Bringing a baby home is an unforgettable event for new parents and families. Love, warmth, hopes, and dreams for their future fill the quiet moments. Diapers, feedings, crying, spit-up, laundry, and dirty dishes fill the rest of the not-so-quiet moments.
New parenthood is a lot to balance, and at times it can feel overwhelming and isolating, especially when family and friends are far away. Santa Fe, New Mexico, with its beautiful landscape, diverse population, rich culture, and history, has become a popular destination for many families looking to put down new roots. In addition to people moving into the state, New Mexico is home to a robust immigrant population, with nearly one in ten New Mexicans coming from other countries. Unfortunately, having support when moments get hard is not always a reality for these families.
Many Mothers has set out to change that by providing hands-on support New Mexico families need with in-home services and wraparound care to achieve health equity and wellbeing for all babies and their caregivers.
A Many Mothers Family Story
Despite how modern perceptions have shaped our understanding of parenthood, raising children is not something we should have to do on our own, but with the support of others. Sharing the responsibilities of child-rearing was a familial and communal effort until recently. The experiences of the last few years have proven that we need each other more than ever before.
In August 2020, “Jennifer” had her first baby. She was experiencing feelings of depression caring for their newborn daughter on her own while her partner was at work. Jennifer, being new to Santa Fe and with her partner working 50-plus hours a week, felt alone and worried as their financial situation was tenuous. That’s when Jennifer found Many Mothers, an organization that was ready to help alleviate the strain with their food and basic needs distribution. Additionally, Jennifer was matched with a volunteer who provided much needed support, helping her with the baby weekly for three months.
At the end of their support, right when New Mexico experienced a second COVID lockdown, the baby developed a seizure disorder. With this additional stress, Jennifer reported that she was distraught and barely sleeping. At the request of Many Mothers, the volunteer stayed on for an additional three months until the baby stabilized. Later in 2021, Jennifer said that Many Mothers was “a lifesaver” for her mental health and her family.
Many Mothers provide many different services to all families in northern New Mexico. Additional programs, such as The Navigation, Babies’ Basic Needs, and Farm-to-Families, are also available for income-eligible families. In addition to these programs, Many Mothers provides necessities like diapers, wipes, formula, and healthy food to Santa Fe families in need.
Many Mothers Executive Director Antoiniette Villamil recalls a time early in the pandemic when a mother contacted Many Mothers around 9 p.m. The mother shared that she did not have access to a car and there was no food in the house. This is when Antoiniette jumped into action.
“I went through my pantry to gather food, stopped by the office, got diapers, and drove out to the house at ten at night. It became clear that this family had been holding on by a thread, and that thread had been cut.”
Many Mothers continued to hear similar stories of families who were barely getting by. This was the beginning of fundamental change in the organization brought about by Antoinette’s experience and the new reality of the pandemic magnifying the issues faced by our most vulnerable northern New Mexicans.
“After that night…it hit me, it was my duty as someone who had all their needs met to provide what I could for others who did not. Because of the pandemic, we have made a very distinct shift to support families who are marginalized by race or socioeconomic status.”
To keep costs low and provide no-cost services to the community, Many Mothers relies on a network of compassionate and dedicated volunteers. By organizing and utilizing each of the volunteers’ unique skill sets and specific passions, the Many Mothers’ staff matches volunteers to families based on shared interests, experiences, and backgrounds.
Djung, a Many Mothers volunteer who retired after 40 years in pediatrics, came to work with Many Mothers to revisit her passion of working with new parents. She is currently supporting her third set of clients and could not be happier with her volunteer experience.
“It has been a fulfilling and enjoyable experience to come into the home and interact with the babies and parents,” Djung said. “Sometimes it is nothing more than sitting with a parent and discussing and listening to their feelings.”
The time and consideration put into matching volunteers with mothers helps to ensure both the family’s and the volunteer’s needs are fulfilled while also creating beautiful bonds between volunteers and families. Djung’s background in pediatrics and patience as an experienced caregiver allows her to provide valuable relief to families who are requesting support.
“I often offer practical advice regarding routine newborn and infant care,” Djung explains. “I also have engaged in simply watching the baby while a parent takes a nap or showers. I have also been more than happy to assist an overwhelmed parent in routine housework.”
Volunteers are often thought of as members of the family. Djung, who is 72, recalled, “One client told me it was like having a grandparent come by and offer a helping hand.”
Djung could not be happier giving her time and experience as a Many Mothers volunteer. “Many Mothers is a worthy organization offering what often is an overlooked service.”
Many Mothers’ life-changing work makes a positive impact on new families' lives by being the helping hands that share in the day-to-day duties during their most vulnerable times. The help parents receive from Many Mothers, whether essential supplies like diapers or a much-needed break for a nap, can make all the difference. Only through the continued support and generosity of the Santa Fe community can Many Mothers keep making strides towards a healthier and brighter future, with equity and wellbeing for all babies and their families.
This story is brought to you by the Santa Fe Community Foundation, where we inspire philanthropic generosity, strengthen nonprofits, and foster positive change to build a more vibrant, healthy, and resilient region. For information on how we help New Mexico nonprofits, please call us at 505.988.9715 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.