Life after childbirth?
Getting out of the house with a young child isn’t so hard.
The only trick – after feeding, bathing, dressing and then loading the child into a stroller before he or she fills another diaper, throws up, or dozes off – is getting outside while there’s still daylight.
Assuming you get that far, where is the time and energy to meet people? Where would you go, anyway?
“It’s not easy,” said Betty Sanguinetti, a Nevada City mother of two. “I was living here for six months, and I didn’t meet anybody. I’m outgoing. It’s not like I was hiding in my house.”
Sanguinetti wanted to get out more and wanted her kids – 5-year-old Theo and 3-year-old Olivia – to get out more, too, but demographics weren’t on her side.
Parents with babies and toddlers are a slim minority in Nevada County. Children under 5 were 4.7 percent of the county population in 2000, compared to 7.3 percent statewide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It’s pretty hard if you don’t get into one support group or another,” said Nancy Finlay, a registered nurse who has headed groups for new mothers for 18 years. “We’re pretty rural, and people live in pretty isolated settings.”
For Sanguinetti, the answer was Sierra Madres and Padres, which gets western Nevada County parents and kids together for activities and note-swapping.
They meet at Rising Starz Gymnastics Academy in Grass Valley monthly and also get together for potlucks; activities such as craft-making; and to hear speakers on discipline, nutrition, Lyme disease and other child-rearing issues.
“The mothers are really cohesive and the kids are really cohesive because they’ve grown up together since birth,” said Julie Poulton of Nevada City as her 4-year-old daughter, Willow, and a dozen other kids dashed over cushioned mats, landing pads and crash pits at the gym.
When she was pregnant, a friend back in the Santa Cruz area got emphatic with her: “You gotta join a moms’ group, you gotta join a moms’ group!”
Nearly five years ago, Poulton was in a yoga class with other pregnant women new to the area, and they started Sierra Madres and Padres. It’s grown to 70 families divided into eight groups.
Mothers are in the majority but dads, like Rod Bedayn, also show up. He brought his two kids, 5-year-old Jesse and 2-year-old Junie, to the gym. He and his wife, Janice, co-own Asia, a new Nevada City restaurant, and take turns with child care.
“They play with their friends and get great exercise,” Bedayn said. “It’s also real social and at this age, they need that.”
As do the parents.
“The mothers get so much out of it because we can talk about our kids and compare what we’re going through,” Debra Marsh of Grass Valley said as she watched her 2-year-old son, Cameron.
The concept isn’t new here. Finlay first started holding group sessions for new mothers in the 1980s through Sierra Care Physicians to help with breast-feeding issues.
That was approximately 900 mothers ago. Sex, marital tension and careers are also topics of weekly discussions, and the mothers and their kids also meet at play areas on their own. Groups that met as long as 17 years ago still hang out.
“Some have developed very deep connections and really become best friends,” Finlay said.
She hopes to start a group for Spanish-speaking mothers who might feel isolated because of language barriers.
– Sierra Madres and Padres provides play groups, social events and support to parents and their young children. For more information, call 470-5086.
– Babies Support Group provides child-rearing information to parents with babies 4 months old and younger. Call Sierra Care Physicians at 272-9780 or registered nurse Nancy Finlay at 265-8216.
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