CircleMoms focuses on early motherhood and community and travels to Westport

WESTPORT — Ani Widham was just one of many Greenwich mums looking for like-minded people in the first three months after giving birth.

With their second child, AnnaVi, aged just 3 months, Windham said, “I found it comforting to talk to other moms who were going through the same experiences as me.”

She and other local moms found that comfort with CircleMoms, an organization that supports and connects communities of postpartum moms.

how it started

Susannah Anderson and Brittany Forman founded CircleMoms in 2018 in San Francisco. The organization focuses on the first three months of motherhood with location-specific support groups, virtual meetings, and online resources.

CircleMoms has taken off across the country, with a group in Greenwich and one coming to Westport in September.

“It’s really a safe place for women to come together in an organized way with set topics for discussion, where they can be heard and tell and normalize the experience of having a newborn,” Forman said.

Each circle discusses a new topic each week, ranging from birth stories to sleep, nutrition, postpartum emotions and development, and exercise for the mothers. The topics focus on the 0 to 3 month timeframe and the milestones and challenges that often occur within it. CircleMoms also offers a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, Pediatric Physiotherapist and Doula to answer questions related to beginning motherhood.

Roughly every two months, new mothers join a circle, so there is constant rotation; The average participation lasts about five weeks.

Before CircleMoms, Anderson and Forman worked together as nutritionists and health coaches at a company called Parsley Health. After having their own children, they said they became passionate about the intersection of motherhood and well-being. They wanted to build a community that they could connect with right after birth.

And then along came CircleMoms.

Forman moved to Greenwich during the pandemic, which brought CircleMoms to the area. She said that after Greenwich circles started in March 2021, they had many mothers from nearby towns.

Westport, which is further north, was a bit distant from Greenwich, so they decided to start a circle there because they thought mothers in that area would be drawn to it, she said.

“Having other people to relate to, share ideas with, or listen to,” she said, “it’s just so helpful for feeling less alone and less isolated and this journey of to make motherhood more enjoyable.”

getting together

“We’re finding that women can bond a lot during these transitional periods of life,” Forman said.

“The fourth trimester can be a very isolating time and a big transition period for the mother,” Anderson said. “Feeling not alone by coming together with a group of other moms in the same phase is a big part of postpartum care.”

Widham said moms often seek advice online.

“Being able to connect face-to-face with other moms and experts is so much more helpful, reassuring and rewarding,” she said.

“Having a set event to leave the house for is so helpful in getting into a good routine, and being able to ask experts in person about any questions you have will be a lot more reassuring than it is in person.” searching the internet for answers,” Widham said.

Margaret McClure, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Fairfield University, said peer support groups like CircleMoms are invaluable because becoming a mother is a tremendous transition.

“New moms struggle with sleep deprivation and caring for a newborn, many are learning how to breastfeed, and a large percentage are also making a physical recovery from childbirth,” McClure said. “Mood swings and anxiety are normative experiences for new mothers, particularly those who are also experiencing hormonal changes that accompany childbirth and breastfeeding.”

McClure said that 10 to 15 percent of new mothers develop symptoms that reach the clinical threshold for disorders such as postpartum depression.

However, she said: “Peer support groups provide a way for mothers to check on each other and members of these groups are likely to notice changes.

“These are other people who can understand that you can worship your child and be totally exhausted and at your limit at the same time,” she said.

According to Franc Hudspeth, Chair of Counselor Education at Sacred Heart University, “An attachment experience like this offers the benefits of interacting with a group of people with similar situations and needs.”

He also said that the first three months after giving birth are a transition.

“Even those who have planned well can find the time overwhelming as they develop new routines that now involve caring for a newborn,” Hudspeth said. “Adult attachment is similar to a child’s attachment to a parent in that it’s about attachment. Through mutual interactions, people develop a sense of trust and security, and they bond with others.”

McClure said, “Toddlers have unpredictable schedules and new parents spend a lot of time at home caring for the infant. This can result in women becoming isolated, especially now that the pandemic may be making new moms even more reluctant than usual to be with other people.

“Also, the people in these women’s existing social support networks, friends and family members, are likely not experiencing the same life stage, so cultivating new social support networks is crucial,” she said.

Another mother, Danielle Glenn, attended the Fall 2021 Greenwich program with her 5-week-old baby Charles.

Glenn said it quickly became the highlight of her week.

“The mothers in our group all brought very different experiences from the past,” Widham said. “Some worked in healthcare, some in tech, some in government, and we all got the bond of being new moms together.”

Kenley Vinett also attended the Greenwich Circle with her then 9-week-old baby Roger.

Vinett said the first three months after childbirth are difficult for moms, whether it’s their first child or not. She said she liked the session where a child physiotherapist came to speak to the group.

“We learned some great tips on how to support our babies’ physical development that I haven’t learned anywhere else,” said Vinett. “Because of the format and the way the doula leads the session, each week is part therapy session, part reconnaissance session, and part social hour with other new moms. It was just what we all needed.”

Hudspeth said CircleMoms is similar to what counselors call “attachment training.” In doing so, he said, “the goal is to support and develop the parent-child relationship. For CircleMoms, the goal is more the parent-parent relationship. In the end, both would lead to better relationships between mothers and children.

“The meaning is in the connection,” he said. “The pandemic and the social distancing of individuals. At the height of the pandemic, many were learning to connect through platforms like Facetime and Zoom. So why not use this ability to connect in a safe way so new moms can connect with others with similar experiences?”

build relationships

“We love to hear from our moms, after they come full circle, that they’re still in touch and see each other often,” Anderson also said. “We hope moms go home with a community to continue to lean on.”

Even as a new mom, Widham said she learned a lot from the other women in her circle. Without CircleMoms, she said, she wouldn’t have developed important and lasting friendships.

Glenn said: “I’ve met so many smart, kind and interesting women who were in exactly the same stage of life and situation as me and we bonded immediately.

“We really appreciated that there were a couple of second-time moms in our group, so this is for all new moms and not just first-timers,” Glenn said. “Every baby is different. Our circle greatly appreciated the guidance of the women who had gone through this before.”

Anderson said that the first Westport circle

begins September 14th at Kaia Yoga Westport.

“We know that many of these moms have recently relocated to Westport during the pandemic and are in the process of building their new community,” Anderson said. “We hope to be part of it.”

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