No love compares to that of a mother and child.

The abounding love I felt when I held my first-born child is indescribable.

Like many mothers, my eyelashes were weighted and my cheeks warmed by tears when the nurse first placed in my arms the tiny human being that had grown inside me for nine months.

I held my son for what was probably less than a minute, just long enough to have a few photographs taken before nurses carried him off to tend to his needs, but long enough to be certain of one thing: I had just met the love of my life.

In that instant, I felt a love unlike any I had ever known before.

That love has grown each and every day. I can't imagine what my heart will feel in another year, let alone 15 years.

Throughout my life, I had dreamed of becoming a mother and looked forward to the joys and challenges that would come with the job.

But when that moment arrived, I became a little intimidated and a few times found myself emotionally overwhelmed, particularly in the first few weeks after his birth.

Fortunately, there are support systems available to help first-time parents get through the process of taking on a new role and added responsibilities.

Since shortly after Nathaniel's birth, I have been fortunate to receive support through the Nurturing Families Network (NFN), one of many services offered through the New Milford Visiting Nurse Association.

The program "provides information, guidance and assistance to new parents... [and offers] home visiting services to first-time parents, as well as phone support, to families experiencing the demands of becoming a parent," as described on the VNA's website.

In addition, several parenting groups provide networking opportunities and the much-needed emotional support many first-time mothers and fathers need.

I knew of the Nurturing Families Network before I gave birth but it was while I was recovering in the hospital that I first experienced the generous outreach of the program.

I received a visit from NFN group coordinator Amy Spallino, who stopped by my room to congratulate me on the birth of my son and share with me information about the VNA's program.

The visit was brief yet I remember her friendly smile and her offer to have an NFN staff member check in with me in coming weeks to see how I was handling the stresses and joys of being a first-time parent.

Open to the support, I said yes.

Amy called twice in the weeks that followed Nathaniel's birth, each time a welcomed voice just checking in on me, each time reminding me about the Mom2Mom group that was about to start.

A few weeks later I attended the Mom2Mom group, which turned out to be a great blessing.

Not only was it a resource, where I learned about some of the issues facing first-time parents and tips for coping in the first few months of their child's life, it was where I met a group of wonderful women who have become some of my dearest friends and whose children are now Nathaniel's closest friends.

Amy and NFN volunteer Barbara Stone, who co-facilitated the group, tailored their weekly themed discussions to our needs and even kept in touch with us after the group was over to let us know about Nurturing Families' special events throughout the year.

The group isn't the only support system available through Nurturing Families.

A multi-week class, the ABC's of Parenting, for parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers is also available (see the photographs of the recent class geared toward Spanish-speaking parents).

For me, the class' confidential setting gave me an opportunity to share my parenting challenges and successes, as well as better understand that the majority of parents face the same issues, although they may be on varying levels.

It's always reassuring to be reminded you're not alone.

Nurturing Families is a valuable asset to first-time parents in our community. Their offerings have helped me grow as an individual and parent.

Thank you for making a difference in my family's life.

Nurturing Families also offers a group for dads.

For information or the start dates for any of the support groups and classes, call the Nurturing Families Network at 860-354-5962.