Having a child and becoming a new parent is one of the greatest joys in life — but if we’re being honest, it’s also one of the most stressful and anxiety provoking. Thankfully, there are a number of resources in the Greater Washington and Northern Virginia areas for moms-to-be and new moms that provide mom-to-mom networks, support groups and even fun mom and baby events.
WJW spoke with Sarah Rabin Spira, PJ Library outreach associate at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and a mom of two, and Lauren Dworkin, also a mom of two and director of the Bender-Dosik Parenting Center at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, to get some real-life advice and learn about the programs they used to help them ease into becoming a mom.
WJW: How does a mom-to-be who is about to transition into parenthood remain calm?
Spira: I think it’s different for every mom in terms of keeping yourself calm. Many women have a nesting instinct to get the house ready for the baby, which is actually really good for nervous energy and for having a sense of control, because the end of your pregnancy is the last time you’re going to feel in control of anything. After that, nothing happens the way you expect it to. Just know that you can plan as much as you want as far as the actual birth goes, but it’ll never happen that way, and that’s OK.
WJW: What about right after you give birth? How can you expect to feel?
Spira: Exhausted. If possible, get as much sleep as you can in the hospital, because you’ll need a chance to recover. Once you’re home, don’t let anyone come over unless they have a broom or a casserole and are willing ot help. Don’t feel the need to entertain, it’s not something you can do at that point.
WJW: How do you get over the anxiety of knowing it’s your responsibility to take care of this newborn baby?
Spira: You don’t get over that fact, but as they get slightly less tiny you learn that they’re not that breakable. You get over some of the anxiety by talking to other moms and other women in your family who have had kids, and that extended network provides a really good touchstone of what’s normal and what’s not.
WJW: What organizations or utilities did you use when you became a new mom?
Spira: P.A.C.E groups [pacemoms.org] is a really great resource that helps you meet other women who are going through the same thing at the same time. You can also meet with moms who have had kids before, so you have someone who is there in the trenches with you and someone who is out of the trenches who can offer you some perspective.
WJW: What’s the most important thing that moms-to-be and new moms should remember?
Spira: You’re not alone. Parenting can be very isolating because you may feel that other people don’t know what you’re going through, but you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help whether it’s from your partner, a parent or a friend. To know that you have a support network of other people who are really there, especially in the Jewish community, which is like having a billion bubbes, let them take care of you and help you.
WJW: What are some of the resources offered to moms at the JCCGW?
Dworkin: There are a ton of resources that can be accessed at jccgw.org. This fall we’re bringing back a program that we piloted last year called Mommy Movie Monday where we show nearly new movies for moms and kids under the age of 12 months. It’s great because if your baby is crying or you need to nurse them, it’s totally fine because there are other moms there doing the same thing. It’s also a great way to get out and socialize and see a movie that they may have not seen otherwise. We also have two different story-time classes each week and we have a Friday Tot Shabbat program as well as a parenting lecture series called Parenting With Confidence with Dr. Kay Abrams that will start in October.
One great resource we have is a parent and community education class, and for families that are pregnant we offer L’Amazing Baby starting in the fall. We also have water babies classes in the aquatic center. We really have everything here.
WJW: Why do you think it’s important for new moms and moms-to-be to use these resources?
Dworkin: Being a new mom can be really scary. Because of the fear of being a new mom, people tend to stay close to home and I think it can be isolating and kind of lonely. The JCC is a great place, not only here in the parenting center, but the JCC as a whole, to have as a safe place to come out and meet new moms who are in the same situation, and while these classes are geared toward children, a huge piece of the parenting center is an opportunity for moms to meet other moms to get together and to share their experiences.
For more mom-to-be and new mom advice and resources, check out the Washington DC JCC parenting center at www.washingtondcjcc.org; Shalom Baby at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, www.jccnv.org; PJ Library at www.shalomdc.org and the Bender-Dosik Parenting Center at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington at www.jccgw.org.