Get Familiar with the Family Resource Center!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you live in Skagit County and have young children, you most likely know about—and love—the Children’s Museum of Skagit County. Once snuggled in Cascade Mall, the museum now sits prominently at The Shops (a.k.a. the outlet mall) in Burlington.

It was truly a sad day for all Skagit families last year when the museum’s doors closed temporarily due to COVID-19. I can’t tell you how many times my toddler asked to go to the museum, only to be told that we couldn’t because of the virus.

But even though the doors have been closed to visitors, the staff at the Children’s Museum have been busier than ever! Through a partnership with the Children’s Council of Skagit County, Help Me Grow Washington, and Skagit County Public Health, the museum has been able to continue to serve our community in a new and innovative way.

What is the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center?

Opened in October 2020, the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center is the brainchild of the Children’s Council and was made possible through Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) funding from Skagit County. Partners decided to house the center at the Children’s Museum because the museum was already an established, safe, and trusted community center for Skagit County families.

Though Skagit County has many resources for families, all too often community providers hear from people that they didn’t know that support was available at the time when they needed it. It is the goal of the Family Resource Center to make accessing help an easy process, so that families can quickly find what they need, when they need it, in the way that they need it.

Now, more than ever, parents and families need extra help. As our community faces this pandemic, we have witnessed the reality that many families are being left without a safety net, whether due to loss of income, loss of childcare, or the over-night shift to remote learning. Families are feeling stressed, anxious, and scared. Traditional supports (like extended family or neighbors) may also be less accessible because of state-mandated social distancing and concerns around disease transmission. 

Who can get assistance through the Center?

The Center is available to anyone who could benefit from a little extra help or connection. Even if a family isn’t struggling to afford basic needs, there are so many other types of supports and services available—if you are curious, just ask! The Center’s staff would love to hear from you!

When you contact the Center, staff will use a screening form to determine need. From your call, online form, or email, staff can prepare a package to meet your specific needs.

What kinds of assistance are available through the Center?

The Family Resource Center is providing reliable local information, referrals to services, and application assistance for public programs. The Center is also distributing emergency basic needs items to families who demonstrate a COVID-related financial need.

Whether parents are looking for connections with other parents, opportunities for fun and educational activities for their family, information about their child’s development, or help applying for services, Help Me Grow staff will be able to help in many ways. Here are some examples:

  • Basic Needs assistance: help with things like food, shelter, utilities, diapers
  • Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Support: maternity support services, new parent groups, and the support through the Welcome Baby program
  • Childcare/Early Learning: find options for childcare, preschool, play-and-learn groups, library story times, Kindergarten registration, and more
  • Family Fun: activities and events
  • Family Support: parent coaches, support groups, warm lines, and home visiting programs
  • Health and wellness: free/low-cost health care, dental care, family planning, mental health services and supports, and recovery services
  • Special needs: services and supports for families of children with health and developmental concerns

The Center is also providing activity kits and books to families to promote early learning and to help occupy young children in positive ways for short periods if their parents are struggling to care for their children while working from home, or assisting older children with virtual education. Each family receives a care package filled with items like hand sanitizer, cloth face masks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, bubbles, resource lists and information, tissues, Vroom parenting tips and prompts.

How can I connect with the Center?

TheFamily Resource Center is not a drop-in center, however staff will work with you if special arrangements are needed. There are several ways to get in contact with the Center, including by phone, text, email, and by submitting an online form. At present, assistance is available in English, Spanish, and Mixteco. See below for contact options:

Scheduled pickups are COVID-friendly. Plan for curb-side pickup at the Children’s Museum: 432 Fashion Way, Burlington, WA 98233.

Will the Center eventually close when COVID isn’t as prevalent?  

The Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center and partners are busily making plans for the future. Once the museum reopens in the coming weeks, the Family Resource Center will continue to operate out of the museum, and assistance will continue to be provided through curb-side pickup. Onsite programs, such as Kaleidoscope Play & Learn groups, the Parent Café weekly groups, and parenting classes will also resume at the museum.

Are there plans to reopen the museum soon?

Wait—did I just read that the museum will reopen soon?! Yes, you read correctly!

The Children’s Museum of Skagit County is excited to reopen on Wednesday, June 2nd! Museum staff are working tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare the facility and exhibits. The plan is to operate at reduced capacity (according to the WA State guidelines) with time ticketing and following all state mandates. At this time, staff are also planning for Summer Camps to take place this year. For updates about reopening, visit the Children’s Museum website here.

To learn more about the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center, visit the Help Me Grow Skagit website. If you have questions about the program, or need additional information, call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Wellness During the Postpartum Period

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Considering how difficult the postpartum period was with my first child–how much I struggled with my mental health for months on end—it was a wonder that my husband and I decided to take the plunge again. So when we finally decided to have a second, we were both on high alert for any signs of depression or anxiety.

I knew that I needed to be cautious this time; after all, women who have experienced postpartum depression with previous births are 10% to 50% more likely to experience it again. Even still, there were parts of me that were certain that this time would be different, and that the worst was behind us.

What I came to find is that with each new child brings new challenges, both as a mom and as an individual. In the case of my second child, I realized that the timing of her birth (and my subsequent maternity leave) was a challenge that I had not anticipated.

You see, my first child was born in April—a time of budding flowers and warming temperatures. My second? She was born mid-November. I think it rained consistently for the first three months of her life!

Now that she’s coming up on her first birthday, I am reflecting on my recent postpartum period. What were some things that I did to keep my mental health in check? How did I—despite the potential odds—manage to cope with a newborn, even during the gloomy months?

Here are some things that I did that may be helpful to any new, or expecting, mom (and dad!) out there:

Make a Plan

There is so much preparation before having a baby: buying all the essential baby items, reading the books, taking the classes. But how about making a wellness plan? Perinatal Support Washington has an awesome template that breaks down wellness into a few different categories.

After all, wellness isn’t just one thing. There are so many ways to build up one’s resilience. Thinking about yourself holistically is important; what are you made up of? Consider the brain, the body, and the spirit. All are important for your overall wellbeing.

Lean On Your Person

One of the categories in the wellness template is your Support Team. How important these people are! During these complicated times, my heart goes out to all the new moms and caregivers out there who may not have the physical support of a family member or loved one.

I encourage new parents to think creatively. Your Support Team might not look the way you’d expected or wanted. The support may not come in the form that you’d envisioned. But who is in your circle of trusted people that can be your ally? It can be a husband, partner, parent, neighbor, or friend. Heck—it can be your healthcare provider!

The most important thing is that you have someone who checks in and who watches for potential trouble. Go over your mental health red flags with these individuals before the big day: What do you look like, sound like, or act like when things are getting too hard? And if they begin to notice anything, they need to feel empowered to make the call.

Practice Self-Care (no, really!)

This is way more easily said than done. Here are just a few things that I recommend and that worked for me:

  • Create structure out of chaos: Babies love routine; providing a bit of structure can even enhance your baby’s development! While it may not be feasible to break your day (and night) down to the minute, it can be useful to write down a flexible schedule. This is especially helpful for the days that seem to drag on—when all you seem to be doing is feeding a baby, changing diapers, and running the laundry.
    Apps like Vroom or Bright By Text can help you to fill your routine by providing simple ideas for activities that you can do with your little one.
  • Go outside: I cannot overstate this enough! Even when the days are drizzly and cold, bundle up and get some fresh air. After all, infants are the perfect walking companion. An infant carrier or wrap will mimic the feeling of being safe and cozy in the womb, and it will also allow you to be hands-free for a moment.
    My gloomy-day recommendation is to look up while you walk, instead of staring at the pavement. When you are exhausted and overwhelmed, it can be easy to feel weighted down. Even when the clouds are thick and there is no sun in sight, keep your gaze up and look at the trees, houses, and scenery around you.
  • Breathe: This was the best advice my midwife gave me when I was first struggling with postpartum anxiety. It is also something that I’ve carried with me since then, for whenever I am feeling overwhelmed.
    When we’re stressed or anxious, we forget to breathe deeply. But this is the easiest—and perhaps most effective—way to put yourself at ease. Try a deep breathing exercise to calm your nerves. Try breathing in through your nose for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, and exhale through your mouth for 6 counts. It really does help!
  • Take care of the essentials: This isn’t a novel idea, but it is also one of the first things that goes out the door when you bring a new baby home!
    YOU are the most important part of the equation. YOUR health and YOUR wellbeing directly impact your ability to care for your new baby. Eat well, drink lots of water, and try to get a little sleep. While it may not be eight (or even five) hour stretches, a 3-4 hour stretch can make a world of difference.
    A tip from me to you? Talk to your doctor about nutrition: What vitamins can help to elevate mood, and what foods are especially important during the postpartum period? Your body and hormones fluctuate on hyper-drive after giving birth, and eating well is so important.
  • Laugh and dance: I did not take this advice the first time around. I don’t think I laughed for six weeks after my first daughter was born. But with my second? I let my freak flag fly!
    Try doing something silly…after all, your baby won’t judge! Put some slippery socks on and see how far you can slide across your kitchen floor—just make sure to put the baby down first! Sing at the top of your lungs to songs that you haven’t heard since childhood, or listen to a funny podcast. You will find yourself laughing at yourself and the weird things that you do with little sleep and baby-brain. Embrace the weird.
    If all else fails, just smile. Smile at yourself in the mirror, smile at your baby, smile at your partner. Even if it feels phony at first, keep doing it!

Find Help

You are not alone in these feelings; it is normal to feel overwhelmed during the postpartum period. If nothing above seems to improve your mood, talk to your doctor. I urge you to not let mom guilt get in the way of your wellbeing—and I promise, there is little else stronger in this world than mom guilt.

Not ready to talk to a doctor just yet? That’s okay! There are resources available to you. Perinatal Support Washington’s website is a great place to start. Call or text their Warmline at 1-888-404-7763 to talk with a professional today.

Skagit County also has a great resource for new parents! Visit Welcome Baby to get connected up to local support groups, parenting classes, and assistance with basic needs.

You can and will get through this time. Yes, there are extra challenges right now and yes, the days seem long (and yet, so short). Even still, you are strong, capable, and so perfect for your little one. Give these tips a try, and give yourself some much needed grace.


Expecting

Safe at Home – Pregnancy during COVID-19

Reading Time: 4 minutes

An expecting mom anticipates the joy of her new baby in her arms while managing the anxiety of pregnancy and birth in the time of COVID-19.

It takes a village.

I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise a child. From my own experience, I know that this is definitely true. During my first pregnancy, I woke up in the middle of the night wondering if I was ready to take on this huge new responsibility. During my second pregnancy, I nervously asked my husband if we were ready for two. There are still many days where I wonder if I’m doing this mothering thing right. But I can tell you there is one thing I know for certain: I am so glad I have a village.

When I interviewed my pregnant coworker Amber for our “Safe at Home” series, I had a lot of questions. For one, how is she handling the late stages of pregnancy during social distancing? She shared many of the same worries I had when pregnant.  But she is also facing a whole new set of daunting anxieties resulting from COVID-19.


Amber’s Story

Amber has the unusual challenge of both being pregnant and serving as an Epidemiologist performing COVID-19 case investigations for the Public Health Department. Strictly following social distancing, she works from home.  She spends the bulk of her days investigating the spread COVID-19 and taking actions to prevent further local transmission. This work is crucial to the wellbeing of Skagit. If anyone understands the importance of social distancing, it’s Amber! She sees how easily this virus can spread. So she and her husband are taking extra precautions to stay home and stay healthy.

Many people are worried about themselves and their loved ones getting sick from COVID-19. Amber also is concerned that her and her husband’s health could affect the birth experience of their child. She wondered out loud:

“If my husband shows any signs of infection when I go into labor, would he be able to be in the delivery room with me? What if I contract COVID-19? Would I be forced to isolate from my newly born child?”

NOTE: According to the World Health Organization, we don’t yet know if a sick mom can pass the virus to her unborn child or to the baby during delivery. Pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who have coronavirus-like symptoms, should consult with their doctor. Together, they can make a birth and delivery plan to ensure safety for everyone. Medical professionals know the benefits of skin-to-skin between mothers and babies and encourage breastfeeding. Even moms diagnosed with COVID-19 or having symptoms can breastfeed and hold their baby if they practice good hygiene and wears a face mask.

The thought of being alone during labor is incredibly scary. Hospitals have a temporary restricted visitor policy. This policy allows one healthy labor companion in the delivery room of a healthy mom.  It is heartbreaking to think that so many families are having to deal with these concerns, but this what is needed to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

So Amber’s mom won’t be able to visit her in the hospital. Family and friends won’t be able to drop to see her new baby once she comes home in order. They will need to keep everyone safe through social distancing. Thinking back to when I brought my own babies home from the hospital, it makes me sad to know Amber won’t have the same supports that eased me into motherhood—the village of family, friends, and community.  Before COVID-19, I and other moms routinely took these supports for granted.

To deal with these added stressors, Amber tries to focus on the things she has control over. She joked that she was eating lots of healthy foods because she isn’t able to go buy all the treats she’s craving. When the weather allows, she likes to take long walks. At the same time, she’s a bit weirded out by how people cross the street when they see her. But Amber is grateful people are taking the Governor’s orders seriously.

Amber finds hope and comfort knowing she will soon have her baby in her arms. She tries to remember that “there’s always something to look forward to…for the rest of her life.” Even though things are crazy right now, “there’s guaranteed joy on the way.”


Are you a pregnant or new mom?

There are many new (and free!) support services available to you during this time! Websites like WhattoExpect.com have compiled fantastic resources to help pregnant and new moms navigate this difficult time. Some of my favorites include virtual doula and lactation services, online childbirth classes through Lamaze International, and meditation apps to be used during labor.

Get connected with your local village!

Skagit County’s Welcome Baby program is unable to meet new parents at the birth centers at this time, but they are hoping to connect with Skagit families in their third trimester or those who have recently delivered. Call or text 360.922.2644 or send an email to welcomebaby@unitedwayskagit.org  For more information visit www.skagitwelcomebaby.com

Want other support services? Check out these March of Dimes resources below:

NOTE: Wonderful news! Since this interview, Amber and her husband Drew welcomed their baby daughter Isla to their family. They are all healthy and happy!

Amber – Skagit County Epidemiologist, COVID-19 Investigator, and mom to be!
Baby Isla – Born 4/13/2020!