By Melissa Grant
When Andreza Rodriguez found out she was going to be a mum, one of the first things she did was Google ‘pregnancy support’.
Hailing from Brazil with a Columbian partner, Andreza had no family nearby and knew she would need help and care before and after birthing their first child.
What Andreza found was The Babes Project, a crisis pregnancy support service with centres in Croydon and Frankston, that has helped hundreds of women over the past nine years.
They are women, like Andreza, who want help to navigate through the joyous but challenging world of pregnancy and mothering a newborn.
“I literally googled ‘pregnancy support’ when I knew I was pregnant,” Andreza recalled while cradling her daughter Bella.
“It (The Babes Project) came up, and I think I mailed them and then they rang me up and I told them my story.
“I literally just Googled it because I don’t have anyone here.”
The Babes Project offers free holistic support for women during their pregnancy by giving them access to midwives, life skills and baby care workshops, and labour support programs.
The service was born when Helen Parker was shocked to discover a lack of holistic support for expectant women when she encountered her own crisis pregnancy a decade ago.
“I was in my third year of architecture and I progressed with my pregnancy, but was really alarmed that there wasn’t any holistic support for women, it’s all sort of band-aid options,” she said.
“We are trying to be a little more proactive, a little more long-term to make sure that we aren’t just birthing the babies and go ‘oh what do we do with this?’
There was clearly a need for service like The Babes Project – its centres have waiting lists.
The service is looking at expanding and has just launched a free smartphone app based on its perinatal program.
The app, developed in Melbourne, offers timely information about pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life along with contacts and services, an interactive calendar, photo diaries and experiences shared by other mums.
Andreza said facing motherhood would have been worrying, and perhaps sad, had she not found The Babes Project.
After helping navigate her pregnancy, The Babes Project’s lunches gave her something to regularly look forward to between the constant feeding and nappy changes.
“It’s my out from the house,” she said. “It’s very nice being part of something.”
The Babes Project has helped Andreza make new mum friends, including Vienna Magan.
Vienna, mum to Isabella, described the service as both welcoming and empowering.
“It’s good to have a support that’s not a clinical type of service,” she said.
Vienna and Andreza both shared their experiences as The Babes Project showcased its perinatal program and previewed its app at an International Women’s Day brunch in March.
The event also welcomed the service’s new ambassador, Jordan Ablett.
Jordan, wife of AFL star Garry Ablett, said supporting the project was a natural progression for her after working with children through volunteering and as a youth worker.
“I am really excited about the heart behind The Babes Project, the genuine passion this organisation has for the mothers and babies it works with, and how the support transforms their lives,” Jordan said.