MAY 19, 1997
Volunteer Jillian Bieterman of Woodinville, with her daughter, Sallie, visits with new mom Linda Henry and her baby girl, Macallan.
Photo by Deborah Stone/Northwest News.
by Deborah Stone
Childbirth can be an overwhelming experience for most women and for those first-time moms, it is a time of much questioning. Everything is new and each day brings challenges, often accompanied by frustrations and feelings of insecurity.
To help these women cope with all the demands of caring for a new baby, Evergreen Hospital's Family Maternity Center (FMC) has instituted a Mom-to-Mom volunteer program. New moms are matched with volunteers who have babies of their own, usually three to four months and older. The volunteers visit the new moms in the hospital, offering words of encouragement, and helping them get linked to all the support and follow-up services available at Evergreen. The volunteers explain about the weekly parent-baby classes that include breastfeeding, sleep problems, baby carriers, immunizations, etc.
Classes are taught by Evergreen personnel as well as by guest speakers and are open to parents with babies 0-12 months old. The 0-3 month sessions are at no cost to the parents. After that, there is a nominal fee. Concerns and issues relevant to the developmental stages of the babies are discussed.
In addition to the in-person visit, the volunteers follow up with a phone call in the next few weeks to see how things are going with the new moms. Often new moms are matched up with volunteers who have had similar birth experiences. The response from the new moms to these visits and calls has been extremely positive as they find it helpful to talk with another mother and learn that their problems and concerns are typical and normal. The volunteers are living proof that stitches do heal and sleep deprivation is only a temporary condition.
The program has been going on for over a year now, and there are currently 32 volunteers. They receive training by hospital staff and fellow volunteers, as well as attend meetings each month conducted by Molly Pessl, special programs director for the maternity center. The majority of women who participate have had babies within the past year and know only too well the range of emotions and doubts that new mothers experience. Many of them have chosen to become volunteers because they received similar support when they gave birth to their babies.
Michele Ahearn of Woodinville, who has been with the program for seven months, says, "It's a way to give back what I received. The encouragement I got when I had my baby here at Evergreen was so helpful. I think for a new mom it means more to hear words of advice and information from other moms rather than medical professionals. You can get a different perspective on your situation."
Ahearn makes frequent visits to the hospital's maternity center, accompanied by her nine-month-old daughter, Kelen. Volunteers are most often seen walking the hallways with their own babies in backpacks or slings. According to Ahearn, the atmosphere at the FMC is caring, warm, and supportive. She adds, "It's a real family place and the staff povides a great sense of comfort."
Another volunteer, Jillian Bieterman, also of Woodinville, commented, "I enjoy the feeling of being a part of a community. I feel a part of a team here." Bieterman and her eighteen-month-old daughter, Sallie, have been with the program for thirteen months.
"It's great for babies to see other babies. Sallie enjoys coming here and knows the routine quite well," Bieterman said. "It's a fun social outing for both of us, but for me, it's especially rewarding to be a part of such a strong support network."
For more information on volunteering in this program, call Michele Ahearn at 481-6830.