By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– Pregnancy is portrayed as a time of great joy and anticipation, but a new baby can also bring added stress to a relationship and a family. A free program in Denver, called MotherWise, is dedicated to helping disadvantaged women thrive.

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On a Wednesday in early December, CBS4 sat in on a MotherWise workshop with babies and moms.

“Feeding is a happy time,” said retired pediatrician, Dr. Marie Whiteside.

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She was talking with a half dozen new mothers sitting in a circle with their tiny babies close by. They were collecting practical information about caring for their children.

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“Four months is typically the earliest that you want to try solid food, ” said physician assistant, Melanie Meyer.

The moms learned what food should be first.

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“Typically, the best thing to start is rice cereal,” said Meyer.

And Whiteside and Meyer discussed infant development.

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“Reaching and grabbing, that means that their visual /spatial is coming together,” explained Whiteside.

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The class is called “Baby Wonder,” but it’s also mother well-being.

“I really wanted to do something that would support families during this critical stage,” said Galena Rhoades, PhD, a psychologist.

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In 2016, she founded MotherWise for pregnant women and new mothers.

“We enroll families, often times, that are struggling to put food on the table and need a lot of help with housing and other resources,” Rhoades told CBS 4’s Kathy Walsh.

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Workshops at MotherWise are dedicated to empowering mothers. They learn parenting skills, but also tools for healthy relationships.

“To have the best family environment for bringing home this new baby,” said Rhoades.

“It’s definitely been challenging,” 26-year-old Breanna Montoya told Walsh.

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Breanna and 24-year-old Raul Rodriguez live together with their newborn, Penelope.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without her now,” said Raul.

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Breanna started the MotherWise program while pregnant. Raul joined her in couples workshops.

“Before we couldn’t communicate very well and, I say, now it’s more open,” explained Raul.

“We’ve learned a lot of talking techniques and it’s really, really helped us a lot,” said Breanna.

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“Like the technique, speaker and listener, where one person talks and the other person listens … that’s a big thing,” added Raul.

“Not perfect, no,” said Breanna. “But I would say a lot better.”

“It’s truly a blessing,” said Raul.

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In early December, MotherWise held a holiday get together. Breanna, Raul and Penelope were there with many other families that have completed the program.

There were partners, who now have the tools to work out problems, and women who feel more confident and full of hope for the future.

MotherWise provides free transportation (typically via Uber), food, and childcare for each workshop and visit. The program offers workshops and appointments during the day and evening. Participants also earn prepaid Visa Debit Cards as they complete the program (more than $200).

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MotherWise expects to serve more than 400 families in 2019. It is funded by a federal grant and donations.

To donate, please visit www.MotherWiseColorado.org or text “MotherWise” to 41444.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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