Posted by Phyllis Eidelman
Presented at the CERS Women's Breakfast

PhyllisWhen I was asked to speak at the Women's Breakfast about my experience as a Visiting Mom, I was honored and yet humbled at the opportunity as I am still a rookie in this 25-year-old program.

I am very blessed to have three beautiful, healthy children. Once they were no longer babies, they started to notice my affinity towards other babies. Thus was born the nickname "baby magnet." Often, wherever we went, I would gravitate towards babies or the babies would find me. I can think of worse scenarios.

With my own children becoming more independent, I busied myself with volunteer work. When I learned about the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program run by JF&CS I had a "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" moment. Volunteer with an amazing Jewish organization and work with moms and babies? I could hardly wait! The details were even better: volunteer one hour a week to visit a new mom and her baby and participate in a supervision group every other week. Sign me up.

But life works in strange ways. Just as I was nearing the end of the training, I found out that my beloved father, Eli, was going to be placed in hospice. By this time our supervision group had already formed a bond. When I shared with my group that I believed my father was dying, I was met with more support than I could have ever imagined. I called Debbie Whitehill, Director of Visiting Moms, and explained my situation. I could feel her compassion through the phone as she reassured me that I could take whatever time I needed and start to be a Visiting Mom whenever I was ready.

Well, life is not only strange, it is unpredictable. My father didn't pass away as we had feared, not at that point in time. He came off of hospice and remained a nursing home patient. My days opened up again so I called my supervisor, Diane, and told her I was ready for my new mom. She matched me up with Holly who had requested someone who had experience with boys. Thankfully, two out of my three are boys, so it was a done deal.

I was excited and nervous at the prospect of meeting Holly. Would we click? Would she like me? Quite honestly, it felt a lot like a blind date! If Holly described my walking into the room and her going, "Ah…it's going to be okay," I walked into her home and thought, "Hurray! Beautiful baby, adorable toddler, loving mom - yes!" Toys and books on the floor, diapers in the corner, and baby blankets. Everything spoke to me of youth, health, love, and life. Yes, Holly was a bit frazzled, but doing so well. The change for me, going from a nursing home environment, hospitals, and end-of-life issues to the home of young parents just growing their new family, was truly remarkable. Rather than an obligation, visiting Holly and her children every week was my recuperation. Holding little baby Mona and listening to Asher call me "Phyrruss" every week became a joy in my life.

Holly is an amazing mom and I just needed to help her see that. I became her mirror. It wasn't hard to point out the way her baby nestled into her arms, a bundle of love and contentment. It was so moving and meaningful to watch Holly's face light up as I reminded her to notice her son's precocious vocabulary as he spoke. As we listened together, she commented, "Wow, he really talks like me!" As she and her husband weathered the sleepless nights, I listened, remembering those days. I so wanted to give advice but waited until one visit she finally said, "I think we need to let Mona start to get herself to sleep!" I wanted to scream out, "Yes!" but managed to respond with, "Sounds like you're ready to take some control." Guess who learned to settle herself down?

Holly didn't always say it out loud, but I could see in her changing expression, her thinking, "I am a good mom." Yes Holly, you are an amazing mom!

Last October as little Mona neared her first birthday, signifying the end to my time as Holly's Visiting Mom, my father did pass away. Through his last days, I was still able to make it to Holly's home. Those visits with her family were a gift.

I am forever thankful to have the opportunity to be a Visiting Mom. To help a mom with a new baby and a willful toddler see that she is capable, to know that her children are thriving, to recognize the struggles and frustrations, and to just be there holding her hand, letting her say, "Ah… it's going to be okay." I am thankful.

Hear about Holly's experience with Visiting Moms.