ATLANTA — Thousands of moms across Georgia have found a way to connect with and support each other through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was very nerve wracking," said Chelsea Hinkle, who was pregnant and gave birth during lockdown. “It was definitely not what you imagined when you're a little girl ,thinking that you're going to have everybody there, meeting your baby.”
Hinkle, like so many, didn't expect the pandemic would have such a profound impact on her first pregnancy.
“We thought that it would be over by the time we were either pregnant or giving birth," she said.
But, of course, things don’t always turn out how we expect.
“I always wanted to be a mother, so I was super, super excited for it," Hinkle said. "But...I lost my dad, 15 days postpartum. I had a two week old baby and we're right in the middle of the COVID. I couldn't even go to the hospital with my mom. That was really really tough.”
Hinkle, in a world of alone, went looking for connection.
She found it in a virtual support group of other moms and trained facilitators, like Teresa Smith.
“The pandemic has caused us all to be very creative ways to connect," Smith said. “Studies have shown that women do much better when they are in a supportive network. There are mothers who need to hear that what they're experiencing is normal and it's ok.”
There are hundreds of virtual mom support groups that have been formed across Georgia during the pandemic.
“People need each other as humans, we need to be connected," Smith said. "To lose that and try to recreate that virtually has been both challenging and rewarding because we've seen that we can do it and it's happening.”
Clarissa Edmonson is also a facilitator for a support group called Embracing Mamas.
"Isolating, that's the word that I've been hearing a lot because they don't have that human contact like they did before because they want to protect their baby," Edmonson said. "The main goal with my group is to provide support, education and to share some of my experience of overcoming a lot of obstacles, especially as a teen mom."
For Hinkle – it’s been a turning point.
“When you hold on to those emotions, they start seeping out of you," she said. "It's something that we think we should bury, and we shouldn't."
Hinkle is learning to navigate her “new normal” without her dad, whose name, William, is now her son's.
Leave it to moms to turn a disconnected world into one that’s not so lonely, after all.
“If I can give you advice to anyone, it's definitely to be to seek help," Hinkle said. "Be an advocate for yourself, for your child, for your feelings. You have people at your fingertips.”
The support group Hinkle attends is Perfectly Imperfect Moms, though the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia.
You can learn more about their peer support groups here.
Additional support groups open to moms include:
- NAMI Georgia support group
- Parent to Parent Georgia
- Georgia Parent Support Network
- Perfectly Imperfect Moms
- Postpartum Support GA/International
- Embracing Mamas (teen mom focus)
- Mothers Tears & Mothers Care
- Pregnant in Atlanta & Atlanta Mommies
- Lekotek of Georgia (children with disabilities)
- MOMS Club
- Single Parent Groups
- Motherwise Support Group (Atlanta Birth Center)