Letter to the MotherWoman Community

March 10, 2018

Dear MotherWoman Community, 

The last 14 months have been a time of significant change, both for MotherWoman and for the context of our work. With the increase in national policies — and attitudes — that risk to further marginalize already vulnerable communities, we at MotherWoman have felt humbled by the work that must be done; we must address the needs of mothers most impacted by attacks on reproductive and maternal-child, mental health and social safety nets, and the basic rights of diverse communities (to name a few). Still, we remain hopeful and resolute. As Springtime peeks over the horizon, welcoming renewal, it feels an appropriate moment to take pause and affirm our emboldened commitment to this work to you, our community.

With this, we would like to take this opportunity to share the growth and evolution of MotherWoman that has taken place this past year.

Our Board of Directors has been working diligently, employing their robust knowledge and skills in public health, perinatal mental health, reproductive health, community-based research and evidence based practice, to refine MotherWoman’s mission to better address the identified needs of parents, their families and their communities. This has required us to fine tune MotherWoman to more fully represent our new mission:

MotherWoman promotes the resilience and empowerment of mothers and their communities by building community-capacity and advocating for just policies through evidence-based research and grassroots organizing.

Every facet of MotherWoman is now guided by our core principles of inclusivity, cultural humility, social and reproductive justice, and equity. We recognize these principles as ongoing processes which emerge through dialogue, feedback, and thoughtfulness as we and the communities we seek to support change across time. Each of MotherWoman’s new working Board of Directors is highly qualified, bringing a comprehensive set of skills that align with the new direction of MotherWoman.

With this in mind, in the latter part of 2017 MotherWoman focused on evaluating the strengths and needs of the Community Perinatal Support Model. In 2018, we are concentrating on enhancing and expanding the model to be more community-based, participatory and evidence-driven, centering the voices of parents and community members at the foundation of and throughout decision-making processes. Understanding that evidence-based approaches are vital to paving accessible pathways to treatment, and that research and practice must be informed by the communities they serve, MotherWoman is adding a vigorous research component to the work we are doing.  While our efforts over the past few years have helped increase perinatal mental health screenings, we recognize that there continue to be critical gaps in care. Accordingly, we have made clinical training in evidence-based treatment for perinatal depression and anxiety central to our community capacity building efforts. Finally, appreciating that our work is place-centered and that we must first engage our own communities from a place of integrity, in 2018 we will work closely with our Western Massachusetts Perinatal Support Coalitions to pilot our enhanced participatory CPSM, while also seeking to build new coalitions to address the needs of low resource communities in our region.

As many of you may already know, in the last six months, we have seen the closing of two amazing Western Mass non-profits: the AIDS Foundation of Western Mass (Sept 2017) and the Prison Birth Project (Feb 2018).  With this loss of staple organizations, a climate of reduced funding streams, and no large fundraising efforts in the past year, we are determined to keep our doors open.  While this has required difficult decisions about where to focus our very limited resources, we are committed to assisting Facilitators to start and sustain support groups for vulnerable populations throughout the valley that are equitable and just.  And, we seek to increase the skill and knowledge base of providers and clinicians.

As many may know, the new year brought the announcement of the launch of Group Peer Support (GPS), a new organization inspired by the MotherWoman Group Support Model that aims to develop peer support groups in a variety of settings. We wish GPS much success in their endeavor, which in no way conflicts with the work we are doing at MotherWoman. Rather, it supports and reinforces what we stand for: empowered families and communities. As support groups are a vital component of the work MotherWoman is committed to, we join GPS in seeking to ensure that sustainable supportive groups are available to ALL communities that need them, be they trained through MotherWoman, GPS, or another reputable source. MotherWoman WILL continue to offer peer support group trainings focused on the salient needs of individuals during the perinatal phase of development — i.e. during pregnancy and postpartum.  

More broadly, MotherWoman seeks to engage at the grassroots level to build community and systems-level capacity to effect perinatal wellbeing, support families, and strengthen communities. To that end, as we move forward, we see the need to expand our trauma informed, culturally humble groups to a variety of relevant contexts, including those that are not peer-focused, such as community-based, social service or healthcare settings.

Join US: If you are interested in helping to address the needs of parents, where their voices are heard and centralized, where their empowered selves and resilience is key to their success, and where their individualized needs are met;

Join US: If you are interested in addressing perinatal mental health at the systems level;

Join US: If you are interested in learning more about cultural humility and its role in addressing perinatal and community needs.

Whether you are training in our facilitator’s model, or another peer support model, or bring seasoned professional and clinical skills to this work, we welcome you and are excited to have you join us in our mission!  Please check out our website and new training schedule and please contact us if you are interested in building a coalition in your area or partnering to support the mothers and families in your community.

In Solidarity,

Board of Directors

MotherWoman Support Groups

Our groups offer safety, consistency and clarity so that each woman can speak her truth.

Our facilitators strive to create rare, treasured safe places of non-judgment and acceptance for all mothers.

 

Three Pillars of Our Mission

Building Community Safety Nets

Promoting Good Public Policy

What Our Moms Say

Everyone kept telling me “hang in there, it gets so much better.” For me, it got harder after 12 weeks. I knew some other mothers going to MotherWoman. I was resistant to coming because I didn’t want to sit in a group of depressed, sad women! But I was desperate so I decided to try. Thank God!

Heather

I think that I had a fairly “typical” postpartum period. My son didn’t have that sleepy first week or so, however – he just seemed to cry! I felt overwhelmed, wondered why he had done this, and I had a hard time finding any joy in it. Congratulatory cards advising us to “savor every moment” made me think something was wrong with us! My husband, who was home for the first six weeks, spent that time angry and resentful. I didn’t know how we were going to survive.

Jane

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