Wednesday, August 04, 2021

A helping hand: Mineral Moms Support Group

Mineral Independent | July 21, 2021 12:00 AM

After a baby is born, it’s not all pink or blue balloons, bassinets, and bliss.

The postpartum period is a demanding chapter of a woman’s life overwhelmed by biological, physical, social and emotional changes.

Unbelievable personal and interpersonal adaptations take place.

Along with these huge life adjustments many mothers also find that in the social media, pandemic times we live in, isolation can sometimes be the tender topping on the cake of motherhood.

Heather Pecora would know.

This Superior woman has taken her personal experience with postpartum trials and dared to find a way to help others with the same struggles.

“As happy as I was to become a mother in June of 2020 to my wonderful son, Mason, I knew after his birth that I was not myself. I later found out I had postpartum anxiety,” she said.

By now everyone has heard of postpartum depression. Postpartum anxiety is a close cousin but not as common, but it is every bit as upsetting. Although it’s not as well-known as PPD, 5-10 percent of new moms experience postpartum anxiety.

While PPD can trigger tears and a sense of hopelessness, PPA is marked by fears, obsessive concerns, scary thoughts and irritability.

Moms may have an overall feeling of uneasiness. Often, they’ll experience obsessive behaviors and intrusive thoughts that are disturbing, unwanted, and out-of-character. A new mom might find herself checking 50 times to make sure the baby is still breathing, or having an unshakeable worry that your baby will be harmed in some way.

Pecora recalled, “In the following weeks, I hit nearly every roadblock in breastfeeding. This new and intense physical demand, plus a very taxing mental state, made my fourth trimester darker than I anticipated.”

On top of becoming a mother, the courage to pack up and relocate their family to Montana was a big transition. Pecora was born and raised in Pullman, Washington.

After marrying her high school sweetheart, Josh, in 2016 they moved to Utah for three years.

“We always dreamed of ending up in Montana, so when we got the opportunity to move up here for my husband's business, we were ecstatic!" she said. "We knew we didn't want to be in the city, so we looked for a place to live somewhere in the outskirts and were lucky enough to find Superior. Currently, I am a stay-at-home mom and do the bookwork for our businesses.”

But with no family close by and attempting to make new friends as they adjusted to parenthood, Pecora felt very alone.

“Being a new mom in a new town can feel very isolating, especially during this pandemic," Pecora said. "Events I could normally attend to make friends were cancelled. Classes offered through the hospital were online. Buildings were closed, so even the simplest interactions were gone.

“For me, one of the biggest challenges I faced when becoming a new mom soon after moving was loneliness, which was certainly exacerbated by the pandemic. That is another reason that I wanted to create this group. I wanted mothers to have a place to go to talk, get advice from each other, and make friends.”

That’s why Pecora was inspired to create the Mineral Moms Support Group.

"This support group was made possible by the Circle of Parents organization, the Family Connections Collaborative (FCC), and the Healthy Communities Coalition (HCC)," she said. "I want to give a huge thank you to all the wonderful women who have supported me through this process.”

This spring Pecora received a grant through the FCC for training on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, as well as training to become a Certified Lactation Counselor.

She was able to attend a training in Butte to become a group leader for Circle of Parents.

“Once I was finished training, I created a survey to see what mothers in our area wanted out of a support group," Pecora said. "I was blown away with how much interest this group got! After I honed in on what this group was going to be, Mineral Moms Support Group was created.”

She hopes that this group will allow moms to engage with one another and create a sense of community that is sorely lacking.

“In modern day motherhood, it is easy to feel alone in your experiences, especially the negative ones," Pecora said. "It used to be that the only way to connect with others was to see them in person. The mindset of "it takes a village" was more prevalent. Mothers were able to work together to raise the children and help each other through that process.

“Now, social media creates a perfect image of what motherhood "should" be like, and it is a nearly impossible standard. And once women start to compare themselves to that, it can become a viscous cycle. I have had several conversations with mothers who have faced challenges very similar to mine, but without meeting and talking about it, we each never would have known that someone else felt how we did.”

Pecora understands how important it is to reach out and work to get better.

“Luckily, I had the help of a wonderful lactation consultant and therapist in Missoula. Through their counsel and compassion, I was able to overcome these hardships,” Pecora said.

Through those challenges she felt compelled to help others.

“It was then that I decided that all women should have access to as much support as they need, and then some, and I wanted to contribute to that cause. Due to my personal experience in both, I became passionate about breastfeeding and perinatal mental health,” said Pecora.

Mineral Moms Support Group will meet at 2 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at 102 River Street, in Superior.

You can follow Mineral Moms Support Group on Facebook or @MineralMomsSupport in Instagram to stay informed about the meeting locations and activities.

Children are welcome and there will be free food offered at each meeting. Pecora plans to offer free childcare during the get togethers. With limited childcare availability this will be a great opportunity for mothers to get some free "me time."

Pecora will also be arranging guest speakers to come discuss topics such as nutrition, prenatal/postnatal exercise, breastfeeding, newborn care, and mental health.

“I am hoping this group can grow and become what mothers in our area need it to be. I want to welcome any mother into this group. There is no commitment and it is completely free. We strive for a relaxed and judgement free place for women to come together and talk about motherhood and all that comes with it.”

Lastly Pecora said, “Motherhood is a beautiful thing, and it can also be challenging. I hope that this group can be a place of connection, somewhere for mothers to realize that they are not alone, and that much of what we go through is a shared experience.”