Days before having her now 16-month-old daughter, Steffani Russell gifted herself a birthday membership to an Orillia postpartum support group.

“That was my lifeline in new motherhood,” Russell shares. Although she and her partner already had two children from his previous marriage, it was her first time having a baby. “I was looking for a village… a group of people who were in it with me or who already had experience,” she said.

Moving to Gooderham from Orillia last June, when her daughter was still just eight months old, Russell said she’s met many moms who want to connect but are lacking the space to do so, specifically moms in the newborn, first-year, phase of parenthood.

Having worked in children’s mental health and wellness for 10 years, Russell said she knows post-partum can be unpredictable. Some women suffer from post-partum depression. “Having a support system is huge because you really don’t know how it is going to be for you,” she said.

She started researching resources before their family move “and it was tough to find.” She did connect with EarlyON and found the program to be “excellent” but still encountered new moms “starving for connection with others.”

Chatting with the new moms, she had some answers to their questions thanks to her Orillia post-partum support group.

The light went on.

She connected with the Wellness Hub in Haliburton and they “generously donated their space” to run a group for six weeks starting Feb. 27. It will be free for attendees.

Russell will talk the first week, and other speakers to follow over coming weeks include a social worker from Point in Time, on mental health and wellness, a nutritionist, a pelvic floor physiotherapist, and a sleep consultant.

Russell thinks the support group is important for moms, particularly at a time when people are dealing with post-COVID and the high cost of living.

“Being a mother, in itself, is a new frontier. On top of that, we have a lot of financial barriers. In our area, a lack of community support means you can be on a waitlist, or have to travel far for free support, or are paying a premium for quick, local help.”

She noted the program is free to participants, thanks to the wellness hub and speaker donations.

As for logistics, she said while people are being asked to register, it is not mandatory they attend all six sessions if something comes up; they can bring other children but must care for them; they are breast-feeding friendly and moms can bring snacks if needed. She added someone does not have to be experiencing depression to come. It is about connecting.

“Moms don’t put themselves first… it’s not our time to put ourselves first, but there’s still that element of needing self care. We’re lifted up by connecting with others and supporting others. Even if we’re not struggling ourselves, we can all relate to a time that we were struggling and even just having an opportunity to give your experience or share your story can be empowering for you and the people that are in group with you.

“In those early months for me, the support group was a reason to get myself dressed, because I was getting my baby dressed, but I wasn’t necessarily getting myself ready every day, and I had a place to go.

“We are so excited to have a space to support local moms and connect them with their community.”

The registration is through Russell’s business website: