Emily Harris (centre) started the in-person Monarch Moms meet-up groups in July, when it was much easier to physical distance in outdoor spaces. Harris started the group as a source of connection for women navigating the ups and downs of having a baby during a pandemic. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Emily Harris (centre) started the in-person Monarch Moms meet-up groups in July, when it was much easier to physical distance in outdoor spaces. Harris started the group as a source of connection for women navigating the ups and downs of having a baby during a pandemic. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Victoria new mom group navigates challenges of motherhood in a pandemic

Monarch Moms meet once a week for physically-distanced connection

Rain came down sideways on a Tuesday morning as a group of new moms bounced babies on their laps inside a Fairfield dance studio.

This is one of the few indoor meetings the Monarch Mums group has had since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and only six women came, each physically distanced on colourful baby blankets in a large circle.

Over the babble of curious youngsters and rattling toys, the women shared their highs and lows of the week. From sleeping problems, prams, toys and puppies to hair loss, in-laws, postpartum depression and career jealousy – one woman shared her struggle to finish a manuscript and her resentment of her husband’s full-time work schedule – the group was vulnerable and open with one another.

One mom shared the ‘high’ that she finally told her husband of her postpartum depression. Another piped in how she was scared if people knew, they would take her baby away.

While 10-month-old Iain bounced on her hip, organizer Emily Harris, explained how the group has helped the new moms navigate an exceptionally difficult transition.

“Just being able to find that community of people in that same situation I think is vital to maintaining your own mental health,” she said.

“Everybody is so desperate for that connection. I can speak for myself that I just felt so lonely, like March [and] April were horrible. Those were the longest months of my life.”

READ ALSO: Pregnant in a pandemic: expectant mothers change birth plans due to COVID-19

(From left to right) Melissa Mouat and 12-week-old daughter Rosie and Roxanna Mohtadi and five-month-old daughter Melody discuss the joys and hardships of new motherhood during a pandemic at the weekly Monarch Moms meet-up. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

The weekly meetings were born of a Facebook group.

“A lot of the talk going around in this online group was, ‘I feel so lonely, I really want to meet with people.’ I just sort of threw it out there if anyone would be interested,” Harris said.

The first meeting was at Hollywood Park and drew 18 moms and babies from across Greater Victoria. It was a physically-distanced success, Harris said. Since then the group has met at various parks every Monday morning.

Many members already had other children, but all of the moms had a baby in 2020 – except Harris, whose son was born on Christmas Day, 2019.

“The transition for a first-time baby is like jumping off a cliff,” Harris said. “Doing that during a pandemic is something else.”

Harris lamented the maternity leave she had envisioned for herself and her newborn – one that included art and music classes, family visits and time with friends.

“We are all there in some way. We may not necessarily be struggling with the same things but we all struggle. The beauty of being a part of this group is that some people are further along in their mental health journey and can be a source of support,” she said. “Honestly, sometimes you just need somebody to listen.”

Harris said winter weather might create hurdles for the group.

“One of the things that’s been a stressor for us is, where do we stand with our babies and COVID? And a lot of moms have a lot of anxiety about moving indoors. Which makes total sense,” she said. “Our next challenge is to find a place that’s covered and dry with that outdoor component.”

READ ALSO: Sooke mom faces ‘pandemic police’ for bringing kids to the grocery store

Stephanie Anderson and her eight-month-old daughter Eva enjoy physical-distanced connections with other new moms at the weekly Monarch Moms meet-up group. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusGreater VictoriaVictoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Victoria Wonderland drive-thru show cancelled due to COVID-19

Organizers hope to host a similar event, if restrictions allow, in the new year

Oak Bay High students Mimi Hill and Aine O’Donnell run along the Jack Wallace Memorial Track. The old track is due to be resurfaced. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay track resurfacing delayed

Oak Bay commits $50,000 towards renewed Jack Wallace track

Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Popular Swiftsure yacht race cancelled for second consecutive year

International sailing race hopes to run its 77th event in 2022

Saanich golfer and top B.C. junior and juvenile player Willy Bishop was named to the 2021 Canadian National Junior Golf Squad on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy Jenny Bishop)
Saanich student to tee-off with national golf team

Willy Bishop, 16, named to Canadian National Junior Golf Squad in 2021

The Oak Bay Police Department has announced plans to purchase the municipality’s first electric marked police vehicle. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Electric police vehicle could soon be patroling Oak Bay streets

Oak Bay police plan to purchase first marked electric police vehicle in 2021

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read