"Everyone welcomed us with open arms."
Diagnosis: New mom
Treatment: Support from the Parent-Baby Groups
Like many new moms, Siri Pannell of Redmond felt overwhelmed, unsure of herself and isolated after the birth of her daughter Aniston.
“I was a typical first-time mom with this delicate, breakable little baby,” she remembers. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on?’”
Another new mom suggested Siri attend EvergreenHealth’s Parent Baby classes. Started in 1991, the yearlong set of free and low-cost classes offers parents face time with a variety of parenting experts, and introduces them to lifelong friends.
Despite feeling overwhelmed by even the idea of leaving the house, Siri decided to check it out.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to do it! I’m going to go!’” she recalls, “and it was a revelation. I found lots of people going through what I was going through. Everyone was feeling the same way. I wasn’t the only one!”
The sisterhood of motherhood
Lead facilitator Tracy Van Den Boomen knows the most important part of her job is to help foster a deep connection among parents—particularly mothers—who often step into their new role as parent without much support.
“I’m committed to creating a ‘sisterhood of motherhood,” she says proudly.
Classes meet weekly and are divided into age groups from birth to 15 months. There's also a Saturday group for parents of 3-9 month olds who've returned to work.
They typically follow a routine that includes a topic, often with a guest speaker, followed by group discussion, then time for questions, concerns and celebrations.
Van Den Boomen notes that popular topics include infant feeding, dads and relationships, mom care, sleep, postpartum adjustment and baby development.
Expert speakers have included marriage and family counselors, photographers, physicians, physical therapists, speech pathologists, sign-language instructors and yogis.
“It’s so far beyond infant acne and baby food,” Van Den Boomen explains. “Part of our mission is to introduce moms to community resources. We’re not just a sales pitch – we offer education and let people know what our community has to offer.”
Something wonderful that happens is that many of the moms even form play groups that continue to meet outside of class.
“Moms are always coming up to me, even years later, and telling me they’re still meeting with the play group that was formed at our classes,” she shares.
Better than social networking
Siri Pannell stayed with the group for the full year, and continued to meet with a core group of Aniston’s fellow “graduates” for playdates.
“I would highly recommend the classes,” she says. “Everyone welcomed us with open arms, and I really felt at home. Whether it’s sleeping through the night or breastfeeding, someone will recommend something that’s really helpful. You’ll find everybody in the same boat.”
Tracy Van Den Boomen isn’t surprised.
“One of the best and most amazing things that happens is that people reach out to one another and make connections. Social networking is all very well and fine, but there’s nothing like being together face-to-face, sharing laughter, tears and hugs. What hasn’t changed, and what will never change, is that amazing energy of women getting together and helping each other. There’s nothing like that energy, no matter what technology offers.”
For more information
Learn about the Parent-Baby Groups
Learn about Maternity Care at EvergreenHealth