Adding a baby into your family is a huge life transition. Whether it’s a first born or you are becoming a parent again, postpartum is demanding and can be isolating for many women. Some new moms in the Sea to Sky Corridor have recently relocated to the area and don’t have the support of family. Others don’t have financial stability or an established social network. Friendship and community with other young families is key to creating the healthy, active and vibrant “village” new parents long for. Squamish, Pemberton and Whistler are wonderful places in which to raise young children. The region’s natural beauty, expanding services and lifestyle options are drawing many new faces to the area.
As the community grows, the need for support increases.
According to census data from 2016-2022, Pemberton experienced a 32% population growth, far exceeding the provincial average of 7%. As this community grows, so does the demand for prenatal and family support, as well as childcare spaces. In addition to practical assistance (meals, resources and access to experts), the relationships built through these programs are the heart of what makes SSCS a community organization.
The Moms supported through SSCS programs contribute greatly to how and why our communities are thriving. They make us matter.
Healthy Pregnancy Outreach
The Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program (HPOP), run by SSCS for over 25 years, provides services to perinatal moms in Pemberton and Squamish. It is the only perinatal drop-in program in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
HPOP supports prenatal and postpartum mothers facing financial and social barriers, as well as women looking to improve their baby’s physical and mental health as well as their own. This safe, inclusive space is where a mom can meet other moms, access support and resources, enjoy a nutritious meal and choose healthy ingredients to take home. Questions and concerns about childbirth or early motherhood can be voiced. Guest speakers, mentorship opportunities and professionals share information and a listening ear. One-on-one support is also available.
Loralee Seitz, Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program (HPOP) Coordinator and Counsellor has worked on the program for 12 years. She has seen the self-confidence of new mothers grow and friendships form alongside the development of happy, healthy babies.
“For first-time moms, pregnancy is a whole new path. They’re trying to find their place and don’t know what that looks like”, explains Loralee. “We can read all the books and go to all the classes, but you never really know what you’re dealing with until you have that lived motherhood experience. Also, every pregnancy, birthing experience and parenting situation is different and unique. We’re here to support all of it.
HPOP provides a safe place, where moms can learn and observe in a community with like-minded women,” continues Loralee. “We see new moms gaining confidence in themselves, including the confidence to have vulnerable conversations. They share in each other’s successes and cry together through the hard days. They realize they’re not alone. We are creating a beautiful, growing, connecting community.”
HPOP runs year-round and is open to all new or expecting mothers in all stages of pregnancy until the baby is nine months of age. In Pemberton, these weekly drop-in sessions often have 30+ participants and that number is growing.
The connection mothers get through sharing and learning from one another is priceless. However, as participant needs are increasing, so are costs to run this program. Pregnancy and postpartum months are transformative times of life that can come with unforeseen challenges and an evolution of self. Positive access to community during these times can have a huge impact.
“It seems silly, but some days I just dragged myself to HPOP for the egg sandwiches. I was always glad when I did. Sometimes I didn’t even realize how much stress and anxiety I was holding inside until I was able to let it out by talking, laughing, and just connecting.” Shares one program participant.
“Above all, the woman-to-woman support was the most valuable aspect of HPOP. Food brings people together, and often having a new baby can be a very isolating time. I would have had a very different experience as a first-time mom had I not attended these activities.”
What keeps HPOP participants coming back are the relationships they create. Connections and support thrive long after participants and their babies have left HPOP programming.
“That first step for new moms can be difficult. Just like having a baby, walking through the door to the unknown can be intimidating and to have a group that’s welcoming and supportive to help you get through it… there is no measure for it,” shares Loralee. “With second- or third-time moms, they find out they’re pregnant and they’re ready to come back. They bring friends, they bring pregnant women who they’ve just met walking down the street!”
HPOP is often the entry way into many SSCS programs for children and families, such as our Infant Development Program, Mother Goose and Strong Start.
“It’s phenomenal the support and the friendships that are made at HPOP that carry on for both the kids and the moms as they progress through the other SSCS programs and into school,” shares Loralee. “It’s wonderful to be in a school and see a group of moms who met at HPOP still socializing together years later. Countless lifelong relationships have started here.”
Mothers are essential, deeply valued, yet often vulnerable community members. As the population in the Sea to Sky Corridor grows, so does participation in HPOP programming as well as the costs to serve them. In response, SSCS aims to increase our programming in order to continue to provide for new and expectant mothers and their families.
By making a financial gift to Sea to Sky Community Services, you are helping mothers and families to thrive. With your support, we can provide them with knowledge, connection and security which, in turn, will strengthen our flourishing community.
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