Chicago, Ill. – May 10, 2013 – Twenty-eight years ago, 10 new mothers, looking to get out of the house and speak with an adult or two, enrolled in a postnatal exercise class—and bonded for life.
The professional women had just had their first babies, nearly all born within weeks of one another in late April and early May of 1985. They met for an exercise class, babies in tow, offered at the time at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
“It was a class of stretching and relaxation, offered right at the hospital,” says Deidre Jameson, Moms Group member. “I can still hear the instructor’s voice, ‘Abdomen in, abdomen out.’
“We were all first-time moms, so we were naturally a little neurotic,” she says. “Of course, we couldn’t make it through a class without a baby crying or having to be changed.”
All were career women suddenly out of their element. “We just didn’t know what to do with ourselves, home with a baby,” says Jessica Ticus. “I remember asking myself, ‘Don’t I have any meetings to go to?”’
So they found their meeting, though of a different kind than they were used to. After the once-weekly exercise sessions, the moms began getting together socially, often at a nearby restaurant or one of their homes. Deirdre says they first went to her home to weigh the babies because she had a scale.
“We’d sit and nurse and talk about what we were going through,” Deirdre says. “Eventually, the babies slept and we moms talked. It was wonderful to have others to talk to who were feeling and experiencing the same things I was, as a new mom.”
“We were all absorbed by our first babies,” says Wendy Siegel. “We were all at the stage when that’s all we wanted to talk about—nursing and sleep and pooping. It was great to have other moms to talk to.”
As the kids got bigger and learned to crawl and eventually walk, the Moms Group adjusted, finding it was no longer adequate to meet in a backyard, as they began having to chase the toddlers down. So, they got together at a nearby church’s Tot Lot, allowing the kids to roam and the moms to visit.
“Eventually, we started leaving the kids home and just the Moms Group got together,” says Jennifer Christy, who, the whole group agrees, was the original organizer and became the glue holding them together through the years. “We’d get together for dinner or at someone’s home and just be there for each other.”
The Moms Group, now spread throughout the city and country, all still married to the same spouses, children grown and out of the houses themselves, continues to keep in touch by email and phone, getting together personally several times a year to catch up.
“Our families know this group is sacred,” says Jessica. “My husband bows to this group. Whatever the Moms Group says goes. He knows they’re who I trust.”
Through the years, the Moms Group has come together to celebrate happy times and to support one another through life’s challenges. They surrounded Jessica at the hospital when she lost her second child. They gathered at a restaurant to listen as Jennifer told them about the adult daughter, whom she’d given up for adoption years before, who tracked her down and made surprise contact. They gathered to celebrate the high school graduations of their first children—the children who had brought them together—and to commemorate 25 years of the Moms Group. Mostly, they gather to talk about life’s little surprises.
“We went from talking about the development of our kids—the schools, the first dates, the jobs—to the deaths of our parents,” says Ann Grant. “We’ve been through so many life changes together.”
“There’s an intimacy that evolves over the years,” says Cindy Zucker. “We talk about things that are personal and come together in times of need.”
“I like having a group to laugh with,” says Kate Roche. “We get together and we have fun. My sister says she’s looking for a group like this.”
And, like so many friends, they’ve gotten involved in other activities together. For instance, Kate and Deirdre are in a monthly book club together.
According to Dr. Shastri Swaminathan, psychiatrist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, the Moms Group is a prime example of what can happen when those with common conditions or circumstances come together for moral and emotional support.
“This truly is an amazing story,” says Dr. Swaminathan. “There is nothing as powerful as peer support in a time of need.”
Wendy says she’s grateful for the group and thankful that fate brought them all together.
“What’s interesting is that we all came from such different walks of life, such different backgrounds. I don’t know that we would have had the opportunity to be friends without that class,” she says.
Jennifer agrees, sharing that there are 15 years between the oldest and the youngest in the Moms Group. But nothing stops them now from getting together now and again and picking up where they left off. Especially in May, when they commemorate Mother’s Day and a whole bunch of birthdays. Not everyone can make it to every get-together—Joy Ellebrecht lives in California, Deborah Wagner is in Indiana and Rashne Shroff lives in Washington—but they make it as often as possible.
“I love this group and everyone in it,” says Deirdre. “We’ve gone through a lot together. But there’s so much more to go.”
About Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center
Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center is a 408-bed hospital in Chicago with a Level I trauma center and a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the highest designations awarded by the state of Illinois. It offers comprehensive inpatient services, including medical, surgical, obstetrics and pediatric care, as well as a full breadth of outpatient services. A recipient of numerous awards for quality and clinical excellence, Illinois Masonic was ranked one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 by Truven Health Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), as well as named a recipient of the organization’s Everest Award for National Benchmarks in 2010 and 2013. The medical center has also been named a Leader in the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index for the past four years, as well as one of the Chicago region’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for the past two years. In 2012, the hospital achieved Magnet redesignation for excellence and quality in nursing services by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program, which it originally achieved in 2008. Illinois Masonic is part of Advocate Health Care, a 2013 Truven Health Analytics Top 15 U.S. health care system for quality and clinical performance and the largest provider of health care services in Illinois. For more on Illinois Masonic, visit www.advocatehealth.com/masonic.
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