“When I had my first child, I had severe prenatal and postnatal depression,” says 29-year-old Jessica Ramsden of Cape Elizabeth. “I retreated into myself. I really didn’t have any support network other than my mom, who had a full-time job, and my husband, who had a full-time job. Postpartum depression is part chemical and part hormonal, but a huge part of it is the isolation of thinking it’s just you and this child.”
Talking with her husband about having a second child was a touchy subject, but Ramsden instinctively knew it would be different if she made sure she wouldn’t be isolated. She joined Mom to Mom of Maine, a volunteer-run organization that has been helping southern Maine mothers maintain their individuality, creativity and emotional health for 15 years. Then she went through her second pregnancy—three years ago—with a tribe of women going through the same phases of life.
“Hundreds of years ago, people didn’t live alone, and moms didn’t do it all by themselves,” says Ramsden, who also works from home as a seamstress and sews handmade bags. “I joined Mom to Mom and the experience of my second pregnancy was like night and day, having the network I needed.”
The $35 annual membership includes invites to meetups at homes, playgrounds and indoor play areas as well as field trips to kid-friendly places such as farms, baseball games and ice skating. Last year, Mom to Mom had a big Halloween party with more than 100 people, as well as a singer and a balloon artist. Some years they have a Momapalooza pampering night with massages and pedicures. Members share access to passes to the Children’s Museum of Maine, Narrow Gauge Railway and Southworth Planetarium.
“This is for moms, but it’s also for kids,” says Ramsden, whose boys look forward to running around with their little buddies. “There’s something every week.”
For 35-year-old Rana Daniel, who has a preschooler, a toddler and an infant, the term stay-at-home mom is definitely a misnomer.
“Since having Eloise, every day we’ve gone somewhere, usually a Mom to Mom event,” says Daniel, a Mom to Mom board member from Cumberland. She nurses baby Eloise and enjoys adult conversation with other moms, while her sons, 5-year-old Tom and 3-year-old Ben, play with their friends. “Anytime there’s an event, I’m going to it,” Daniel says. “My kids end up knowing these other women, and when we’re at a playground, we’re looking out for each other out of the periphery.”
Daniel went through her most recent pregnancy on roughly the same timeline as another Mom to Mom board member, 32-year-old Marianne Connelly of Westbrook, who joined after her older son was born 2 1/2 years ago. “It was super helpful to have somebody who was at almost the same stage,” Connelly says. “Basically we just got to complain to each other about all the hard parts of pregnancy.”
Many of the 134 members of Mom to Mom have moved from other states, including Erica Kenosi of Cape Elizabeth, with her 8-month-old daughter Lillian in tow.
“I’m a new mom and new to Maine,” said Kenosi, who is 40 and from western Massachusetts. “I’m making new friends and some friends for Lillian, because our house is very quiet and she needs interaction.”
“Mom to Mom is a judgment-free zone,” says Mia Proctor, a 33-year-old mom of two from South Portland. “I know other moms—my husband’s friends’ wives. But these women here all met through Mom to Mom, and everyone has different backgrounds, which I really like. Everyone’s there for each other. I ask questions and get answers from different points of views, like ‘how is your baby sleeping?’”
Just being together, moms get advice on everything from packing for the beach with a baby to recommendations on pediatricians and kid-friendly restaurants.
“When in doubt, just post in the group and see what everyone thinks,” Ramsden says, adding that she saw a comment about a machine that dispenses the correct number of ounces of formula at the perfect temperature. “Where had that been all my life?” she quipped.
For more information on Mom to Mom, go to momtomomofme.org.
Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough who writes about women’s groups for mixing and mingling.