Finding the Right Support Group

Posted by Katie Moriarty on
A scene from Episode 7.

Modern Day Midwife Katie Moriarty recounts the many types of support groups mothers can reach out to optimize your mind, body and/or spirit.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.

Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in Call the Midwife Season 6 Episode 7

“We face each day with expectations. If we’re lucky they are met - if they’re not we must deal with events as they unfold…. making good the disappointments … looking to bind what wounds we can. Good humor matters. Optimism matters. But we cannot write the rules of life and sometimes courage and resilience will matter most of all.” 

This episode was filled with those that either had a need or truly did reach out for specific support within a group setting. This Modern Day Midwife could not help but think of the growth and benefits of a variety of groups all focused to assist you optimize your mind, body and/or spirit. The varied examples within the episode were:

  • The families gathering to help each other as they had to be advocates for their children that have been exposed to thalidomide. This made me reflect on all the groups that are there to focus on a specific condition, disease or life event. 
  • Barbara suggesting that Shelagh “breathe her way to serenity.” This made me think of the growth of prenatal educational class options (LaMaze International, Birthing from Within, Hypnobirthing, Bradley Method, Mindful Birthing), along with prenatal models of care (Individual 1:1 appointments or Group Prenatal Care such as Centering)
  • Trixie facing her need to be honest regarding her alcoholism with Christopher. And I reflected on her growth through her involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous and her words about trust unfolds in a friendship.    
  • Lastly, the Antwon boys sharing the treasure of their newborn brother at their Cubs meeting. Phyllis had told them they would show treasures from home, practice their public speaking and learn new things.  What she wanted the children to learn was tolerance for each other!  The brothers showed their baby brother and explained that their mum is from Poplar and our dad is from Jamaica.

What do these situations have in common—they all found support within another person to help or learn within a group setting. They had varied names but they all were essentially support persons or support groups. Support groups gather people to discuss experiences, share ideas, and provide emotional support for one another. There are several objectives, such as to build confidence in your mind or body’s ability; to develop bonds or to deepen bonds with others; to discover and discuss options (hopefully in an evidence based way!), and to share fears, concerns or experiences. They can also give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with varied processes and a particular group can assist you in knowing how to help others through their challenges and to build skills or build on their strengths.

When choosing a group to engage with, you need to do a little bit of investigation to see if it is a good fit. You may want to know a little about the leader of the group. Often they have qualifications or a certification to facilitate or lead these sessions. For some types of specific conditions or issues, such as a bereavement group after the death of a loved one, or coping with a chronic medical condition such as something like cancer, you may find that the host agency (a hospital or a community agency) may even provide the group with a social worker or other trained counselor. Even with self-help groups, there should be one person willing to take the lead to be the facilitator.

You can also find support networks online. Some options can be friending and sharing of personal stories on blogs, online support groups, and discussion boards. These options can be helpful in satisfying the need for emotional support. In a recent study, a team led by Kirch, from the University of Michigan examined how cancer patients use the internet to collect health information, improve their patient engagement, and interact with other patients. They surveyed nearly 1,300 cancer patients at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and they report that nearly 85 percent of patients have access to the internet and use it at least weekly. The majority reported a positive experience. 

They also found that nearly 60 percent of what they termed social producers reported feeling reassured in their healthcare decisions and more empowered to ask their providers more detailed questions about their treatment plans. Another study you may want to check out is listed below—an article by Chung and colleagues (2014) which explores how online social networking can benefit patients. 

When you are exploring a group you may want to know the philosophy of the facilitator or the organization that you are about to engage with to see if there is a match with your needs or personal philosophy. If they are actual classes, such as with prenatal education—you should ask about the curriculum or how the time together will unfold. How active will you or your partners be within the processes you are engaging in? How often do you meet? Is there a cost involved? How many will be in the group? The spectrum of individuals within the group and explore if your particular needs will be met. 

If you are in need of a support group you may want to investigate HealthFinder.gov. It is amazing to see the array of options available to support people through so many different things. As well, below you can explore varied prenatal education opportunities. The biggest advantage can be that you may realize you are not alone and others share in this same issue, problem, or process. That in its own right may be a big relief and even a revelation.

“Thalidomide parents had no expectations but they fought for justice for more than 50 years –that fight remains ongoing distinguished by its dignity, fueled by anger and fueled by their love -- as children must be loved. There is no rule of life so simple or so true.”

KatieMoriarty.jpgKatie Moriarty, PhD, CNM, CAFCI, FACNM, RN is a professor on faculty at Frontier Nursing University and a Certified Nurse-Midwife with WSUPG CNM Service at Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Katie serves on the Board of Directors for the American College of Nurse-Midwives as the Region IV Representative. Previously she was the Associate Director of the Nurse-Midwifery Education Program at the University of Michigan.
Read More About Katie |  Read All Posts by Katie

REFERENCES & RESOURCES

Birthing from Within

Bradley method: Husband-coached Natural Childbirth

Centering Healthcare Institute

Chung, J.E.  (2014).  Social networking in online support groups for health: How online social networking benefits patients. Journal of Health Communication, 19(6), 639-59. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2012.757396.

HealthFinder.gov

Hypnobirthing

LAMAZE International Resources

Mindful Birthing

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PBS and Detroit Public Television have partnered with experienced midwives to discuss their role in modern obstetrics and how things have changed in relation to Call the Midwife, which takes place in the 1950s and 1960s. Learn More