The Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS) has been around since 1983 in the Seattle-area. Their mission is to enable parents of infants and young children to build communities that empower them to meet the challenges of parenting through mutual support and sharing of information.
By the time I joined PEPS, I had endured a year of fertility testing/treatments, 3 months of bed rest (2 of which were in the hospital), an unscheduled c-section, and the NICU experience with my preemie son. While I know every pregnancy and birth is unique, I just wanted a “normal” experience for a change. I found out about PEPS through a friend of mine. I thought it might be a good way for me to get out of the house and meet other Moms. PEPS was instrumental in providing a safe haven to learn and grow as a new Mom.
My group was located in South King County (where I reside) and there were 7 sets of Moms and babies. It was reassuring to hear everyone’s stories of how their baby arrived into their lives. We shared our highs and lows and had a topic (like feeding, sleeping, emotional changes, etc) each week.
It was such a relief to laugh about bad parenting advice we’d received, confess about our vices for surviving and open up about the realities of living with a brand new person. Being so open and honest with this group of women made it really easy for us to bond at a deep level. And it was fascinating to watch the babies grow and change every week! I left after every meeting feeling recharged and more able to navigate the new waters of balancing the needs of a newborn, my spouse and myself.
When our group ended, I was invited to their annual fundraising luncheon. I saw they were in need of more captains. In my past life, I was a special event fundraiser. I know how vital table captains are to a luncheon. One of the other Moms in my group asked if I’d like to co-captain a table with her and I knew I needed to do that. The luncheon was so inspirational and moving to me. I saw how many lives were affected by the program and how imperative it is for new parents to connect with other parents. It’s too easy to hermit yourself in your home and let the isolation and depression take over.
While captaining a table at their annual fundraising luncheon, I was compelled to volunteer to lead a group. I co-led this group with another Mom from my PEPS group. We got so much joy out of the experience that I decided to lead 2 more groups after that. I also had the opportunity to assist in the Little Peppers program, geared for parents with toddlers and newborns. It really opened my eyes as to the challenges for raising two kids. I found the conversations were very different than in the Newborn Group.
One of my PEPS Moms recently told me that she did PEPS with each of her kids because it’s important for them to have their own individual group of baby friends to grow up with. I’m taking this to heart as I figure out which PEPS program will be right for me when I have my second child.
I’m happy to report that all the PEPS groups I’ve been a part of have continued after the program has ended. They each have grown stronger as friends and allies. Something special happens when these groups get together. It’s been so fun to watch the babies grow into toddlers. We see them playing (and occasionally arguing) with each other. They made their first friends at 2 weeks-4 months old and they always seem to recognize each other like no time has passed.
PEPS programs are available all over King County and South Snohomish County. They have programs for parents with newborns, babies ages 5-12 months, newborns and toddlers, and newborns and older children. PEPS recently just expanded their newborn program to Portland. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit www.peps.org.