Category

Parenting

Art Party! by Elaine Dahl

By Caregiving, Community, Early Childhood, Maternal Mental Health, Parenting

Are you looking for way to beat the heat?  Look no further!  We’re re-airing this article from our 2nd edition of the LIFTS Magazine featuring a very fun family art party.

Art Party!

By Elaine Dahl

HMHB recently invited some families with little ones to make art! And if you have a little one who is ready, you could too!

Here are some suggested “how to” steps:

  1. Find a place. It could be a park, a family’s home, or a meeting place. Remember that, depending on the art you do, it could get messy!
  2. Find a time. Keep in mind various work schedules, bedtimes, and mealtimes. This party lasted a little over an hour, and families had the option to arrive late or leave early.
  3. Invite the families you would like to attend. Consider health protocols, such as telling families to stay home if they are sick, having the party outside, and/or offering masks.
  4. Tell everyone to wear clothes that can get messy, if you are using materials like paint.
  5. Decide on your projects. We had help from art teacher Em Thiessen, but you can also look online or ask your creative friends for ideas.
  6. Gather the supplies and any snacks or drinks you want to offer. Look for non-toxic, kid-friendly paints, kitchen ingredients like flour and food coloring, paper, and other supplies. And make sure you have clean-up materials like towels and wipes.
  7. When the time comes, welcome everyone and remind them that it’s not so much about creating great art, but about creating great memories!

And here’s why!

  1. It’s fun! (Seriously, it’s important to have fun!)
  2. It helps improve your child’s brain development, motor skills, exploration of things in the world, and visual understanding.
  3. It’s a great way for you to bond with your little one and connect with other families.

For this party, Em planned four projects:

Plastic bag painting

  1. Take a piece of paper and squirt three or four colors of non-toxic paint on it.
  2. Carefully place the paper inside a plastic bag and seal the bag.
  3. Allow your little one to smoosh the paint around, with their hands on top of the plastic. They can even try using a toy to move the paint!
  4. When the smooshing is done, carefully remove the paper from the plastic bag and let it air dry.

Handprints

  1. Each family member can paint their own hands with a brush, or you can paint each other’s hands.
  2. Once you have enough paint on your hand, press it down on the paper to transfer the paint. Your little one may need help with this part.
  3. You can layer your handprints, or you can make other designs.
  4. Sometimes, you may be inspired to make a more “avant garde” artwork!

Ball-in-the-box painting

  1. Place a small amount of one color of paint in a cup, can, or bowl.
  2. Drop a small ball in the cup, can, or bowl and make sure it’s covered in paint.
  3. Place a paper in the bottom of a plastic bin.
  4. Drop the ball with paint into the bin.
  5. Shake the bin so the ball moves around.
  6. When you’re ready for a new color, repeat all the steps above, using a clean ball and a separate small container for each color of paint.
  7. Remove the finished painting from the bottom of the plastic bin.

Totes with bubbles

  1. You will need several bottles of bubble soap with plastic wands.
  2. Drop a small amount of food coloring or non-toxic dye into each bottle of bubble soap so you’ll have a variety of colors. Label each bottle.
  3. Get a canvas tote bag or a paper set up on a table or on the floor.
  4. Blow bubbles in the direction of your “canvas.”
  5. You can pop the bubbles, or even stomp on them!
  6. Switch colors as you see fit

What do you do when your little one’s artwork starts piling up? Em recommends repurposing a paper project by:

  • Using it as wrapping paper for gifts;
  • Cutting it up into small rectangular gift tags, which you can punch a hole in and tie with some twine to your gift; or
  • Cutting it into small shapes (circles, squares, etc.) that you can glue onto gift bags, lunch sacks, or other items that need some decoration.

We thank Em Thiessen and the Martin family, the Petrik-Harris family, and the Stumberg family for attending!

Throwing your own art party? Write us at stories@hmhb-mt.org if you want to learn more or share what you did.

 

Finding Our Footing by Anna Temple

By Caregiving, Community, Early Childhood, Maternal Mental Health, Parenting

This is a featured article from our 2nd edition of the LIFTS Magazine.  

Finding Our Footing

By Anna Semple

My son “Alex” (an alternate name for privacy reasons) just turned three. I can’t decide if his birth seems like yesterday or a lifetime ago, or maybe both. They say that your brain goes through as many changes when becoming a mother as it does during the teen years. I’ve long known this because of my job in early childhood, but didn’t really take the time to think about what this actually meant until after I became a mother myself. Comparing my childhood self with my young adult self, I see the same person in so many ways, but with different priorities, ways of thinking about the world, and levels of confidence and skill in navigating life on my own. Parenting has brought on the same sensation of feeling different, but also just the same.

Alex has Down syndrome. When I was pregnant, I shared this information quickly as a way to bridge a connection and set the tone of the conversation. I didn’t want people avoiding real conversation because they didn’t know what was okay to talk about. My partner and I were lucky to have incredibly supportive friends, with the wisdom to ask how we felt about the diagnosis instead of jumping to the conclusion that it was a tragedy. Even awkward comments felt supportive, as long as people were open to hearing how we were feeling at that moment. I knew that a month earlier in my life I would have been unsure of what to say as well, and I was okay with imperfect expressions of support.

My feelings were complex during pregnancy, and talking them through with my partner and friends was incredibly important. I often worried that I wouldn’t know how to connect with my son. I leaned into the words I read from other parents, that “once your baby is born it will be fine, he will just be your baby.” Before becoming a mother, I didn’t know that love for your children grows out of thousands of tiny moments of nurturing, not because your baby shows up in a certain way. And when Alex was born, I could see the depth in his sparkly little eyes and knew I didn’t need to worry about connecting. I’m saddened now that I didn’t understand this before. People with Down syndrome are just people, and being able to connect really isn’t surprising.

 

Now that Alex is older, I am slower to bring up this diagnosis with people who haven’t met him. Mostly because there are so many other things to talk about, but also because some people’s default is to focus on the differences. I need to start with the foundation that Alex is in many ways the same as any other kid. I want to share conversations about bedtime routines, picky eating, and hilarious toddler antics. I want people to know that Alex is a little charmer who loves to play games, whether he is catching my eye with a sly smile before tickling me, or giggling as he hurries down a path to kick pinecones in the park. Only after we connect as fellow parents do I mention the extra chromosome, or tell them that I’m sometimes overwhelmed with the added layer of thought that goes into every parenting decision, with juggling all the appointments, and facing the scary unknown of the long-term future.

These friends and acquaintances are an important support system, but I am also thankful our family has had outside help with navigating the extra considerations. Young children with delays and disabilities often qualify for early intervention services, which provide free parenting support and specialized services (like physical, speech and occupational therapies) until children turn three. We enrolled when Alex was two weeks old after one doctor gave us a laundry list of things that we couldn’t do, including being worn in a baby carrier. After filling out a short form, we were able to get in quickly to see a physical therapist who determined that he could in fact be safely worn in some specific carriers. Walking in the woods is a big part of our family identity, and it was an enormous relief to learn ways to safely do this with our son. We worked with this same physical therapist until recently when Alex turned three and aged out of the program.

Our whole early intervention team supported us in setting goals for our son and our family. They worked with us all to help achieve those goals through therapy exercises and connection to resources in the community. Our family support specialist knew what paperwork or appointment needed to happen at different phases. They encouraged us to apply for and enroll in Early Head Start. Most of our experiences with doctors have been positive, but we occasionally received conflicting or confusing information at appointments. We knew our early intervention team couldn’t give medical advice, but they did help us generate questions and research options if we wanted a second opinion.

When looking into preschools, we were referred to someone at our local Child Care Resource and Referral office who equipped us with information on reasonable accommodations and a list of questions to ask when we visited different programs. This helped us self-advocate and, ultimately, we chose a program that was open to adaptations and that valued my family as collaborators in Alex’s education.

Each person we’ve worked with throughout these three years has been a such a cheerleader for Alex. He warmed right up to each of them, and adored being the center of attention during appointments.

Like any new parent, I can’t imagine how overwhelming these first years would have been for us without people to turn to for help. Friends who knitted blankets, left Tupperwares of food and stopped by to check in on us. Professionals who supported us in becoming advocates, and who began teaching Alex the skills that help him gain independence. Both helped us find our footing as we underwent the huge shift in perspective and lifestyle of becoming a family. We are forever grateful for the help we had welcoming our beautiful son into a whole community of people who care for him.

 

Resources: Use the LIFTS Online Resource Guide to search for “Child Development Information and Support” and find organizations that assist families in screening children and making appropriate referrals.

LIFTS: A Comprehensive Resource for Montana Families

By Caregiving, Community Support, Parenting

Today on the blog, we spotlight LIFTS, a well-known initiative among those familiar with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies – The Montana Coalition. Our goal is to equip our partners to become LIFTS ambassadors, providing them with the tools they need to spread the word to those who may not yet be aware of this helpful resource. We hope this post can be shared with those who can benefit from LIFTS to help achieve that!

What is LIFTS?

Launched in October 2021, the LIFTS online resource guide provides Montanans with a vital tool to connect with local service providers for pregnant people and parents and families of children aged zero to three. It offers a searchable database of local supports that families can easily access. LIFTS also includes a warmline where parents can anonymously ask questions about finding support, and a magazine featuring stories about how Montana parents and caregivers successfully found help and overcame challenges.

LIFTS stands for:

  • Linking
  • Infants and
  • Families
  • To
  • Supports.

Who is LIFTS for?

LIFTS is for Montana pregnant people, parents, caregivers, and providers for young children aged zero to three. LIFS includes a comprehensive range of services and parents can access LIFTS for information on services ranging from lactation support to mental health providers to public libraries. For busy parents, it serves as a trusted guide to find help in Montana when other information sources are overwhelming or unorganized.  It is mobile-friendly, making it even easier for parents to use at any time.

Providers supporting Montana parents and young children, such as home visitors, nurses, and care coordinators, can also use LIFTS to find trusted supports in communities across the state. It serves as a reliable resource for professionals and parents alike.

LIFTS is Local

Although LIFTS is a statewide resource, it was designed with local Montana community coalitions and early childhood experts to ensure the shared resources are trusted and locally endorsed. LIFTS is customizable to local counties and Reservations, allowing families across the state to access the support they need in their local communities when it’s available.

Features of LIFTS

  • Searchable Database: Easily find local services in local counties and Reservations.
  • Events: Discover family-friendly, substance-free local events.
  • Submit a Service/Event: Providers and community members can add services and events to the database, ensuring it remains current and comprehensive.
  • Warmline: If you need help finding specific information or resources, LIFTS offers an anonymous warmline you can call at 406-490-9100. Available from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, this service connects you with someone who can help.
  • LIFTS Magazine: The magazine features real stories about parenthood in Montana and experiences of when accessing help helped. These narratives aim to foster connection and let parents know they aren’t alone if they are struggling. The magazine also highlights resources and support systems available across the state.

Empowering Parents and Caregivers

LIFTS is more than just a resource guide; it’s a tool to help families feel empowered and supported.  Parents aren’t meant to do this alone and Montana is full of support for pregnant people and those caring for young children. By providing easy access to quality information and resources, LIFTS aims to make the journey of parenthood and the process of supporting parents and caregivers of Montana children aged zero to three a little easier.

Early Head Start: My Family’s Experience by Kayla Goble

By Caregiving, Community, Early Childhood, Maternal Mental Health, Parenting

This is a featured article from our 2nd edition of the LIFTS Magazine.  

Early Head Start: My Family’s Experience

By Kayla Goble

Parenting is hard no matter how prepared you feel you are for it. I have always wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember, but becoming a mom was not going to be an easy journey for me. Before I got pregnant with “Bugs” (my nickname for my daughter) in 2019, I had some health issues and I was not sure that my dream of becoming a mom would ever become a reality. I knew that there are other ways to become a mom, and I have two amazing “bonus children” that I love dearly. Throughout my pregnancy with Bugs, I lived in constant fear that I would lose her, as we did not have an easy ride. I was diagnosed with several medical conditions requiring medication, and I struggled to carry her to full term. Ultimately, she made her appearance at 36 weeks and 6 days, at 5:30 a.m.

Once Bugs was born, I knew that I needed to have support and a village around my family in order to help Bugs be the best that she can be. As someone who is going to school for Early Childhood Education (P-3) and Special Education, I know that it is important to provide gentle parenting and to guide children in life, and to help them have a healthy attachment so that they feel safe and secure to explore the world around them. When Bugs was three months old, we moved from Missoula to Anaconda, meaning that my family and main support was an hour and a half away. Two months after we moved to Anaconda, COVID hit, meaning that we did not have time to build a support system there.

In March 2021, there was a fire in our building and we had to suddenly move again. We moved to Butte, where some of our friends lived and we would be able to find more services to support Bugs.

By the time that we moved, Bugs had been diagnosed with some conditions requiring  many doctor appointments and hospital stays. Anaconda does not have an Early Head Start (EHS) program, so when we moved to Butte, we started looking at the process of getting her enrolled in AWARE’s EHS program. AWARE runs EHS programs in Butte, Helena, Belgrade and Billings, while other communities provide EHS through different organizations.

In June of 2021, we worked with Family Outreach to have Bugs tested for delays and to see if she qualified for an IFSP (Individualized Family Support Plan). The results came back that Bugs was 25-90% delayed in all developmental areas except one, where she was 10% delayed. This showed that, while Bugs was advanced in many of the skills she had at a year and a half, she had missed some of the key skills that she would need to be successful in life. She also was showing some concerning behaviors when she became overstimulated or was in social situations. When we enrolled her into EHS in Butte, I was not sure how it would go and worried that Bugs would struggle and not succeed.

For the first three weeks that Bugs was at EHS, she did not talk there, while she talked all the time at home. All of the other kids wanted to take care of her and would get her whatever she wanted if she pointed at something. Over time she came out of her shell and showed her feisty, independent attitude. Now, she loves going to “school.”

Each time we have had Bugs make a transition – first to another EHS classroom and then to Young Explorers, which is an EHS Community Partner – I thought that Bugs would regress and that she would not be able to handle it. Each time it has been the best move for her. All staff have been supportive of figuring out and dealing with her medical issues. When the doctor decided on two occasions that she needed to change her diet, EHS made each change within 24 hours. Nine months after she enrolled at EHS, she was retested and her development scores had increased dramatically.

Not only is Bugs supported, so are we as her family. Some people might think that EHS is just for the child, but it’s about all of us. We have a team of 14 people who all help support Bugs, but also check in with us about our family’s sleep schedule, my relationship with my husband, and other aspects of our lives. There is a therapist on staff that helps us deal with things that come up, such as Bugs shredding paper. There is also a Family Advocate that works with us on various issues.

As a parent, I have been empowered to join the Policy Council, which Head Start and Early Head Start are required to have. Policy Council is made up of parent and community representatives from each of the cities that AWARE EHS serves. We meet once a month and act as a “check and balance” for AWARE EHS. We go over the budget and things that are happening in the centers. As parents, we discuss ways to improve things or make changes. The parents that are on Policy Council also help organize parent committee meetings every month, which help parents connect and learn new information to help them be the best parents that they can be. I am glad that I chose to trust someone to help and support me with raising my daughter and would not change that decision for anything.

Resources: Learn more about what AWARE can offer you and your child at www.Aware-inc.org/ecs. Or find out if there is an Early Head Start program in your community offered by a different organization listed in the LIFTS online resource guide.

Summer Fun Ideas for Caregivers of Young Children in Montana

By Caregiving, Community, Community Support, Parenting

Summertime in Montana can be paradise! It can also be a time when many families experience changes in childcare routines and find themselves scrambling to find balance. Keeping in mind that summer isn’t a break for parents and caregivers of young children, we wanted to share some ideas to make the most of the summer months while ensuring a safe, fun, and engaging experience for your little ones.

Utilize Public Libraries

Public libraries are an excellent resource during the summer. Many libraries in Montana offer free programs specifically designed for babies and toddlers. From story time to music and movement classes, these programs provide a structured, yet fun environment for early childhood development. Check out the LIFTS online resource guide for public libraries to find a library near you and learn about their summer reading programs and other activities.

Explore a New Play Space

There are many parks and play areas across the state that are perfect for young children. Before heading out, check the LIFTS online resource guide for play spaces. Visiting different parks not only keeps the scenery fresh but also helps kiddos develop social skills as they interact with other children.

Addressing Food Insecurity

Summertime can be particularly challenging for families facing food insecurity. It’s important to know that resources are available to help. The LIFTS online resource guide under food and nutrition supports can connect you with local partners and organizations that provide food assistance. Support is available to ensure that no child experiences hunger during the summer.

Organize Rotating Play Dates

Consider organizing a rotating play date schedule with other parents and caregivers. This not only gives children the opportunity to play with friends but also allows you some much-needed time to work, run errands, or simply take a break. Rotating responsibilities among a responsible and supportive group of adults helps create a community where everyone benefits.

Have a Picnic

Take advantage of Montana’s natural beauty by having a family picnic. Whether it’s in your backyard, at a local park, or by a scenic lake, picnics are a delightful way to spend time together. Pack a simple meal, bring a blanket, look at the shapes in the clouds, and enjoy the fresh air while your little one explores the outdoors.

Enjoy Free and Simple Activities

You don’t need expensive toys to keep your child entertained. Some of the best summer activities are free and can be done right at home. A few easy favorites include:

  • Make your own water table. Fill a plastic bowl with safe kitchen utensils for water play – it’s amazing how much fun toddlers can have with a little water and some simple tools.
  • Play “washing up.” Give your child a spray bottle with water and let them “clean” their toys or outdoor furniture. It’s a great way to keep them occupied and cool on a hot day.
  • Make and play with bubbles! If you’re out of store-bought bubbles, an easy recipe you can make at home simply requires you to mix three ingredients: 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 cup room temperature water, and 1/2 cup liquid dish soap.

Visit Montana State Parks

Many Montanans opt to pay the $9 fee when licensing their vehicles, which grants access to all Montana State Parks. There are many parks across the state, offering a range of activities such as hiking, picnicking, and exploring nature trails. The parks are not only beautiful but also provide a rich learning environment for young children.

Additional Tips

  • Dress in Layers: Montanans know that if you don’t like the weather now, wait 15 minutes because it will probably change! Make sure to pack appropriate layers for any outdoor adventures.
  • Be Bear (and all animal!) Aware: We have the good fortune of an abundance of wildlife in Montana – in both urban and wilderness settings. Don’t forget to be “bear aware” and conscientious of all wild animals.
  • Stay Safe: Always apply sunscreen, dress your child in appropriate clothing, and ensure they stay hydrated.
  • Be Prepared: Carry a bag with essentials like snacks, water, diapers, and a change of clothes.
  • Capture Memories: Don’t forget to take pictures and videos to capture these precious moments.
Let us know if you have any easy and engaging ideas to share!

Tips to Help Siblings Transition When a New Baby Comes Home, by the HMHB Team

By Parenting, pregnancy, Self-compassion

This is a featured article from our 3rd edition of the LIFTS Magazine.  

Tips to Help Siblings Transition When a New Baby Comes Homes, by the HMHB Team

Welcoming a new sibling is a big adjustment for everyone! Here are some tips and tricks to help ease the transition:

  • Snuggle up and read books about what to expect when a new baby comes home. Take time to talk about the changes to come and what feelings might come up.
  • Look at photos and videos and tell stories about what it was like when they were born and first came home.
  • Ask them what they’re most excited about and what they hope to teach their new sibling.
  • Take a moment to greet them by yourself and have a few minutes of one on one time before introducing them to the baby.
  • Give them a special gift (from baby) when baby comes home.
  • When taking care of the baby (feeding, diapering, bathing, etc.) ask them if they would like to help and give them a special task so they feel included and appreciated.
  • Before feeding baby, get them a snack/drink or interested in an activity.
  • Read to young children while feeding baby. Have child hold the book and turn the pages or play a “no-hands” game, “I spy something red…”
  • Teach other children how to get/make a special snack for themselves. This will help them feel like a big kid!
  • Set aside 5 minutes of focused, uninterrupted one on one time when they have your FULL attention the whole time. Even just a few minutes goes a long way.
  • Build forts or special nooks where they can retreat and let their imaginations run wild. Try a cardboard box with Christmas lights poked through so they can “stargaze”.
  • Tell stories of what things were like when you were a kid. Our children sometimes forget that we were once little too and we can remember what that feels like. This helps them feel seen and understood.

Prairie Wolfe, a Somatic Therapist from Missoula, recommends these exercises to help you and your children process big emotions:

LET THEM FEEL POWERFUL. Press hands, palm to palm with your kid and then push each other across the room and let them win. Let them knock you over! Exclaim about their power, “Whoa! How did you get so strong?! I am pushing as hard as I can and you are pushing me across the room!”

As often as you can, talk to your kids about their strong emotions. Say to them, “I see you. I still love you and accept you, even when you’re mad.” This helps our kids learn that their needs for belonging and authentic expression can both exist and both be met, at the same time.

And, for you, recognize and honor when you’re feeling activated, frustrated, and downright angry. Parenting is incredibly challenging and it’s helpful to have ways to release intense emotions in safe and healthy ways.

Grab a washcloth or dish towel and twist it up until you can feel the tension between your hands. Wring it as tightly as you can and then let the tension in your jaw, spine, and shoulders really grind and release into the towel. Then, add sound. Try a low growl, like a “grrrr” sound so you can really give this anger a voice and a place for it to go. Stay present and FEEL the sensations in your body. When you’re ready, release and breathe deeply. Check in with your body afterwards to see what has changed. Be curious about how your energy felt before and after this release?

Lifting Up New Moms, by Emily Clewis

By Caregiving, Community, Feeding Baby, Maternal Mental Health, Parenting, pregnancy, Self-care, Self-compassion

This is a featured article from our 1st edition (2021) of the LIFTS Magazine.  

Lifting Up New Moms

By Emily Clewis

A new life joining the world is a very exciting time. Friends and family members may be eager to gather around to take part in celebrating the new bundle of joy! There are so many ways to show up for families welcoming a new baby. Before you invite yourself over to hold that new baby, there are some really important things to keep in mind.

While holding a new baby is exciting, it’s the birthing person that truly needs to be held, loved, and supported in this golden, but vulnerable time. If the mother is well supported, she can better care for her new baby. Supporting parents in what they need is just as important as welcoming their baby.

The first couple of weeks are crucial for bonding, and new parents may not want any visitors during this vulnerable period. Always ask parents what precautions they may be taking and if they are up for visitors before coming to visit. New babies have no sense of night or day, so parents may be sleeping with their little ones at noon after being up all night. Be flexible with your plans for visiting and understand they may change.

If you do visit, wash your hands well and keep your face away from the baby’s, as babies are vulnerable to common illnesses. Always ask the parents if it’s okay to hold the baby. If they say yes, encourage them to take a shower or quick nap while you’re there. This is a great opportunity for them to take care of themselves!

Offer to bring healthy snacks or a ready-to-heat nutritious meal. Ask mom if she has eaten, and maybe make her a meal (and then do the dishes!). New moms, especially those breastfeeding, are always thirsty and require more calories. If she feeds the baby while you’re there, help her put her feet up and offer to get her water or a snack.

Look around for things that need to be done: laundry, dishes, taking out the trash, etc. If there are older children in the house, offer to watch a movie with them or take them on a walk. Ask new parents what they need; they will likely tell you!

 

Finally, don’t overstay. Parents during this time are heavily exhausted, and even well-meaning company can make parents feel the need to entertain. An hour or so is plenty in those first few weeks.

The early weeks of having a newborn is a beautiful time to support moms and babies. With healthy support, parents are less likely to suffer from perinatal depression and their babies have better health outcomes. Feel empowered to show up for new parents in a way that is helpful, supportive, loving, and graceful.

 

Boundaries to Support You

During postpartum, it is easy to be led by excitement and pride. You want desperately to share this new human with the world and to shout, “Look what I did!” from the rooftops. As women, we know that in the first few weeks, we are supposed to rest and allow our bodies to heal and recover. But our friends and family start calling, and we tell ourselves that we will rest later. Suddenly, visitors and responsibilities snowball, and somewhere under it all, there we are, crushed and tired as hell.

Here are some simple phrases to help draw boundaries around yourself in postpartum.

“We are not ready for visitors at this time.”

“I’m feeling really tired today. Let’s plan for another time when I’m feeling up to company.”

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

“I don’t feel comfortable with that quite yet. I can reach out to you when I feel ready!”

“I know we had plans, but I’m not quite up for it after all. Let’s try again in a few days. In the meantime, here are some sweet pictures!”

“What I really need help with at this time is…”

“No.”

Mama, feel empowered to listen to and advocate for your own needs during this time. Speak them fiercely and unapologetically, even if your voice shakes. Your own mental and physical health is so important, and you have permission to draw a circle of protection around yourself.

 

 

To find resources and support for postpartum, parenting and more, visit our LIFTS Online Resource Guide at https://hmhb-lifts.org/. 

The Becoming, by April Lemieux

By Parenting, pregnancy, Self-compassion

This is a featured poem from our 3rd edition of the LIFTS Magazine.  

 

The Becoming, by April Lemieux

My lips formed around

your name, little one,

long before I ever

held you close.

My body a living shelter

around the ember

of your essence.

And now here you are

living and breathing and

Oh….who knew it could

all feel so big?

This mothering.

This sudden vastness

of love that stretches wide and deep

like the prairie sky.

Oh tiny being,

my child,

my heart.

You have undone me

and made me whole

in the space of one breath.

What magic.

What wonder.

 

To find resources and support for postpartum, parenting and more, visit our LIFTS Online Resource Guide at https://hmhb-lifts.org/

Empowering Families with Essentials: HMHB’s Safe Sleep and Safe Car Seat Initiatives

By Caregiving, Community, Community Support, Parenting, Safety

Ensuring the safety and well-being of our little ones is paramount. However, for some families, accessing essential items like safe sleep spaces and car seats can be a challenge. That’s where Health Mothers Healthy Babies (HMHB) steps in with the Essentials program, providing pack-and-plays and car seats to families in need across Montana through our Safe Sleep for Baby and Safe Seat for Baby programs.

Foundation of Essentials

Image of a happy family with a baby in a car seat, showcasing the importance of safe travel for infants.From its inception, Essentials has been an integral part of HMHB’s mission to support mothers and babies aged zero to three. Recognizing the critical importance of safe sleep and secure travel for infants and toddlers, the program was designed to bridge the gap for families facing financial or logistical barriers.

Impact

A glance at the numbers reveals the program’s growth and impact. In 2024, less than half-way through the year, we are already on pace to surpass our crib and car seat distribution from 2023 and have a broad reach across Montana counties and Reservations. Since its inception, the program has distributed thousands of pack-and-plays and car seats to Montana families.

Year Counties Served Reservations Served Car Seats

 

Cribs
2024 (through May 1) 22 4 141 120
2023 28 6 244 209
Success Stories

The heart of Essentials lies in the stories of families it has helped. Through testimonials like April’s, who found solace in a pack-n-play for her newborn in a small trailer, or Martha’s, a homeless mother provided with a pack-and-play, this program makes tangible differences in people’s lives. From fleeing domestic violence to unexpected births, the Essentials offerings can be accessed during critical moments, offering safety and support.

Building Trust Through Partnerships

Image of a happy baby, safely in a pack n play.To ensure car seats and pack and plays are safely set up, providers (such as doctors, nurses, Health Departments, home visitors, etc.) must order Essentials items for the families they serve.  Thus, Essentials not only provides tangible products to families, but also fosters trust and relationships with direct service providers. By equipping partners with resources, HMHB empowers them to support parents comprehensively, from access to guidance on safe sleep practices, laying the foundation for future engagements.

Continuing the Mission

As HMHB continues to expand its reach and impact through Essentials, the commitment to ensuring every Montana family has access to safe sleep spaces and car seats remains unwavering. Through collaboration with partner organizations and the dedication of its team, Essentials continues to be a beacon of hope for families in need.  If you would like to help further the reach of this important program, please consider making a donation.

Donate Now to Provide Essentials to Montana Babies

Rupture & Repair as a New Parent, by Cait McWilliams

By Parenting, pregnancy, Self-compassion

This is a featured article from our 3rd edition of the LIFTS Magazine.  

Rupture & Repair as a New Parent, by Cait McWilliams

Becoming “mama” was not a part of my plan. I didn’t have a spare room that I was planning to turn into a warm and welcoming nursery. My partner was barely a partner and more of a very attractive man that I had met in a bar. My kitchen had no food but plenty of booze. I wasn’t exactly taking my vitamins on a regular basis.

I had just moved halfway across the country and all the way out of a marriage. I was untethered and exploring my newfound freedom when, in the midst of my move, I met a man who lit me up and captured my curiosity. We threw caution to the wind and avoided conversations about a future together. After our initial connection, we went our separate ways and then, a few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant–with him living in Seattle and me in Denver.

A rigid schedule and stability had felt like death to me in my 20s but now I had to get myself out of the way so I could create a life that supported this cub. I told my gypsy self she was no longer invited to the party and tried to lock her away out of intense fear that, haunted by my own trauma, I would destroy this family. In my attempt to “do it right,” I shut down parts of me that still mattered and was not able to allow myself to be human.

I was exhausted, depleted, fearful and in a new town without deep-set connections–including with my partner. From a nervous system viewpoint, I was in a state of constant survival. The feeling of being in a state of survival is one of intense stress and heavy burden on our physical beings – constricted muscles, tight jaw, chest breathing, constant startle, difficulty tracking conversations, insomnia, poor digestion, upset stomachs, inflammation.

This intense stress impacted my little as he was growing in my womb and for those first few months of his life, when attunement is key, but almost impossible when your system is filled with fear. I used the tools my parents had used, enmeshment and manipulation, to navigate my overwhelmed system. I fell back into familiar patterns of override and numbness. I rarely felt settled enough to rest and just play, and my attunement was primarily based in vigilance and not as much on connection.

At around sixish months, certain variables began to shift which allowed my system to start to release the grip of survival. My life, which had been ruptured by my unplanned pregnancy, began to repair and take on a new shape full of a deeper love and security than my younger self had ever known.

I began to build secure attachments (a foreign language to me before becoming pregnant). My partner and I found our rhythm and decided to make a life together. I met dear friends with babies the same age that I would gather with regularly for hikes, hangs, or just to fold laundry and compare notes. They brought playfulness and curiosity back into my life which are the opposite of fear and constriction. We learned from each other and gave ourselves permission to be imperfect.

My body became familiar again. That first year of mamahood, my body was unlike it had ever been in my life – large breasts and a split apart core. I didn’t know how to dress, and things that had physically come naturally to me in the past, were now impossible to access. As my core began to knit back together, I could feel my sense of self-worth building in potency instead of leaking out of me.

As I experienced the rupture that can happen during and after having a baby, I began to also witness the repair in my own life, which helped me begin to see the seeds that were planted in this cub during more fragile times. And, as I began to repair my own system and come out of survival, I began to provide him with repair as well.

I was coming out of my fear body and, as my new life came into focus and I stopped being so damn scared, I began to find joy. It took time. It took making mistakes. It took being a mess and asking for help. It took moving my body, finding people who loved me even when my breasts were leaking and my BO smelled like french onion soup (a real thing). It took me doing my own work studying Somatic Experiencing while also doing personal work with a therapist. It took me forgiving myself while also holding myself accountable. It took me having the courage to admit my failings to my cub.

And, as we grew our family (having two more cubs and weathering other storms), the wisdom I gained by walking through the intensity of what felt like an explosion of self, has acted as a guiding light many, many times over the last decade.

So, dear birthing people, as you hold that new little, know that you are not alone in your fears.  This is a time of great rupture–mind, body, spirit, relationships. In many ways, what you thought you knew will be turned on its head. But, repair is possible even if it’s hard to imagine what that looks like in those early moments.

Reach out for help.

Connect with others.

Move your body.

Find permission.

You are not alone.

Repair is possible!

To find local supportive parenting resources visit: https://hmhb-lifts.org/ and use the search terms “somatic”, “counselors”, “mental health providers”, “support groups” or “parenting classes”.

To learn more about Cait’s offerings visit her site: https://www.thebodyiswise.com/.