact) and barre blast.
I also did the mom and baby yoga classes via Zoom until restrictions were eased a bit and we were able to meet up, socially distanced of course, and do park yoga. This was an even better way to socialize and connect with moms – some of whom I had “met” through the Zoom classes prior which was cool. If any similar programming is available to you that is safe and social distanced, I highly recommend. It’s a great way to get out, socialize and stay active (and again, it is low impact so it eases you back into the workout life). Stephanie, the teacher for this particular class, is great because she works on areas that people in the class are finding particularly troubling that week – for me, it’s always back or hips and man does yoga help!
It’s also been nice for Maggie to get outside to the park – I bring my mat and a blanket, and a bunch of toys and she’s usually pretty happy to watch what the other babies are up to. I have felt like Maggie has been deprived of baby-to-baby interaction for a lot of her life because of the pandemic, but even allowing her to socialize from a distance has been great for her and she truly enjoys it.
Don’t Like Traditional Workouts? Try Dancing with Baby!
You can literally do this in your own home, but if you want to add a socialization component to it, there are programs for mom & baby such as Salsa Babies, which we did. They also offer Salsa Bellies, Salsa Tots and Salsa Senioritas programming – so it’s a great ‘alternative’ option for all ages.
Obviously this would have been more fantastic to do in person, but we were lucky that Sheila, who runs the local Salsa Babies in my area, offered her class via Zoom. It was only three of us in the class but it was nice to see other moms, get to chat for a bit before and after, and let the babies see each other on Zoom (which I think they all liked!).
Salsa is actually a really good workout too – I was burning over 300 calories per class (especially because I had the added weight of Maggie strapped to me in a carrier). It’s low impact, fun (because you’re dancing!) and babies generally enjoy it. It would always put Maggie to sleep which was great for me!
I know there are also a few other similar programs with different types of dance available for mom and babies. If you like dancing and having fun, I highly recommend it! Again – it’s another way to get out, connect, and stay healthy too!
Not Into Exercise-Related Socializing? Try a Mom and Baby Group Instead.
There are so many options for mom and baby groups, however many of them have been impacted heavily by the pandemic. I always imagined that we would do mom and baby classes at the library, or the local centers (EarlyON) near us during my mat leave – but that was not happening with COVID-19 as those places quickly closed their doors.
I found myself looking for other options and I was so happy and lucky to find Mommy Connections. This program is available in different locations across Canada, and for a reasonable fee you not only get to meet other moms (for me, it was virtually but now the programming is being offered indoors, distanced as well as in a hybrid format) but you also get to essentially sample a variety of mom and baby programming in your area (fitness, music, art, and more!) as well as learn from people in the field such as sleep consultants (I spoke to one recently!), Pediatric Physiotherapists (… also attended a webinar with one recently!), Registered Massage Therapists specializing in prenatal/postpartum and infant massage, Social Workers, and more!
Programs are available for 0-9 months, as well as 6-18 months (mini movers) which has slightly different programming for babies that are on the go. They also recently introduced in some areas, a mom and tot program for children 18 months to 4 years.
Although my group was offered virtually, we have actually met up several times in person in parks so we can remain distanced. It’s been so nice to connect and get to know each others babies this way – especially when I didn’t know if anything like this would even be possible with everything happening in the world around us!
What About Free Options?
Understandably, not everyone has money to invest in some of these ventures, especially with all the lay-offs recently. There are lots of free options too – some that I have mentioned already. Many libraries and child centers have begun to offer virtual programming too, and they are a good option in non-pandemic times too (if they offer any outdoor programs, that might be a good option at this time).
Facebook is of course a free option – it’s a different type of connection, but offers a form of social support nonetheless. Online groups shouldn’t be overlooked because they play a huge role in the lives of many.
Twitter has the whole #momtwitter sphere – although some parts of it (like all aspects of the internet) are not the best, you can form genuine connections on this platform. I personally have connected with some amazing women through this app (it’s also good for career networking, but that’s a different topic!). We use WhatsApp to chat or iMessage since we are located in different countries – they have honestly offered some of the best support I’ve had during maternity leave.
Even Instagram has a “mom” side to it – and there are women who are interested in forming genuine connections there too. I have actually made many of my blog collaborations through the site, as well as connected with like-minded mamas from my area or afar. You can also use Instagram to find fun things to do with your little in your area- it’s how I discovered Terre Bleu, for example.
I use both Twitter and Instagram to find good products for Maggie and I too. Instagram is where I found out about a lot of the (now online) mom markets that there are in my area, which offer discount codes to a variety of local small shops – they are often how I have become familiar with some of my favourites (new favourites list will be posted in 2 weeks for 5-8 months!). Without the Mama Market I would not have found out about Royal Threadz, and without my Insta connections I wouldn’t have won a giveaway through my local the Mom Market.
The possibilities are sort of endless! You can also rely on friends and family as a support and social option during these times – bonus if they are in your social circle or if they’re also on maternity leave!
The important point is – you don’t need to feel alone. Motherhood can be lonely and isolating. There are many ways to form connections postpartum, even during a pandemic. They may not be exactly as you imagined, but you can still socialize and receive support. You can share stories, ask for (non-medical) advice, and make new friends. If these exact options aren’t offered near you – reach out to those you know who have children and see if they did anything similar.
You don’t have to go through the turbulence and changes of postpartum alone! Find a way to connect that works for you.
If you are struggling in the postpartum period with feelings of loneliness, sadness, or even anger – or anything that doesn’t feel ‘right’ – don’t be afraid to reach out to your provider for help and support. If you’re someone’s partner, friend, or loved one, and you notice that things don’t seem just right – you can help them to reach out.