By Erin Malcolm
Each stage of motherhood brings new joys — and new challenges. With that, the support that each mom needs continuously evolves throughout her journey of motherhood.
“Taking an individualized approach is critical to the way we support mothers in various stages of motherhood,” said Ashley Hamershock, a mom of two and the managing editor at a locally focused parenting resource for moms and families called Co Springs Mom Collective.
When it comes to showing support for expectant mothers, one of the best things family and friends can do is simply be excited with them, Hamershock said.
“Every expectant mom is different, but one thing nearly every expectant mom craves is excitement about her pregnancy,” Hamershock said. “Whether she is unmarried and 17 or married 20 years and expecting her first (or fifth) baby at 43, she’s a little nervous, a little excited and needing unconditional excitement and support.”
Expectant mothers and families might also consider seeking professional help at this point; for example, a doula provides support to those who are having babies.
Colorado Mountain Doulas, a doula agency in Colorado Springs, provides physical, emotional and educational support during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.
For the helping hands at Colorado Mountain Doulas, taking an individualized approach to supporting moms in any stage always starts with meeting mothers right where they are, without judgment, said Jenn Leonard, a mom of three and the owner and family care coordinator at Colorado Mountain Doulas.
Some examples of specific support that Leonard’s team offers to pregnant women is help with everyday tasks around the house, nesting assistance by organizing the nursery, education classes about childbirth, postpartum and baby basics, in-home prenatal appointments and around-the-clock phone and text support.
Mothers of babies
This stage is perhaps the most crucial one for mothers. The Cleveland Clinic listed “limited social support” as one of the risk factors that increases a woman’s likelihood to experience postpartum depression.
The postpartum doulas at Colorado Mountain Doulas are trained to watch for the symptoms of postpartum depression, and they check in regularly with their postpartum clients to offer additional support and resources as needed.
“Support for new mothers has been proven to reduce postpartum depression,” said Leonard, referencing a publication in the National Library of Medicine, “Social Support, Postpartum Depression, and Professional Assistance: A Survey of Mothers in the Midwestern United States”.
One of the best forms of support that friends and family can provide for moms in this stage of motherhood is connection, Hamershock said.
“Being the mom of a newborn or infant is a bit like being in a black hole. There’s your world and the outside world,” she said. “That mama may feel isolated; and, as if she’s lost her own identity. Connection with other adults during this period of motherhood is important.”
In addition, Leonard recommended that a new mother’s support system should offer practical support with tasks such as house chores.
For those who financially have the means to help a new mom, paying for a postpartum doula can be a massive help. “One night to catch up on sleep each week, or a five-hour shift during the day to nap and shower can make a world of difference to a mother in need of a few hours to herself,” Leonard said.
Mothers of young children
Moms of young kids often live a life that is fast-paced and keeps them constantly on their toes.
“They deserve a break,” Hamershock said. “If you can, offer to babysit — even for just an hour — while they run errands alone. If you’re the spouse or significant other and you can afford it, book that mama a nearby hotel room for a night. Pack her pajamas, a bottle of wine or some sparkling water and a book she’s been meaning to read, then send her away.”
Sometimes a few moments of silence to reset is exactly what a mom needs to recharge and continue being the best mom she can be for her family.
Mothers of teens
Hamershock admits that parenting teens can sometimes be even tougher than parenting always-on-the-go toddlers.
The shift in independence during this time is something that many moms might need the support of another mom-friend to help carry them through.
“They might need a shoulder to cry on. They might need a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with an old friend to reminisce,” Hamershock said. “It’s easy to fall out of touch with longtime mom-friends when moms are no longer choreographing their kids’ social lives. But those friendships are more important than ever — call that friend today!”
Mothers of adult children
Mothers of adult children often experience a roller coaster of emotions as they transition into “empty nesters.” Giving mothers in this stage a space where they are welcome to brag and welcome to grieve is a support tip that Hamershock recommended.
Escaping the comfort zone to try new things is also a game changer for mothers who are navigating life with grown children.
“This is the time to ask that mom who has always been too busy to take a trip or to try a new hobby with you,” Hamershock said. “These are the days to build new relationships that don’t revolve mostly around kids.”
Hamershock calls moms “the heart of everything.”
And in that truth, supporters of moms in any stage should prioritize one principal piece of motherhood that Leonard’s team of doulas keeps at the core of their care:
Mothers are people first. Always.