Following the success of the first two sessions, Midwest Family Connections began its third session of the Mothers First: Coping After Pregnancy program on June 18.
“We are getting a variety, most of the mothers that are attending have given birth. We’ve had a family attend who have adopted and we also have a family who’ve attended who has had two children and is currently pregnant,” said Becky Walker, parent link lead for Midwest Family Connections. “It’s open to all mothers.”
In Mothers First, mothers of infant children meet once a week in a peer support environment. Women may share their experiences battling challenges that arise during pregnancy and after giving birth, namely Postpartum Depression.
According to Midwest Family Connections, about one in five women deal with Postpartum Depression for up to a year after giving birth. Over 15 per cent of new mothers report difficulties in adjusting to a new lifestyle that often involves a sleep deprivation and increased housework along with childcare.
“It’s definitely a lot more than you expect,” said Ariel Reimer, a participant in the program, of the life changes that come with having a child. “People warn you, but you don’t really take the warnings to heart until it kind of happens.”
Mothers First was launched in February 2015 and had 14 mothers participants through the first two sessions. The program operates in eight-week sessions and are free to attend. Given the prominence of Postpartum Depression and other post-pregnancy issues, Mothers First could become an instrumental part of the Lloydminster community.
“We project that ... based on the births at the Lloydminster Hospital, there are more than 150 mothers each year in need of this specialized support,” said Midwest Family Connections Executive Director Sherri Husch Foote. “We know that timely and appropriate supports make a huge difference for the mother, the baby and the whole family.”
To accommodate mothers and their infants, Mothers First sets up a Cuddle Crew in which staff and volunteers supervise and occupy the children during meetings.
Mothers First isn’t the only service available to women and families dealing with Postpartum Depression or anxiety. Family doctors, private counsellors, Lloydminster Mental Health and Addiction Services and mental health helplines offered by the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are reasonable alternatives. However, the personal touch available in Mothers First is not easily replicated anywhere else.
“It really shows you that the struggles that you’re going through, you’re not the only one, and knowing that there are other people that have gone through it gives you comfort,” said Reimer. “It gives you a lot more ideas, opinions and thoughts that you can’t get from the Internet or from your doctor.”
Mothers First meets Thursdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Midwest Family Connections. While the group cater mainly to women, it also offers support for fathers, who can also be affected by Postpartum Depression.
Mothers are welcome to begin attending at any point during a session, as the theme of each meeting repeats in a cycle.