Community

Mother Mentors is ready to help out new moms

Anna Marie Morton, Lisa Kois, Nancy Scoles, Emmy McNeil Atwood and Kristin Lasher recently gathered for a meeting of the Mentor Moms at Island Coffeehouse. - Patricia Duff / The Record
Anna Marie Morton, Lisa Kois, Nancy Scoles, Emmy McNeil Atwood and Kristin Lasher recently gathered for a meeting of the Mentor Moms at Island Coffeehouse.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

It could be argued that there is no single experience for a woman that equals the euphoria of holding her newly born child.

The nine months of a slowly swelling body, the pain and laboriousness of giving birth and the apprehension about what could go wrong before, during and after labor, fade to a distant memory in that single moment when her baby is placed in her arms.

But when the Apgar tests are done, the epidural needles and birthing pools are put away, and the greatly anticipated birth is over, a mother is often left to tackle the day-to-day care alone.

Gone are the helpful nurses, midwives, doulas and doctors of the birth place, and very often, even the dads have to go off to work in the traditional family setting. Perhaps there is no partner at all.

Many young mothers are lucky to have their own mothers to be by their side when they first bring a baby home from the hospital. They provide their daughters crucial help with caring for an infant, and these lucky new moms have a chance to get acclimated gracefully to their new babies. But some are not so lucky.

Islander Kristin Lasher thought about the entire gamut of situations that new mothers each year — 91 born last year on the South End; 752 in Coupeville and Oak Harbor — may be facing with a new baby in tow.

Having raised three children of her own, Lasher knows that a new baby thrives on love, care and support, as does a new mother.

That’s why she, with the help of some other women, began Mother Mentors, a nonprofit organization that provides care to new mothers. It was two things in her own experience that inspired the idea.

“The first was the profound grief I experienced, but did not express, when my mother died in a car accident three weeks after my first child was born,” Lasher said.

“The second was the light bulb that went on after raising three children — that early childhood experiences are those we take with us all of our lives. They shape our feelings about ourselves, our self-esteem, our ability to cope, to learn, to make decisions and to have compassion,” she added. “If there was something I still wanted to do with my life, it was to be a support to new moms, all new moms.”

Supported under the nonprofit umbrella of Island County Readiness to Learn Foundation, Mother Mentors brings volunteers and families together for practical and emotional support. It matches screened and skilled volunteers with the family’s needs, for free.

For a couple of hours per day a mentor will be there to do whatever is needed, whether to fix mom a cup of tea, hold the baby so she can rest, take a shower or read a book. A mentor will clean up the kitchen, prep for a meal, play with another sibling, do the laundry or listen while a new mother talks about how she is doing.

The community’s involvement in Lasher’s call for mentors has already taken shape.

Nancy Scoles, a mother of two grown children, said she was at a point in her life where she missed babies. She reached out to a young mother even before she heard about Mother Mentors.

“She let me hold her babies, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Scoles said.

But Scoles remembers raising her children wasn’t always a picnic.

“If the baby is screaming, you think you have to fix it. I remember I thought

I needed permission to let the baby cry in the crib, leave the room and take a break.”

Having someone in the house to hold the baby for a short while may be all a mother needs to regroup.

Mother Mentor Lisa Kois is a mother of a 3-year-old and wanted to reach out to the community as a way of giving back. Kois had her child in Sri Lanka on her own.

“My mom was able to come over for a month, but because the society is a communally based one, I had a lot of help from the community after that; bringing me food and helping out with my baby,” Kois said.

“I don’t know what I would have done in the U.S. without all those people who helped me.”

Anna Marie Morton had some experience in helping out with children when she volunteered to rock babies at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Morton discovered that helping mothers wasn’t about giving advice so much as information. Every mother, she realized, was in the same situation and all of them needed to be heard.

“It’s not so much about solving problems, but more about listening. What Mother Mentors is asking is that you do anything that mother needs. I thought that was a really cool thing, and I wanted to support it any way I can,” Morton said.

Joining Lasher to help get her charitable endeavor off the ground are Janet Staub, Linda Ridder, Gwen Coughnour, Emmy McNeil Atwood, Crystal Ogle, Bess Windecker Nelson, Scoles, Morton, Kois and the good folks at the Family Resource Center.

Basically, Lasher said, the mentors are there to support that mother twice per week for one month, and once per week after that for as long as she needs them.

“I honor you and the job before you,” Lasher said of a mentor’s motivation toward new mothers.

Let Mother Mentors know of your interest, either as a mom with a baby on the way, or as a mentor, by calling Mother Mentors at 579-4565 or e-mail mothermentors@whidbey.com. The program welcomes tax-deductible contributions.

An informative training session for mentors will take place sometime in November.

Call Mother Mentors for dates and info.

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