Noe Valley Voice February 1999

A Natural Meeting Place for Moms and Babies

By Dodie Hamblen

Being a new mom is wondrous and awe inspiring. It can also be scary and exhausting. New moms seeking the company of kindred spirits would do well to drop in on the Mother and Baby Support Group run by Natural Resources childbirth education center.

Each Thursday morning, as many as 20 moms with gurgling babies in tow fill the back room of Natural Resources' Castro Street storefront. Amid the friendly hum of mothers' greetings -- and the sounds of babies exercising tiny lungs -- everyone settles in for an hour and a half of sharing the joys and frustrations of new motherhood.

The group, which is open to moms with newborns up to age 6 months, is facilitated by Michele Mason, an educator and lactation consultant who has led postpartum classes at Natural Resources since it opened in 1988.

(Natural Resources offers a bundle of services for new and expectant families. It has books for sale, a video rental service, and a lending library, plus lists of obstetricians, midwives, labor assistants, and childcare providers. The store sells baby supplies, and even rents water-birth tubs and breast pumps. But one of its main functions is holding classes on pregnancy and parenting.)

A mother of three, Mason has great practical knowledge about newborns. She encourages moms to take it easy in the first few months after childbirth. "It's important to take care of yourself when you're doing this very important work."

During the mom-baby support group, Mason lets the mothers set their own agenda by sharing their concerns, experiences, and feelings. The issues that come up most often are breastfeeding and sleep-- or the lack of it. The group members also exchange tips on health care, nutrition, exercise, work, and relationships.

At a recent gathering, one of the topics was how to deal with unsolicited advice from family and friends. "When they ask you if your baby sleeps through the night," offered one experienced mother, "just say yes," and that will end the discussion.

Margo, the mother of 6-week-old Jer-emy, remarked, "This is my first time here. It's just so wonderful to hear all this stuff."

Another benefit of the group is that it's a way for women to make friends with other new moms. Many then arrange to get together outside the group for a walk or a quick burrito on 24th Street.

Monica Green has been attending the support group since 15-week-old Odessa was 6 weeks old. "I love Odessa and I love to play with her. But the hardest thing about motherhood is the isolation. It's great to sit in a room with a bunch of people who are going through the same things you are."

Green also applauds Mason's skill as a facilitator. "I think Michele provides a valuable role. She has a lot of experience and a lot of useful advice to share. She keeps us on track. She has helped me realize that every baby is different."

"Michele is an important part of Natural Resources," agrees Lisa Moresco, co-owner of the store. "She's awesome. She stays on top of all the latest information. She does an amazing amount of reading. And she's great with the moms."

For her part, Mason is pleased that many of the group's mothers and babies form lasting bonds. "I have seen 6- and 7-year-olds here in Noe Valley who met at the moms group, and they are still in touch and are good friends."

The Mother and Baby Support Group meets on Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Natural Resources, 1307 Castro St. The cost is $48 for six sessions, or $9 per session. Members of Natural Resources ($35 to $60 annually) receive a 10 percent discount. For more information call 550-2611.