Being a mom to a newborn is as challenging as it is natural. Throw in a global pandemic, with the isolation and uncertain economic times it creates, and the task can seem an overwhelming one.
That is where the Sea to Sky Community Services' programming has stepped in.
Pre-pandemic, the free, drop-in Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program (HPOP) brought pregnant and new moms together to share experiences with others, participate in a cooking club and, if they so chose, receive one-on-one supportive counselling.
During the pandemic, in-person programming had to stop, so a 'Drop-By' model was created. Expectant and new moms were given gift bags with recipes and ingredients, grocery store gift cards, and baby supplies.
Participating mothers could walk or drive up with their new baby, see others and ask for advice while being socially distanced. (With restrictions lifted, the in-person drop-ins have recently started up again.)
Andrea Cotter was one of the moms who participated in the program and she told The Chief it was a lifeline for her before her son Stuart was born last August, and in those first heady months after she brought him home.
"That is one thing that kept me going," she said. "I had some really dark times... and every week that was something I could go to and see other human beings, and see other human beings that were in the same position as me."
She added that the women who run the program are "awesome."
Like many who move to Squamish, a number of people in Cotter's extended support system don't live here, and due to the pandemic, they couldn't come out as planned when Stuart was born.
"I am from Manitoba, so all my best friends live there still, and they were all planning to come out in succession to see me, and none of them have been able to meet Stuart, still," she said, noting her partner is supportive, and her parents live close, so she feels lucky in many ways.
As an expectant mom, she made friends with another mom in the group — and then they ended up in the hospital at the same time and had their babies on the same day.
"I feel really lucky that I have had access to that program and it was something that I could go to. I feel like if I didn't have that — and I know a lot of people didn't— it would have been way harder than it already was," she said.
Now that she and her new mom cohort have "graduated" from the group, some of them still get together, she said.
A fundraiser for the program — titled Support Sea to Sky's Brave Pandemic Moms — has reached over 75% of its goal of raising $25,000 to support the Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program, but is hoping to raise more.
Achieving its goal will allow for an extension of the 'Drop-By' and free meal programs.
The society's staff would also like to create mom-to-mom support groups in Pemberton, Whistler, and Squamish," addressing an urgent need to help moms in isolated communities who are finding it exceptionally difficult to connect with others," reads a SSCS news release.
The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation has committed to match contributions up to $5,000.
"The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation has been a proud supporter of Sea to Sky Community Services for many years. SSCS was able to adapt and modify the Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program to continue to be a valuable and much-needed resource to new mothers throughout the pandemic, and we are delighted to be able to support such an amazing program," said Mei Madden, executive director of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation in the release.