Helen Parker is a practising Christian who believes that every new mother and child deserves a good start, so she founded The Babes Project, a support service that works with women facing crisis pregnancy, as she explains to Julie Houghton.
What is The Babes Project?
So many women are facing motherhood alone or with very little support so The Babes Project runs a model of perinatal support (from conception to one year old). We believe that all women should have access to the information, support and understanding needed to make great decisions about their life and that of their child. The Babes Project is doing its best to ensure this happens.
The Babes Project works with women who are seeking additional support during pregnancy. Delivered by trained volunteers, our program offers holistic support by:
• assisting women to address challenging circumstances and engage with other healthcare and supporting agencies;
• providing workshops where they can learn life skills and baby care; and
• allowing them the space to begin to plan a different future for their family.
In The Babes Project, women have access to our midwives and can apply for other programs including the incentive program and labour support.
We accept self-referrals as well as referrals from family, friends or government agencies and hospitals. We only accept referrals for women who are willing to engage in our program.
Where does it run from?
The Babes Project has two Pregnancy Support Centres, in the Melbourne suburbs of Croydon and Frankston.
What motivated you to start it?
I had my own crisis pregnancy when I was 20 and was concerned about the lack of holistic support for women. The Babes Project was incorporated in 2009 and our first pregnancy centre opened in 2012, and we have assisted more than 350 women. Crisis isn’t limited to financial need—we see such a diverse range of stories and experiences here.
What kind of backgrounds do your volunteers have?
Our volunteers are amazing women from varying backgrounds. Some are trained midwives, social workers or counsellors. All are trained internally by The Babes Project.
Can you give me a memorable example of someone you were able to help?
I remember meeting one young woman with a history of trauma who would hide her face behind her hair and barely look at us. She was homeless and we found her housing. She had nothing for baby and we got her into our incentive program which provides cots, prams and car seats for women in need.
She had nobody to birth with her, so we accompanied her to hospital. The moment her baby was born was breathtaking—watching her become a mother before my eyes was beautiful. She loved her baby and became a strong and resilient young woman.
How much do new mums suffer from the idealised picture in the media of a glowing mum with a newborn?
The image of the ideal mother is not real or helpful. Women either feel they cannot live up to this, or they try so hard to fulfil unrealistic expectations. The Babes Project is passionate about sharing diverse stories of motherhood to ensure women have access to real images and experiences of motherhood.
You are happy to follow a mum from pregnancy to when their baby is one year old; what’s the thinking behind that?
The Babes Project is all about empowering women to connect with and flourish in their communities. We remind women that they are ‘forever a part of The Babes Project family’.
How do you finance it?
There are no fees for our service so the Babes Project relies on the generosity of supporters as well as some grants and philanthropic gifts.
What are your hopes for the future for The Babes Project?
I believe that every woman in Australia has the right to feel supported in her pregnancy and as she prepares for parenting. We will not stop until this is a reality.