(Copyright 2006 Santa Fe New Mexican) “That makes me want to cry.” That’s what Anne McCormick said when she learned she had been chosen as one of 10 Who Made a Difference for her work with Many Mothers, an organization which provides support to families with new babies. “Because what we do is what used to happen all the time, and it’s been a very short time historically, maybe 30 years or so, where women have needed support when they come home with a new baby because their neighbors aren’t there or their family isn’t there,” McCormick said. “That it’s recognized as something that does make a difference really touches me.” When McCormick’s own two sons (now 39 and 40) were born, life was different. Her husband worked and she stayed home, and the other women on her street in Syracuse, N.Y., were home too.
Fast-forward a dozen years and McCormick was divorced, living in Santa Fe and working at the Santa Fe Family Center. Ann Lown, a labor and delivery nurse at St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, called the Family Center director and said she said saw a gap in the services being provided to the families of new babies. “I met so many women who didn’t have their families with them because they were in other parts of the country or they weren’t close with their families,” said Lown, who still works at the hospital, now as a lactation consultant. “They didn’t have the network of friends and family that new mothers need.” “I thought it would be nice if as a community we could invent something for families that don’t already have that in place.” “(McCormick) took the concept and made it real,” Lown said.
The director of the Family Center asked McCormick if she would be interested in coming up with something. “I said ‘Let me at it!’ ” McCormick said. “A certain amount of it was just being in the right place at the time.” When McCormick first devised the program-which sends volunteers to the homes of families with newborns to help fold laundry, cook, watch the baby while the mom bathes, or just talk to new mothers – it was called Muchas Mamas and was part of her paid work at the Family Center. But McCormick wanted the service to have a more neighbor-to-neighbor feeling and wanted to serve families without the obligation to report on their progress to a state- funded organization. She eventually stopped working at the Family Center and Muchas Mamas was taken over by the Rape Crisis Center. In 1999, McCormick founded Many Mothers. The group had the same goal as Muchas Mamas – to provide support to the families of newborns-but the approach was a little different, more centered on what mothers said they needed. “It’s just about having a volunteer show up and say I’m 100 percent here for you,” McCormick said.
McCormick spends much of her time performing administrative tasks for the group and matching volunteers with families. She’s also written a guide about how to start a volunteer based program like Many Mothers. But when the program was in its early days, she spent lots of time volunteering in homes with new babies. (Many Mothers) “literally saved my life,” said Ute Jannsen-Kerr, one of the mothers for whom McCormick volunteered. Jannsen-Kerr and her husband, Andrew Kerr, moved to Madrid from California in 1994. They had been in New Mexico less than a year when Jannsen-Kerr, whose family lives in Germany, gave birth to twin boys. “Anne came out and it was a godsend,” Jannsen- Kerr said. “I had nobody here. I had no family, and no friends. She came and told us things and showed us things.” McCormick cooked for the family, brought donated baby gear, and spent a night in the hospital with Jannsen-Kerr when the new mother got an infection a month after the babies were born. And she provided emotional support. “She really put things in perspective,” Jannsen-Kerr said. “She validated what we were feeling, the sense of being overwhelmed and everything, that it was OK, that it was normal.”
McCormick attributes most of the success of Many Mothers to the volunteers.