Personal experience following child birth for one mother led to the creation of Cherished Mom, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing education about and support regarding perinatal mental and emotional health.

With the additional challenges of the pandemic, Cherished Mom is now providing care packages for new mothers through a partnership with Greeneville Community Hospital East’s Labor and Delivery Department.

The care packages reflect Cherished Mom’s mission to provide support, education and resources for mothers to prepare and thrive during the perinatal period following the birth of a child or adoption of a child.

Cherished Mom was founded two years ago and inspired by Kristina Dulaney’s experience in surviving one of the rarest of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, postpartum psychosis, a few years earlier.

The disorder led to Dulaney spending two weeks in a psychiatric unit “battling for my mind and my life,” she said. Following up with her obstetrician, she commented to him that she is a registered nurse, yet knew nothing about postpartum psychosis.

His response was “that’s a heck of a way to find out about it,” she said, which came back to her years later as Cherished Mom was formed to help educate mothers, families and the communities about mental and emotional health during the perinatal period.

“Moms deserve and desperately need, especially right now, more support, education and resources to prepare and thrive in the perinatal period,” Dulaney said. “So, Cherished Mom was established to educate and support moms, families and the community. We provide peer support groups, educational materials and videos, mama check-ins and care packages.”

The organization has a box program in which mothers receive a free self care box after viewing a series of educational videos about perinatal health.

With the pandemic, the organization decided that mothers need these resources regardless of whether they participate in the box program.

“We want all moms and families to be given information about perinatal mental health, as it should be the norm,” Dulaney said.

The opportunity then arose to partner with the hospital to provide the care packages to new mothers after the birth of their babies at the facility. More than 85 care packages have been provided since the program was launched in late April, Dulaney said.

Inside the care packages are a water bottle, journal, nutrition bar, lotion, hair ties, hand wipes, dry shampoo and education materials.

“The idea is to provide a tangible gift of love for these moms as we know and understand that moms are often forgotten after the baby arrives earth-side,” she said. “We want them to feel loved, cared for and cherished and receive necessary information about perinatal mental health.”

The pandemic is challenging without being pregnant or bringing home a new baby, and the coronavirus is adding additional stress, worries and concerns for many families, Dulaney continued.

“Although having a baby is one of the most joyous and exciting times for a family, we understand that it’s not joyful all the time,” she said. “We want moms and families to know they’re not alone and that it’s okay to reach out for help if they’re not feeling themselves.”

New mothers, repeat moms, adoptive parents and loss parents are incredibly vulnerable to emotional challenges, Dulaney said.

Emotional challenge is the leading complication of childbirth, affecting up to 20% of moms (10% of dads) with suicide being a leading cause of death in the postpartum period, she said.

Evidence is showing an increase in symptoms (up to 34%, or 1 in 3) during the pandemic.

“We simply cannot ignore the emotional health of a family bringing home a baby, especially right now,” she said.

During the pandemic, Dulaney said, it is important for mothers and families to follow the recommendations of their medical providers and reach out with any concerns.

For family members and friends of new mothers, sometimes the best thing for them to do is contact a mother to ask how she is doing and what they can do to help or support her, she continued.

“Being willing to listen without judgement is also a sure way to support a mom while letting her know she’s not alone,” Dulaney said. “If she’s struggling or not feeling herself, point her to resources that will help. Cherishedmom.org is a great start! Providing meals is another way to easily support a family after bringing a new baby home.”

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