Mamas’ Day of HealingPosted on March 6th, 2019
The inaugural Mamas’ Day of Healing, an all-day retreat for parents in Simpson’s family supportive housing program took place on February 28, 2019. Fourteen moms, one father, and twenty children ages three months to eight years, gathered at the Wilder Foundation for relaxation, education, and fun. It was a day for parents to focus on themselves. Speakers focused on prenatal/maternal health and building resilience. Small group sessions encouraged creativity and healing through vision boards, journaling, yoga, and visual arts. Throughout the day, participants connected with other parents by sharing a meal together, offering support, and even singing karaoke.
Senior Early Childhood Specialists Maya Richman and Nedra Robinson collaborated on the vision, design, and coordination of the event. Over 20 Simpson family advocates helped to prepare and staff the event. Nedra Robinson describes Mamas’ Day of Healing as a “true Simpson family effort.” She continues, “They did all this – planned the activities, brought the guests, and staffed the event. It makes me want to cry.” Receiving rave reviews from the parents, Mamas’ Day of Healing is expected to become an annual event.
Throughout the day, there was a spirit of empowerment, rejuvenation, and genuine care for one another: “Today is all about you. Relax. Think only about yourself,” encouraged Nedra Robinson at the event kick-off.
“Focus on getting to know other moms. Talk to each other and connect with one another. You are in a room with the most strong, resilient mothers. The focus is on you,” added Maya Richman.
The importance of high-quality and consistent prenatal and maternal care was highlighted by MNCare midwife, Diane Banigo: “Women who are emotionally and physically healthy have healthy babies and better birth outcomes.” She described how trauma, stress, and systemic racism have adverse effects on mothers and children, especially for African American and Native American women.
Diane outlined strategies that mothers can use to overcome stress and improve their health: asking questions, being a self-advocate in the health care process, seeking out community support resources such as culturally reflective prenatal or parenting groups, and expanding a mom’s natural support system by asking for help from friends, neighbors, and family members. “When you are in a circle of support of people who ‘get you’, you’ll do better. It’s not easy to ask for help, but there are resources for you,” says Diane.
Simpson family housing programs focus on enhancing the resiliency of parents, children, and families. In the large group session, Nedra Robinson discussed Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), stressors or traumatic events in an individual’s past or current situation that may cause stress to an individual’s development and well-being. She encouraged parents to be aware of their ACES, address concerns as needed, and build on their many strengths and resources.
Art, reflection, empowerment, and self-care were all interwoven themes in the event’s small group sessions. “Be intentional about what you want to do in your life. Think about what you want for yourself. What do you need? What do you value? What inspires you?” said Jess Pierce, Youth Housing Program Manager, as she introduced a vision board activity. Each participant and many staff members created a visual art board containing images and words that expressed their uniqueness in these areas.
During the journaling workshop, participants were encouraged to reflect upon emotional and interpersonal strengths and challenges through conversation and journaling. During a group dialogue, parents provided support to one another as they discussed overcoming barriers for their children within the educational system. Group members were provided with introspective and motivational prompts that helped them to reflect on their emotions and interactions. “What are some positive ways you can express your emotions? What are five things that make you smile? What does self-love or self-care look like? What does it mean to be happy and at peace?” asked Simpson Youth Advocate Alfred Sanders.
A visual arts class led by David Anderson of Team Creative allowed parents to explore their creative talents. The facilitator distributed inspirational quotes, and each participant was given the opportunity to select a quote that was meaningful to him or her. Given this encouraging space and presence of other parents, each participant expressed his or her artistic talents through colorful marker drawings on canvas.
A yoga class led by Kirsten DeHaven encouraged mind-body wellness. Several moms and Simpson staff members practiced breathing, meditation, and yoga poses.
Participants, children, and Simpson staff members shared a delicious lunch provided by Faye’s Home Cooking + Catering and enjoyed a festive hour overflowing with conversation, laughter, dancing, and upbeat karaoke singing. Fun was had by all!
Participants were grateful for this day focused solely on them. Parents shared their appreciation for the Mamas’ Day of Healing event:
“I liked when we talked about self-care. I don’t usually take time for myself. If I have any free time, I’m running errands. I learned it’s okay to sit down and relax.”
“I liked the art best. It was fun and relaxing. I don’t think of myself as a creative person. I had fun.”
“The day has been so relaxing. I don’t have to worry about my kids. Or my husband. I get to think about me. I wish today was every day.”
Simpson Housing Services is grateful for their partnership with the African American Babies Coalition that helped make Mamas’ Day of Healing possible. This grass roots program, which started in 2005, focuses on supporting African American parents, grandparents, and support networks, so babies will thrive and excel in the future. The African American Babies Coalition donated money to Mamas’ Day for Healing through a grant received through Integrated Care for High Risk Pregnancies. Two speakers, lunch, and a meeting space at the Wilder Foundation were provided through this donation. Simpson is also very appreciative of the Wilder Foundation’s support of the event.