About a year has passed since a newborn was held, the dishes were done, mom got a shower and was off to a good start.
Thanks to the Mother Mentors of South Whidbey, 11 families with a total of 20 young children reaped the benefits provided by trained volunteers who can offer help after a baby is born.
Langley resident Rose Soroos was appreciative when mentor Gwen Coughenour came to her aid after Soroos’ son Nathaniel was born.
“When Gwen came over, she asked me what I needed her to do,” Soroos said.
“Most of the time I asked her to entertain the kids for me.”
Soroos is also mother to Nathaniel’s brothers, Ben, 6, and Tim, who is almost 4.
“While she did that, I could put laundry away, do some dishes, make some food and take a shower. One day I even took a nap,” Soroos said with the gratefulness of the often sleep-deprived mother of a newborn.
These tasks may appear simple to the average homemaker, but when one has a babe-in-arms and two young boys to look after, simple chores become day-long endeavors. Mother Mentors make it possible for a household with a new baby to see things get done more easily than usual.
Soroos explained that with extended family either in Virginia or Northern Ireland, it was great to have someone to call.
“It’s like stand-in grandparents for a while. It’s fabulous help,” she said.
Anna Marie Morton is one of the group’s organizers who said it is their hope to inspire a new group of mentors to participate in the upcoming training program on Monday, Feb. 28.
“We need signups at least two weeks in advance so that I can … conduct a personal interview with each prospect,” Morton said. “We also want to remind moms with new children that the service is available.”
In the past year, Mother Mentors has trained 18 volunteers, and 13 of those have mentored a new family. Both mentors and moms have reported that the program is making a difference in the lives of families, Morton said.
“This is just the beginning, and we are excited to bring more volunteers to our South End community,” she said.
Often, women who become Mother Mentors are those who remember their own experiences of being at home with young children and no help.
“We remember being without sleep, time and patience,” Morton said. “We want to honor the job you young mothers are doing and hold out our arms to you,” she added.
Aristana Firethorne of Clinton read about the Mother Mentor program last year and felt compelled to join.
“I remember when I moved to the island with babies. I could relate to the idea of being in that new situation,” Firethorne said.
“Mothers are faced with so many challenges. I have a lot of empathy for them,” she said.
Firethorne appreciated what the program was trying to do and felt aligned with its purpose. After she finished the training, she was introduced to new mom Amber Hedgpeth and her daughter, Abigail.
“I think at first she wasn’t really sure what she wanted me to do,” Firethorne said.
“I gave her a list.”
Firethorne ended up doing some light housework such as the dishes and vacuuming. She also held Abigail while Hedgpeth took a phone call, checked her blood pressure and just took a break.
“I also played with the dogs outside,” Firethorne recalled.
Taking care of such seemingly little chores that have added up to a sink full of dirty dishes, or dogs who are used to getting a couple of walks per day, make a world of difference to a mom suffering from little sleep and who is needed by an infant almost every minute of the day.
Firethorne said she also provided Hedgpeth with something she never had when her children were very young: phone numbers.
“The biggest support I gave her was a list of local resources on the island that connected her with play groups like Playscape,” Firethorne said.
“When you have an infant, it’s hard to get out. It’s nice when someone just hands you a phone number,” she added.
Another simple means of support that Firethorne gave Abigail’s mom was simply some adult conversation.
“Sometimes we just talked,” she said. “It’s nice to have another adult to talk to and get some confirmation that all that you’re going through is normal.”
There’s a lot of stress that goes with having a newborn, Firethorne said, and, as a mentor, she wanted to reassure Hedgpeth that everything she was doing was fine.
After her three-month contract with the young mother was up, Firethorne saw that Hedgpeth was a confident young mother who had grown in leaps and bounds.
“Abigail was doing great, and now I’m available to do that for someone new,” she said.
Moms needing a Mother Mentor can call to arrange for a trained volunteer to come to their home and provide the support needed. The service is free.
Volunteers and moms can call 360-730-1264 or e-mail email@example.com.
Mother Mentors is presently working to establish a program for volunteers and moms in the Oak Harbor/Coupeville area. Central and North End moms and potential Mother Mentors are also asked to call at least two weeks before the Feb. 28 training.
Mother Mentors is under the umbrella of the Readiness to Learn Foundation in Langley.