Share the Journey — The journey of mothers

Cydnei Dean

There’s nothing like seeing the joy on an expectant mom’s face when she graduates from our classes knowing that she has what she needs to begin her journey of motherhood.

As program coordinator for Catholic Charities of Louisville’s Family Support Services, I get to work with moms who are expecting and already parenting through two of our programs, Mother-Infant Care and Mama Matters.

In Mother-Infant Care, expecting moms complete a six-week class that covers things from labor and birth to parental rights, including breastfeeding, baby milestones, healthy pregnancy and child safety.

Along the way, moms earn important items with their attendance and homework. At the end of classes — now done online because of pandemic restrictions — they receive clothing, books, blankets, diapers and wipes, and one large item like a car seat or baby crib.

You should see how they light up! Even though we’ve told them all along what they will receive, when they see it all in one place they can hardly believe it. This is why I say they graduate with everything they need to get started: both knowledge and supplies.

Our Mama Matters is a group for moms with children ages 5 and under. We call it a support group but really it’s simply a place for moms to get together, share their challenges and help others with what they’ve learned.

Before the pandemic, it was a terrific social getaway for the moms because we provided childcare. We’re looking forward to returning to that. This group is especially meaningful to our clients who are here, sometimes temporarily, from other countries. Away from the traditional support of families and friends, they receive strength and encouragement from the moms in the group.

Most of the moms in our programs are low-income, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Many work full-time but are still considered low-income because their work just doesn’t pay that well. Others are the spouses of foreign-born citizens here temporarily while their husbands pursue degrees at the University of Louisville. Their visas will not allow them to work, so their families live on a graduate student’s stipend. Others may be single moms doing all they can to make life good for their new baby.

Seeing expecting moms go from being anxious to confident about pregnancy is amazing. Some expecting moms have had children before, but still learn new things, they tell us. One mom in our program recently was experiencing her first pregnancy (of three) as a sober mom and said she was “scared beyond measure.” She had twins in January and they are thriving with their mom and dad.

I’ve worked in service my whole career, previously as a caseworker with Child Protective Services and as a family advocate with the Center for Women and Families. I’ve seen a lot of trauma.

One of the things I appreciate most about my work with Catholic Charities is that we are laying foundations that allow families to grow in healthy ways, without trauma.

At Catholic Charities we like to say we walk alongside people in their journey from struggle to self-sufficiency. I love being a part of that.

Cydnei Dean is the program coordinator for Family Support Services at Catholic Charities of Louisville.

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