Becoming a Dad, by Patrick Duganz

By Birth, Dads, Parenting, The Power of Story

Patrick and his son pause a game of football at their local park to embrace and smile for a photo.This is a featured article from our 3rd edition of the LIFTS Magazine.  Patrick also shared his story on our Motherlove Podcast –  Season 2, Episode 19.

Becoming a Dad, by Patrick Duganz

How can you tell a joke is a dad joke? It’s apparent. For people, it’s more complicated.

I don’t think you become a dad when a kid is born. Lots of kids never meet those he people who provided their genetics. Therefore, a child being born does not make a dad. So, becoming a dad must be something more. There’s a moment when a choice is made.

I was raised by TV in the 90s, so of course I wanted to be a dad. Sure, Homer Simpson was the most popular dad, but I also had Dan Conner, Uncle Phil, Jason Seaver, and Carl Winslow. Having grown up in a “complicated” family like I did, I looked up to these dad characters and how it seemed like they always knew just the right thing to say, or do, whenever a problem arose.

So years down the road, when we considered starting a family, I was pro “let’s have a kid”. My son is the outcome of a meticulously planned pregnancy process. We read books and went to a several-months-long birth class where we were free to ask any and all questions. We found a duo of midwives who his mom and I liked and who would, eventually, facilitate the birth. I was at every appointment, tracking our mixed-up RNA as it grew into something an ultrasound tech could identify. His mom wrote out a detailed and extensive birth plan and we carefully reviewed it with our midwives. We were going to go with the Bradley Method – a drug-free, low- intervention process.

If such a birth sounds intimidating to you, just understand that my son’s mom is fearless, and has a pain threshold far beyond us mortals. That’s how she was able to face 22 hours of labor starting and stalling before our midwife delicately advised that we might need to consider making a few changes to our very particular plan. From there, as is common, things got more complicated.

An annoyed anesthesiologist arrived in flip-flops to administer an epidural, and delivered a few doses of Pitocin. After several intensive interventions plus one final delay from shoulder dystocia, our son was here. It had been 25 hours.

The process of his birth was difficult for all involved. His initial Apgar score was low and his mom was exhausted. I felt useless and helpless as my son and his mom faced this incredible task of birth. Obviously, my experience pales in comparison to what she went through, and it feels wrong to say it was hard for me too. But it was terrifying to be that helpless when my family faced a crisis. I didn’t even know what “Apgar” meant.

But both were okay.

My son was the largest baby born at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital in 2013. I know this because, in those days, the nurses kept a sandwich board of height and weight statistics just outside of the nursery. While holding my newborn, I watched our nurse wipe away the high score of some smaller baby and replace it with the new champion: Baby Duganz at 10 pounds, 11 ounces, and 22 inches in length.

I remember thinking that he was a miracle, and that he was terrifying.

I was 28 and in the hours after his birth, it began to occur to me that I had no idea how to handle a baby. No idea how to comfort. No idea about needs. No idea about cues. No idea about anything because most of the books told me to, “follow mom’s lead.” So, as the nurses took his mom to recover after her feat, I realized the awful situation unfolding.

“You’re not leaving me alone with him, are you?”

“Yes,” a nurse said. A door shut behind her, and we were alone.

He cried. I cried.

Eventually, he ran out of energy and fell asleep in my arms. I felt like I’d failed my first test as a dad. My baby had to exhaust himself to find peace. Oof.

As we sat there alone, waiting for whatever was next, I was nearing 48 hours without sleep and started thinking of random nonsense until my brain fell on lighthearted fare like The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a father and son story set in a post-apocalyptic world. There’s a bit near the beginning that stuck out to me when I first read it: “[T]hey set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.”

Each the other’s world entire. Heady stuff to consider, but that’s what my anxious and sleep-deprived brain spat out as I worried about who I’d be as a dad. Is the role of a dad to be the leader after a calamity? Is it more? Changing diapers? Making Money? Baseball coaching?

“I’ll get better,” I said to my kid, just hours old.

Like most men, I didn’t get paternity leave. However, my employer at the time did kindly lay me off for two weeks so I could go broke while learning basic parenting tasks like diaper changing and swaddling. The kid mostly breastfed and slept, with some interruptions from me to change his diaper, or swaddle him. I brought his mom water and snacks.

Soon I was back to work. The two of them were alone at home. It seemed like he’d change between the hours when I left and when I’d return. He was a new person every day and I was missing it. I began to feel useless to my family’s needs just as I was beginning to understand how to be useful.

This, of course, was a symptom of my own postpartum depression which is more common than most people want to talk about. I’d later learn that 1 in 10 dads experience similar thoughts and feelings during this time. Since I was still so focused on my time at work, I was ignoring these symptoms and was, unfortunately, unable to recognize that his mom was dealing with similar symptoms during the 10-12 hours I was gone each day.

When his mom returned to work a few months later, I adjusted my schedule to be home with our son on Mondays and Tuesdays so we could save on daycare. With her at work, the kid and I suddenly had 16 terrifying hours together. From what I’d been told, parenting was so good you could set a laugh track to it. Instead, mine felt like an episode of Lost, complete with decoding cryptic messages (infant cues) that were crucial but made no sense to me. It took weeks to even begin to understand just what the hell I was doing. I had missed a lot by going back to work.

But I had made a promise to him. So, I worked on it. It wasn’t fun or easy.

All of this is to say that the question “When does a guy become a dad?” remains complicated. Maybe it was that first night, but to me it’s waking up every day and making a choice to try and be better than yesterday. I try to engage with what he’s into. I try to lead my son through the calamities of everyday existence – a rude kid at school, his parents divorcing, or the frustration of losing at Rocket League. I try to be a better dad, and a better man. That’s the choice I make.

In that way, I become a dad every day.

A graphic displaying a list titled '8 Things I Wish I Knew as a Dad'. The text is bold and centered, with each item numbered sequentially. The background is likely a neutral color to enhance readability

Visit: services page and use the term “dads” for support groups and resources specifically for fathers and “counselors” or “mental health providers” if you or a dad you know is experiencing similar symptoms like depression or anxiety.

To learn about Patrick’s work as a Fatherhood Engagement Specialist and read more of what he’s written visit:

Valentine’s Day and the Seasons of Date Nights

By Parenting, Self-care, The Power of Story
Two parents find solace in each other's arms, dancing in their kitchen amidst the chaos of parenthood.

A moment of respite, a reminder to cherish the simple joys amidst life’s challenges.

Date nights. Self-care. Scrapbooking. For me, there was the daily to-do list (you know, like, survival stuff) and then there were the “extras.” These were the back burner items, the shoulds, the negotiables. But, as our first post-birth Valentine’s Day approached, my husband and I felt pressured to do what we’d always done in the past: dress up and go on a real date, only this time it would mean leaving our 3-month-old baby in Grandma’s care.

I remember it vividly. I wore black tights, a gray dress, and tall leather boots. The tights were nearly impossible to hike up over my still-healing postpartum body, the dress was tighter than I had hoped, the boots felt ridiculous and showy. As we entered the busy restaurant and made our way to the table, I realized that I no longer knew how to be confident in public. After months being isolated at home with our new baby, I suddenly felt raw and exposed. I was exhausted beyond measure, still bleeding, thinking about my baby every three seconds and the only thing on the menu that sounded good was strong, hot coffee with lots of cream. 

I also remember feeling so relieved to be out of the house. That’s the thing with being a new mom. You learn to hold tension between completely opposing emotions All. The. Time.

My husband cracked jokes with our waitress. Drank cold, delicious beer, relaxed. I watched the tiny bubbles rise in his glass in a sleep deprived fog. I was anxious and envious but tried to act like I was relaxed too. I glanced around at all of the women in red, heard the sounds of easeful laughter and glasses clinking together in holiday spirit. My breasts were on their own schedule and I began to long for my sweatpants and the latch of our sweet baby. Is this what date night would be like from now on?

It was one of those stark contrast moments. The split that happens the moment you become a parent. The before and after. Everything you thought you knew will be revised. Camping as a form of rest and rejuvenation? Sorry. Taking a nap on Thanksgiving Day? Nope. Night as a time to sleep? Forget about it. 

But, as one wise mom pointed out, there are seasons. And when you have a new baby, it’s not peak date night season. Things won’t always be so intense, so demanding, so full of love and exhaustion and devotion all at the same time. We won’t always be up at midnight on Christmas eve wrapping presents and filling stockings and bracing ourselves for the next sugar cookie crash.

So, because it’s Valentine’s Day, we wanted to celebrate the fact that date nights don’t have to be fancy and luxurious to be successful. What matters most is that we make time for quality connection and slow down enough to really see each other. Whether you plan a date with a partner, friend, your own little one or even just with yourself, spending quality time and honoring your relationships deserves a spot on the to-do list, even if that means that the dishes stay piled in the sink and the laundry gets all wrinkled and your un-walked dog gives you a dirty look.

Going out might be just what you need and if that feels good and exciting and fun – do it! Wearing something you love and having the guarantee that it will remain spit-up free for at least a couple of hours is indeed quite glamorous. Being served when you spend all day everyday serving a tiny human feels wonderful. Oh, and eating a meal that’s actually still hot while being able form complete sentences and have an entire conversation with another adult (especially one you love) is pure gold.

But, staying in counts too!  Just giving each other permission to take the night off and snuggle up with a movie and bowl of popcorn can be super romantic. Sometimes, it’s just about being close and remembering that raising kids is hard work and that you’re in this together and that you both deserve moments of peace. Chocolate and roses and written words never hurt. You might as well hold hands, too, and laugh about how crazy kids are. Because they are CRAZY and laughter is medicine.

If you have more than one little sweetie on your hands, you’ve probably learned the value of planning special one on one dates with each of your children. In this case, you’re the expert on what would make you both light up and, truthfully, they don’t really care what you do together, they just want your undivided attention. Go for a manicure or dress up for afternoon tea or a Shirley Temple with extra cherries. Swing on the swings, build a snowman or draw with sidewalk chalk- they just want our eyes and ears and heart all to themselves for a little while. When it comes to special time between parent and child, a little goes a long way.

Dates with friends are important too but they don’t have to be elaborate and if anyone understands that, it’ll be your closest friends. Do whatever sounds nourishing and try to laugh and cry and give voice to your experience. It’s important to know you’re not alone and it’s really important to find friends who will understand if you need to cancel or reschedule. As a new parent, these are your people. 

Valentine’s Day, ultimately, is supposed to be one day out of the year when we celebrate love and if there’s one thing every parent knows, it’s unshakable love. So today, let that love be unique to you and those closest to you. Let that love carry you through. 

Focus on Foster Care: Improving Montana’s Child Welfare System (Q&A)

By Uncategorized

In a recent interview on the Mother Love podcast, we heard from an incredible woman, Miranda Maxson, who was raised in Montana’s foster care system and has now become an advocate for Montana’s fostered youth.

Miranda was placed in foster care at the age of 8 and she is a survivor, through and through. In her episode, Season 3: Ep. 2, she shares her heart-wrenching but triumphant story. Now that Miranda is a mother and works incredibly hard to provide the safety and stability she never had, she explains that she’s had to face most of her parenting challenges by thinking of what happened to her as a kid and then doing the opposite. We talk about what it’s taken for her to build a life of peace and security for her and her family, about the importance of learning to accept help, and about the pieces of parenting that are often left out of the conversation due to stigma and shame but MUST be discussed. Today, Miranda is a fierce advocate for youth in Montana’s care system and works hard every day to ensure that they get to participate in decisions regarding their care. Miranda is giving kids the chance to speak because she knows the pain of being kept silent. It’s very much worth a listen.

Then, Miranda introduced us to another remarkable high school student, Alyssa Vancampen (pictured above), who has chosen to research the intersection and overlap of those who have been in the child welfare system while growing up. The rates are high and, although Alyssa knew from her own personal experience why that might be, she wanted to dive in deeper and have numbers and stories to prove how the injustices and traumas endured by this population impact their ability to do well in the world once they’ve aged out of care.

Since our mission at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies – The MT Coalition is to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Montana families by supporting mothers and babies, age zero to three, we spend a lot of time focusing on prevention and trauma-informed care and we partner with organizations and people who are doing the same. Miranda and Alyssa are two of those people.

Alyssa took the time to share more about her senior project in the Q&A below. Clearly, she is passionate about the subject and is transforming her hardships into healing through advocacy. If you are someone who wants to know about the impacts of foster care and group homes on children in Montana and the measures that need to be taken to improve the system, keep reading.

  • Q (HMHB): 

What inspired you to focus on the connection and overlap of youth who’ve grown up in foster care and those who are incarcerated?

  • A (Alyssa): 

My experience as a youth in the foster care system has exposed me to the injustices of both the child welfare and legal systems as my circumstances unfolded into a series of events that left me traumatized, stigmatized, and feeling defeated. The trials of hopelessness that I encountered with no support as a dual-status youth became my inspiration to focus on the connection and overlap of youth in foster care and incarcerated. I was blessed with insight that now allows me to perceive the world from an unsheltered and authentic view. I have relentlessly advocated for my voice to be heard as the systems tried to silence me. Without fail, my strong-willed mindset was misguided as defiance labeling me as disrespectful and impulsive while I sought out freedom. Now that I am in a position of stability, sharing my experience and expressing my passion for advocacy could help those who are struggling alone. 

  • Q: 

Have you had personal experience with the criminal justice system in MT? If so, what was that like for you and how do you understand the reasons why you may have been involved with circumstances that led to those experiences?

  • A:

I tried to manage working and attending school but my priorities were different considering my circumstances. I dropped out of high school with the intent to get my hi-set through an alternative program, but I was not able to commit to that with everything going on. I picked up extra shifts at work but my tips would go straight into my gas tank just to ensure I would make it to Clinton and then back the next night. During this time, I was also struggling with addiction which heavily affected my sense of responsibility When I got off work, I would drink until I blacked out and then wake up hungover with only enough time to go to work. Eventually, I was partying so much that I would make up any excuse to call out. My boss and I mutually agreed that I could not work at the restaurant anymore. Once things got too complicated with my living situation at my friend’s place, I went back to couch hopping and living out of my car. I’d have rather suffered alone than ask for support and I was not capable of relying on someone enough to allow it. I felt hopeless and desperate to have control over my life, even if it meant ruining it. 

In this time of despair, on May 25, 2022, I was arrested for a violent offense and remained incarcerated for 8 months. I was in Missoula County JDC for almost 3 months awaiting my sentencing or release. They transferred me to Five County Detention Center in St. Anthony ID, on July 29th. I was given a plea deal and had to complete the rehabilitative program enforced at 5C to be released before I turned 18. I completed the program in roughly 5 months but my time in corrections was extended because I had nowhere to go upon release. I prayed that God had my best interest at heart and trusted that I would be released when he felt I should be. For weeks, Five County continued to get email responses about how I still had nowhere to go. Discouraged, I would fall to my knees in prayer, and in my vulnerability, He was there. I was released on January 19, 2023.

My experience in the criminal justice system was intense. For years I had run away from the traumas in my past that left me layered in defensive mechanisms and anger so raw it consumed me. Instead of addressing my issues, I tried to escape and ended up locked in a cell with them. The first two weeks were the hardest. Scenarios of endless time and nothingness would have me waking up in a state of pure panic. I had felt trapped all of my life so it wasn’t the confinement that tormented me, it was being a victim to my mind. The fear I felt was paralyzing but I still attempted to avoid and distract. Withdrawing from the substances that promised me just that, I had no choice but to read. I fell in love with reading as I let the stories absorb me into their pages. Anything opposed to thinking. 

That was until I got to Five County Detention. The freedom I was going to achieve from this experience was not materialistic, but peace. I engaged in therapy and felt validated as I reflected on the cause and effect of what I endured. I participated in Recovery classes including Drug and Alcohol (D&A) and Women’s 12 Steps Through Recovery. I graduated with Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) which educated me on how to hold myself accountable by recognizing if I am being ethical or not. I took anger management classes and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as well. As I attended these classes, I was able to appreciate the support I received while walking through the healing process. There were times that I felt misunderstood and hopeless, but I tried to count my blessings instead of my days. I was blessed to have 3 meals a day, a consistent shower, and books. I bittersweet reality was that I was the most supported while I was incarcerated. I do believe that my incarceration could have been avoided if my life did not have the “not your fault, but your problem” dynamic. For that, I hold the foster care system accountable because of the lack of support and sympathy I received as I was facing all odds of inevitable failure while still trying to succeed. As a child, the most important things are psychological needs (food, water, and shelter), safety, and a sense of belonging. Without a solid foundation that offers that, it became very difficult for me to not be angry at my circumstances. 

Now I no longer live with resentment and emotional turmoil as I learn to thrive in peace instead of accepting chaos. Although the way I perceive the world is still influenced by my past, I remain undefined. After release, I had a rough integration into the community as my living arrangement offered no stability. However, I was offered the opportunity to move to Bozeman, MT with someone I considered a mentor of mine. She was someone who had seen my potential and advocated relentlessly for my future. I was immensely grateful for the chance of a fresh start. At heart I knew the only way I could do that was if I left everything behind. Unhealthy relationships, unhealthy habits, and my hometown. Those who supported and encouraged me to accept this change in my life were the people whom I maintained relationships with. Communication and frequent visits help with the distance, but it does become difficult at times for me to manage. When I made the move, I started my senior year at Gallatin High School and intend to participate in the HI-SET program during my second semester. This ensures that I will graduate if I meet proficiency in all subjects without needing more than twelve required credits. I will still attend graduation and walk with my class, receiving my high school diploma. I am managing the Gallatin High School basketball team and spend most of my time prioritizing education as I plan to continue through college. I am now connected with a healthy support system of friends and family, disregarding my labels and achieving a future worth fighting for. 


  • Q: 

Do you have friends who’ve also grown up in foster care and group homes? What is that connection like?

  • A:

Through my journey in the system, I have encountered foster homes, group homes, treatment centers, and detention facilities. Transitioning into unfamiliar environments is difficult given the circumstances, but feeling alone is worse. I developed relationships during these times with people who were experiencing similar vulnerabilities; hoping to find strength where we felt weak. These connections were so raw and deep-rooted because of the intense setting they were usually created in. Exposure to trauma as an individual has damaging effects on emotional and social development, often making it difficult to cope. Being surrounded by other young women who were determined to heal and find strength in their hardships, was so empowering for me. We only grew closer as we bonded over our passions, and our faith in God, walking through sobriety, breaking down our barriers and ending the generational cycles that kept us captive. The difference about these relationships compared to others I’ve had, is they were never temporary or conditional. I’ve hit rock bottom while they risked their life to pull me out knowing I’d do the same for them. We fought together for the same thing; freedom. Freedom from our past, our trauma, our addiction and our mentality. We are living proof that the people you consider family do not have to be dictated by blood. I am still in contact with people I’ve met in over 25 placements as well as others I met along the way, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to make so many lifelong friends. 

  • Q: 

What have you found to be most surprising and profound as you’ve conducted research for this project? What makes you feel hopeful? What information/stories have been the most important?

  • A: 

As I conducted research for this project, I encountered someone who I consider to be a remarkable person. He didn’t have a chance in the world; a world that labeled him broken and expected him to fail because of the circumstances he was born into. 

Steve Pemberton is a credited author, motivational speaker, philanthropist, and corporate executive who became successful despite overwhelming odds against him. He is remarkable because of his undeniable passion for advocacy against the disparities of the child welfare system and restorative perspectives that illuminate his resilience as he shares his experience with the world. 

Despite the discouragement of social stigma, Pemberton became an inspiration all across the country, and a voice for marginalized children dispirited by the harsh realities around them. As someone from a similar background to Pemberton, I admire the commitment, self-discipline, and advocacy that he demonstrated to achieve his successes. In his humble approach, he has been able to reach so many despondent hearts by finding strength in his vulnerability. 


Inspired by my dedication to this project, my foster mom reached out to Pemberton via email with no expectations as she shared our story with him. She expressed gratitude for his influence and credited him deeply for his admirable accomplishments. He responded with a heartfelt appreciation for her social media message and wanted to put together a virtual meeting. After emailing schedules back and forth, we were able to set a time. This interaction was so insightful and offered a change in my perspective. It was refreshing to understand the vision he had and how he made it happen due to his own perseverance. Something that surprised me was how I felt when I spoke to him. I expected the conversation to be difficult given that I was nervous about conversing with someone who had spoken in front of millions of people and wrote worldwide best-sellers; however, that was not the case. When Pemberton recognized my uncomfortable demeanor, he reminded me that he was only a person, the same as I was. Even more comforting was that he came from dysfunction too, and we shared an understanding that put me at ease for the rest of our visit. I am blessed to have him as a part of my village while he helps me further navigate the changes in my life.


Seeing someone come from tragedy and prioritize their triumph despite all of the odds against them; gives me hope. The world can label children who endured trauma, but they do not have the control to dictate their success.


  • Q: 

How did you become a part of the pilot project for youth engagement in permanency, cultural, and relational decisions? How do you think this program differs from efforts to improve the system in the past?

  • A: 

The legal team that I was assigned to as a ward of the state, forced me into a vulnerable position every time we encountered each other. This would usually be in meetings at DCFS where I was made into a puppet while they pulled my strings, listening to them speak about me like I was not in the room.  Except when I cut the rope, I was depicted as defiant and dangerous. I refused to allow someone else to use me as a pawn in a sick game of misused control and realized that if I did not speak up, they would win. That is what inspired my passion for advocacy, and influenced me to be a voice for those who are silenced. 

The Chafee program wanted me to join an advocacy panel made of foster youth and youth formerly in care. At this time, I was not stable enough to take on that kind of commitment, so I only reached back out to the organization and found out they were inactive recently. They introduced me to OIC-EY(Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency) because they figured that I could be of help to this newly forming establishment. I got connected with Child and Youth Engagement Coordinator, Mira Max, and was accepted onto this team of advocates after a few conversations with her. Although I have not been involved for very long, I can tell that it is evolving into something that will make a difference for generations to come. This program differs from efforts to improve the system in the past because of the experience we have going into the issue at hand. We have all had exposure to the injustices of the child welfare system and will continue advocating for change. 

Dr. Amy Stiffarm & Claire Larson

Native American Initiative Series on the Mother Love Podcast!

By Birth, Indigineous Maternal Health, Maternal Mental Health, Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, Uncategorized

November was Native American Heritage Month and, in case you missed our Native American Initiative Series on the Mother Love Podcast, we wanted to let you know all about it so you can check out some of the amazing conversations we captured.

Dr. Amy Stiffarm joined Claire Larson (our usual host) to help lead these conversations as she is an expert on the topic of Indigenous maternal health and had pre-existing relationships and friendships with our guests. She is also HMHB’s Native American Initiatives Program Manager and an incredible leader in her field. Plus, she’s super fun and engaging which makes her a great co-host on the show!

To listen, please visit our Mother Love webpage at: or search ‘Mother Love’ on Apple, Audacy, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Be sure to follow us so you never miss an episode.

The 5 part series consists of these episodes:  

  • Season 3: Episode 5 – Native American Heritage Month: An intro to our Native American Initiatives Series with Dr. Amy Stiffarm

  • Season 3: Episode 6 – Native American Initiatives Series: The Current State of Indigenous Maternal Health with Dr. Janelle Palacios (Amy guest-hosts!)

  • Season 3: Episode 7 – NAI Series: “Life’s Blessings”: A Culturally Immersive Event for Nurses w/Margaret Anne Adams & Mary Ellen Lafromboise + *Bonus* Episode Intro: Decolonizing Thanksgiving w/Amy & Claire!

  • Season 3: Episode 8 – NAI Series: Cultural Inheritance and Toddler Mayhem w/Indigenous Artist Rachel Twoteeth-Pichardo

  • Season 3: Episode 9 – NAI Series: Sweetgrass in the Psych Unit w/Chelsea Bellon


*A note on this final episode in the series with Chelsea Bellon- the list of resources and show notes we compiled is such a hearty one that we had to list it here on our blog instead of below the description of the show. Please do check it out!

Show notes/Resources from “Sweetgrass in the Psych Unit”

Chelsea recommends

Claire recommends:

And, if you’re just now hearing about our Mother Love podcast, here’s a little more info:

On Mother Love, you’ll meet a new guest (or sometimes guests) each week. They are here to speak honestly about what they know now that they wish they’d known before. They want to give voice to their experiences in ways they just couldn’t when they were right smack dab in the middle of them. We talk about the pressures we put on ourselves and how real parent life looks very different from fantasy parenting life. And, most of all, we share these stories because they prove that resilience is real, that joy exists right alongside anguish and that if our guests can move through the hardest parts of all, you can too.

If you have any questions about our Storytelling Program or would like to share your own story, please contact Claire Larson via email:

Our community, my peers (older and younger) do not feel safe sharing it.

April Charlo

Having a baby in 2020 helped me find yoga again in small ways.

Anna Bradley

Our Love for 406 Families

By Parenting

When families are looking for supports, the best advice often comes from the people who’ve been there — the parents in their community who have raised a child through the early years and have done the hard work of finding a pediatrician, enrolling in child care, and planning fun weekend activities. That’s why our team was so excited to connect with the team at 406 Families, a rockstar group of moms in the Missoula Valley who created a platform for families to find events, activities, and resources.

They work hard to create guides that address needs that families may have, including Education, Indoor & Drop-In Activities, Classes & Sports, and even Birthday Parties! The rest of their website includes articles written by the team and other moms about their own experiences, including the exploration of our beautiful state.

We met with Laci Rathburn, one of the founders of 406 Families, and she explained what makes the website so popular. The posts that their readers love are based on the personal experience and opinions of the parent who’s had to make these decisions. Sometimes, moms just want to know “who’s your favorite?” 406 Families is taking that on, but they are always looking for ways to diversify their voices — they want to represent even more caregivers! If you’re a Missoula parent and interested in sharing content, reach out to them at

You may think, how does this differ from LIFTS, the online resource guide that Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies created for parents across Montana? Our goal is to share with parents of kiddos aged zero to three a list of all services in their area, but we don’t always have firsthand knowledge of what it means to work with that provider or attend that event. We hope that localized information like what 406 Families created happens in even more communities in our state. If you have an amazing resource specific to your community like this, please let us know!

Reading Recommendations from PMHC 2021

By Uncategorized

Attendees at the virtual Perinatal Mental Health Conference 2021 were energized by the topics shared and took to the chatbox, sharing articles, books, and more. The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies teams took those recommendations and created this list for you to save and share for your own personal and professional development. These links are organized alphabetically by type of source.


Journal Articles

The following articles present alternative theories applicable within perinatal psychology that deliberately consider the experience of those receiving care, shared in Anna King’s presentation “Decolonization of the Mental Healthcare System.”

The group of articles below was shared after Dr. Linda Mayes and Dr. Helena Rutherford’s presentation about the “Neurodevelopment of Parenthood.”

This selection of articles provides information about the use of nutraceuticals in pregnancy.

Our PMHC 2021 attendees shared even more than what you see in this list, so stay tuned for more blog posts of recommended resources!

My body doesn't feel up to that. I'll let you know once I feel recovered.

Emily Clewis

LIFTS Launch Party

By Uncategorized

It was an incredibly creative and busy summer at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies. Thanks to partners around the state, we took the LIFTS project to the next level with an annual publication and online resource guide. And we were lucky enough to share this work with those collaborators during our “LIFTS Launch Party”! Contributors to the magazine read their pieces, as we hope to lift up the stories of mothers and caregivers around Montana. We shared the “Look Closer Campaign,” working to break the stigma of helping mothers in recovery. And then we shared a demo of the LIFTS Online Guide in action, showing how the website can be used by parents around the state.

If you weren’t able to join us, or want to share the good news with others, watch the recording of our meeting below: