by Elaine Milmine
3D Drumchapel is a community based project, working with and supporting children and families in the local area, from pre-birth to primary school and beyond. We offer a wide variety of services including parenting groups, confidence building sessions, parent/child play sessions, and peer support groups. The common theme in all of these and one of the most important aspects is peer support.
In our perinatal groups, whether a first time mum or a fifth time mum, pregnancy can be a happy but sometimes daunting time, with fluctuations in hormones, bodily changes, cravings, and general anxieties that come along with being responsible for growing another human being inside you. Friends, family and colleagues may be supportive, but with the best of intentions they will not fully understand what you are going through. And where every pregnancy and indeed every individual experience of pregnancy is different, having someone to chat to who is in a similar position to you can make all the difference.
In all of our groups, regardless of background, the one thing that everyone has in common is being part of the group. It is an excellent opportunity for parents to talk about pregnancy, parenthood and to share their experiences, and also just to chat and have some adult company.
We are well aware of the importance of supporting the family unit, and so we welcome dads and male partners to be involved as much as possible. Antenatal peer support is particularly important as dads often get overlooked at a time when they too may be going through a cavalcade of emotions. Getting together with others in a similar situation can be a useful exercise in helping them to feel a part of something too, and as with mums, sharing experiences and offering support to one another in an environment that is safe and non-judgemental.
The arrival of the baby can be a time of great joy, but can also lead to isolation and challenges as options are limited and parents are maybe on parental leave from work. There is also the very real risk that for some they may be on their own with a baby, or have very little support by way of family and friends. Having contact with others with babies around the same age can be the only social interaction some parents get and can be a lifeline as they are able to make new friends, often friends who will become long term or lifelong friends. It is a great chance to form new bonds and alliances and learn from one another.
At 3D, we are lucky enough to be able to offer support and services beyond the perinatal period, and over the years we have seen many friendships evolve as parents continue to come along to sessions with their children, as their children grow and develop.
Any peer support during the perinatal period and beyond is a bonus has real potential to make the journey much easier and less stressful for everyone involved.