photo: Julianne Bardelle/ People

They say it takes a village, and there’s no time more true than when children are sick and in need of serious medical care. That’s why it’s no surprise that four moms formed a life-long bond when their paths crossed at the hospital where they each learned that their newborns were in need of a new heart.

The Suburban Heart Mamas, as this close-knit group of mom friends call themselves, is made up of four moms whose babies all underwent heart transplants in 2011 and 2012. All four kids are now thriving, happy five year olds, but it was a long, rocky road to get there and the moms are all grateful that they had each other’s support along the way.

“Parenting is scary enough in itself, but going through a heart transplant takes it to a different level,” one of the moms, Dawn Birkland told PEOPLE. “Having a group of other mothers who get it is an immeasurable gift, and I will be forever grateful to them.” Her daughter, Adelaide, received a transplant at just one-month-old in 2011 and that’s when she met three other moms, Kaleigh Galliart, Stacy Hillenburg and Susan Zohner, all going through the exact same thing. “No one fully understands like these women do, and I’m so grateful to have gained them as friends,” Zohner told PEOPLE.

Though it gets harder to get together as the kids grow older, the four are still close and hope the kids will stay connected as they grow up. “Even though the kids are too young to understand what connects them,” says Birkland, “I’m hopeful as they grow older, they will appreciate the magnitude of what they have been through and lean on each other like we do.”

Do you have a mom tribe that supports you through thick and thin? Share your gratitude for your mom friends in the comments.