Building the Village…How One Mom Has Made It Her Mission

By Stacey Figg, Volunteer Extraordinaire 

This past June I decided that it was my time to give back, to really come full circle in my journey as a mom. Since hearing about the MomsBloom organization several years ago, I have always wanted to become a volunteer to help other mothers in the community. However, I had to wait until it was the right time for my family and me. I’ve “worked” in a number of capacities over the last 5 years that revolve around women’s health and motherhood. This has really become a true passion of mine especially since fighting thru postpartum issues with my firstborn.

I understood the mission behind MomsBloom as well as their vision, but what I didn’t know was how my experience as a volunteer was going to affect me as a person. Going thru the training process triggered a number of emotions within me as I reflected back on the first few months after both my children were born. Back then, the emotions were fierce and the struggle was real. Shortly after the training my journey began.

I have to say that my volunteer experience thus far has exceeded all of my expectations. I’ve given countless talks at institutions, conferences, and support groups, but nothing could have prepared me for the emotion I felt and the bond that was created once I met the family. It was so fulfilling to feel that immediate connection with another mom and I could tell it brought some relief to her as well.

The mom I am working with had given birth to a beautiful baby boy this January. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as expected and her experience as a new mom has been anything but textbook. She has struggled in a number of ways, most of which I could relate to and some I could not. We shared stories as well as our struggles and when my time was up we shared a long hug. I made a promise to her (and her husband) I would come every week for as long as I could until we found the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thru this short interaction I learned, once again, that giving someone hope when all hope is gone, is priceless. With each experience, I could feel myself channeling my inner strength her way while guiding her thru the dark tunnel. I have taken great pride in watching her progress. Along with hope, I was also able to provide her with a sense of “normalcy” that we sometimes lack as mothers. It’s normal and ok to be in your pajamas, not shower for days and slack on every household chore known to man. In my opinion, motherhood is one of the most selfless acts you will encounter in life. And sometimes we are just too hard on ourselves, constantly second guessing our parenting decisions and are so quick to judge when things don’t go as planned.

Taking care of a small baby, trying to take care of you and finding the fine line in between is a daily struggle for most moms especially in those early days. I’ve come to learn that I’m supporting more than just a new mom but a blossoming family of 3 that is trying to find their new norm. That means not just taking care of mom and baby but also supporting the father as well.

The family is so grateful for my time and the resources I’ve been able to provide as they transition into parenthood for the first time. We all know this task can be rather daunting especially when it doesn’t meet our society’s inflated expectations. As I drove away that day, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be, I could feel it in every sense of the word.

Parenthood is challenging especially as we learn to balance our life with that of a little one, a little one that is completely dependent upon us. No one tells us how hard it may be or what to really expect. Everyone’s journey is different from conception, to pregnancy, all the way thru labor and delivery. We each have a different experience none of which are exactly alike. I know I can’t save every family from the demons and dread of postpartum or make motherhood easier at the snap of my fingers. But as mothers, we can lock arms and walk side by side thru this journey together, upholding one another. Along with MomsBloom, I want to create a voice, a sounding board, and a place free from judgment where we can openly share our triumphs and supposed failures. After all, it takes a village, so lets create one!

About the author: 

Stacey and her husband, John, are the quintessential, proud parents of two…Riley (5) and Rowan (3). She’s worked full time inside and outside of the home and just about every where in between. Stacey will openly tell you that it’s much easier to go to work every morning than manage a house full of little people. 

After suffering from severe postpartum issues (due to PMD), Stacey has made it her mission to inspire other moms by sharing her journey. It’s not just her story that she aims to spread, but also honesty about motherhood and the parenting profession in a non judgmental capacity.

How Do I Play with my New Baby?

By Danielle Boog, MS, OTR/L and Courtney Joesel, MA, CCC-SLP

Bringing home a new baby from the hospital is a scary thing. Especially as first time parents, it is overwhelming to make sure that all of baby’s needs are met. It takes hours of your time to make sure your new child is fed, changed, and sleeping at least okay. At some point, things become a little more routine, and you may find yourself wondering “what’s next? I have their basic needs met, but how do I interact with this new little being?”

It is never too early to start interacting and playing with your child, even if you don’t feel like you are in a routine yet. By interacting with your child in different ways than meeting their basic needs, it may help to relieve some of your stress. The most daunting question when thinking about interacting with your baby is “how? My child doesn’t speak yet or seem to interact with me at all, how can I interact with them?” The following are a few ideas as to how to get started with interacting with your new bundle of joy and promoting their development in the process!

Engage Their Senses

Even if your baby seems like they are not aware of the world around them, their senses are ready to take it all in! Show your baby the things that you are interacting with, and tell your baby about them as you do them. Show them different textures, and let them feel them on their skin. You might not see any reaction from baby, but know that they are taking it all in and it takes them longer to process information. Repetition is key, and they will respond the more they are exposed to sensory experiences.

Sing Songs

The fluctuation in your voice as you sing (no matter how off key) is calming and rhythmic for baby. Repetition happens so much in songs, and this is a great way to expose your baby to language over and over. Making silly faces along with the songs will help engage your child and keep them interested in the song. Movements to songs such and rocking them bouncing them (gently!) help to engage their motor system as well.

Let Them Move

Baby’s motor system is ready to explore their world around them too! By placing them on the floor either on their back or stomach (tummy time), it will help them start to explore their new world. Baby’s reflexes will help them explore their world, with mom or dad really close to facilitate the interactions and keep them safe. It’s recommended and necessary that baby experiences different positions instead of just on their back. Don’t prop your baby in sitting, for example, if they can’t get there on their own yet. Give them time to learn to enjoy new positions, and be there for support and encouragement as they figure out how they engage with their new environment around them.

Narrate Your Day

It is important for language development to expose your child to language as soon as possible. As you go around your daily routine with baby, narrate what you are doing, “I have one sock, now I have two socks!” Point out objects in a room or while in the car.  This is another great way to develop vocabulary.  By hearing language on a daily basis and a variety of vocabulary, it will aid in language comprehension as well as language production later in development.

Read Out Loud

It is never too early to start reading books to your little one. Keep the books in the beginning simple, with more bold pictures and contrasting colors and less words. When you read, it changes your intonation and prosody, leading to increased word recognition. Point out pictures of details of the pictures, such as colors, shapes, and parts of the object. It’s also another great way to get baby snuggles!

Have Fun

Enjoy the time spent interacting with your new baby. Make it fun for both you and them, and know that there is no wrong way to play with your child. Any interaction is great for developing skills, and bonding with you. The more fun and sillier the games, the better it is for baby’s brain!

Ask Questions

If, after trying these activities multiple times with your baby, you feel like they are not changing how they are responding to you or making eye contact, do not hesitate to ask questions to your pediatrician or see out occupational or speech therapy services. It never hurts to ask! You know your baby better than anyone else, and gut feelings should not be ignored.

*Danielle Boog is an occupational therapist practicing in pediatric services for 3 years. She enjoys promoting development in infants and supporting their parents by giving them the necessary education to feel confident in promoting these skills. She has three children of her own, and has learned so much about interacting with children from them.

*Courtney Joesel is a speech and language pathologist who has been providing pediatric speech and language therapy for 5 years.  She loves watching children explore their world and assist in developing the language necessary for development. 

Both Danielle and Courtney work at BRAINS located at 3292 North Evergreen Dr. NE in Grand Rapids. More information about services offered there can be found at brainspotential.com.