By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Every week Lucy, an experienced mom, arrives at Amelia’s apartment, curious to know what this new mom wants to talk about or do. They might talk about her exhaustion, trouble getting her 3-month-old Jesse to nap, how little she gets done each day, or how much she misses her “old life.” Then again, they might spend time together watching the baby do new things and marvel about how much he has grown, or take a trip to the market.
One thing is constant: Lucy always feels honored to spend time with Amelia, and she will do so for one hour a week until the baby’s first birthday. Lucy is part of “Visiting Moms,” a program run by Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JF&CS).
Waltham-based program director Debbie Whitehill said, “Our volunteers walk alongside moms in this motherhood journey. Their very presence is a form of reassurance.”
Founded 27 years ago, Visiting Moms has a strong presence in eastern Massachusetts. Now, the program is expanding into central Mass.
“This is an ideal program offering for the community,” said Deb Shrier, JF&CS’s director of community and program development in central Mass.
Shrier noted that Westborough resident Judy Rosenberg, a member of the JF&CS Advisory Committee in central Mass., has championed this expansion.
All moms themselves, Visiting Moms are carefully selected and trained. They range in age from their mid-30s to70s. Visiting Moms typically travel from 15 to 30 minutes to the new mom’s home. Many stay in the program for years.
“We are looking for people who are warm and nurturing … and good listeners,” said Whitehill.
Once selected, Visiting Moms attend five two-hour training sessions. They participate in supervisory meetings twice a month held by eight supervisors at convenient locations, including Westborough. To date, two Westborough residents have been trained and are about to be paired with new moms.
“Doing this work feeds my soul and feeds my intellect,” commented one Visiting Moms volunteer.
Another added, “I appreciate all of the staff, the trainings, and the other volunteers, who have so much wisdom to share. They’ve helped me be a better Visiting Mom and a better person to my family and friends.”
Moms of newborns are referred to the program by pediatricians, obstetricians, social workers, visiting nurses and, sometimes, by family or friends.
“We are known throughout the postpartum community,” said Whitehill.
Mostly first time moms, they include moms with partners or spouses, moms of twins, lesbian moms, and a growing number of single moms. The program reaches out to moms of diverse backgrounds – socioeconomic, religious and cultural.
Whitehill noted that a new mom may not have family nearby, or might have family who are not able to lend the kind of support she needs.
One new mom said, “I loved having a non-judgmental person to confide in and never felt like I had to hold back or hide how difficult being a new mom is.”
“The most helpful thing is that the Visiting Mom doesn’t know any of my friends and family and therefore it was easy for me to open up and share my difficulties and the daily struggles,” another mom said.
The change in new mothers over the course of the year is often dramatic, according to Whitehill.
“Moms usually grow in their sense of competence and confidence,” she said. “They become calmer and more secure… Their babies become more regulated.”
If you or someone you know is interested in joining Visiting Moms in Central Mass., or to get more information, contact Debbie Whitehill at 781-693-5625 or [email protected].