DU Program Helps Mothers Throughout Denver
MotherWise aims to help mothers improve their relationships after the births of their babies
For many people, giving birth is one of the most joyful times of life, but also one of the most terrifying. One day they are responsible for only themselves, the next day there’s another life to care for. Having a baby not only changes the life of the mother, but also the lives of everyone around her.
Galena Rhoades is a research associate professor in the University of Denver’s Department of Psychology. Her research has focused on how people form relationships and make decisions and whether different programs addressing relationships are effective in improving outcomes. That’s why she created a program called MotherWise.
“This program is a bridge between both of those areas,” Rhoades says. “Pregnancy is an important time in relationships and families. A new baby comes with many changes and many decisions to make. An evidence-based program on healthy relationships is one way to reduce the stress of this transition.”
The mission of MotherWise is to empower women and their families to thrive. The six-week program works with women in different stages of pregnancy. Some mothers may have already given birth, while others may have their babies while in the program. However, MotherWise is different than all the “baby boot camps” that are out there.
“We really focus on the mother’s relationships and help her think through what she wants her relationships to look like. This might be with the baby’s father, it might be with other people in her life,” Rhoades says. “We really want to help her think through what she wants those most important relationships to be like and make sure she has the skills she needs to make those relationships all that they can be.”
MotherWise focuses on communication skills and works with mothers on how to speak for themselves and how to think through common problems. Since starting in 2016, the program has helped more than 330 mothers.
“Anybody could benefit from this program,” says Izzy, a recent MotherWise graduate who now has a four-month-old daughter. “They teach you how to communicate, especially after you have a baby and everything gets turned upside down as far as the relationships you have around you.”
“I’m learning things that I never really paid attention to,” says Natalie, a current participant. “It’s not just about me and my child. MotherWise goes beyond that and discusses how to treat other people and my personal relationship with my significant other.”
MotherWise is part of a research study to determine if the program can improve birth outcomes, reduce maternal stress and improve long-term family stability and the quality of family relationships. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and from individual donations. From now through late-May, the University’s crowdfunding platform — DUGood — is helping raise money and awareness for MotherWise. The goal is to collect at least $5,500, and an anonymous donor has agreed to match up to $3,000. With community support, Rhoades says MotherWise can continue to grow and help mothers.
“I hope to see MotherWise become part of routine prenatal care in our community,” Rhoades says. “It’s a time in her life and her family’s life where there are so many changes happening, and providing the kind of support we offer has the potential to impact important outcomes later on — improving her birth outcomes, improving the family’s stability going forward and really improving the lives of her children in the long term.”