CenteringPregnancy: Bonding, Building Relationships with Other Mothers, Caregivers

By Kelley Cooper

CenteringPregnancy is a way to share learning and experiences with other pregnant women and to be involved in their own care.

This group of super moms, known as Group 1, began their journey eight months ago and have met once a month for two hours. Together, they’ve bonded by sharing personal stories about pregnancy, child rearing and family life. Their last appointment was Feb. 8. The next time they all plan to get together, their babies will be in tow.

Each mom-to-be grew from the experience. This will be Justice Hinton’s first child. “I’ve learned how to carry myself and the changes that happen when you become a mother. I’m more confident. Now I have the confidence to be a super mom.  In the beginning I was kind of nervous about being with other women, but I realize they are going through the same thing you’re going through, some worse, some better. So it makes you like, ok, I need someone’s shoulder to lean on. If you are lost, this is the place to be and you can keep the same doctors.”

Group photo of moms

UAMS CenteringPregnancy’s first group on their last session before delivery include; Justice Hinton, Lasondra Washington, Blake Teixeira, Lakresha Jackson and Julie Lopez.

CenteringPregnancy is a prenatal care program that includes a traditional health checkup with additional time and attention in a group setting. Women learn about the program from their first pregnancy visit with their OB/GYN. Once they agree to participate, they meet monthly with their doctor and other women who are due near the same time.

During each CenteringPregnancy appointment, moms-to-be get a prenatal checkup, weight and blood pressure monitoring, private time with their doctor, and important information and resources for them and their baby. Group discussions are included. They bond with the other women by talking and sharing about parenting, child development and family issues. Groups meet at the UAMS Women’s Clinic at Eighth and Cedar streets in Little Rock and along with a physician, advanced practice nurse, registered nurse and education coordinator.

Each of the 10 sessions are different:

  • Prenatal Testing
  • Nutrition
  • Body Changes
  • Common Discomforts
  • Labor and the Birthing Experience
  • Newborn Care, Growth and Development
  • Pregnancy to Parenting
  • Postpartum Depression

During Group 1’s last session, everyone quietly stood in a circle and placed their hands on the belly of the person on either side of them. After a few minutes, they were invited to speak about how it made them feel.

Renee McGraw, M.D., the group’s obstetrician, said, “I could feel you breathing. Aren’t our bodies amazing? I mean, you are growing a baby, you are growing another human.

Mom interacting with medical professionals

Each participant receives one-on-one medical care from Renee McGraw, M.D. and Crystal Marcussen, APRN before the group session.

I felt power. Your bodies are powerful. It’s really cool.”

There were lots of tears and plenty of laughter during the group’s last session. For the last activity of the day, everyone sat in a circle on chairs and tossed a ball of yarn, hanging on to a section of the yarn as they tossed it to each other, creating a web-like pattern. Before each participant tossed the yarn to the next person, she spoke about what centering has been for her.

Hinton enjoyed the fellowship with the other mothers, “I have peace and happiness out of centering. At the beginning of my pregnancy I was alone and I’ve still kind of been alone. So to come around other people just be able to talk, I’ve really enjoyed that.”

In eight short months, the program has grown to include 10 different groups of moms-to-be.  Because the program is so new, staff have learned too.

Moms in group session

Web of Reflection, a team building activity, encouraged everyone to discuss what CenteringPregnancy meant to them.

McGraw caught the ball of yarn and said, “I’ve been super excited about centering from the get go. This is our first group and we didn’t exactly know what we were doing. We were winging it a lot of days and I would be a little apprehensive. But now, every Friday I so look forward to seeing all you guys. As a provider, I’ve never really gotten to know my patients as well as I’ve gotten to know you. We’re in and out of rooms in five minutes. Over the years, I have found that I repeat myself over and over and over. So I love that we say it once, and everybody gets to hear it and I get feedback and learn what your understanding is of different things going on with your bodies and babies. I love learning from you guys and I loved getting to teach you, too. So it’s been awesome.”

It’s been said that a basic human need is relationships with others. Centering fills that need, plus more. After spending eight months with each other, mothers bond with other mothers, their doctor, nurse and educator.

CenteringPregnancy nurse Sandy Cleveland enjoyed meeting the participants and is thankful for the experience.

“I do believe that if it wasn’t for centering, y’all would be out in the waiting room maybe not even talking to each other and now we have built really good relationships. You all have taught me how to be a better nurse. I get to sit and listen and I learned so much from all of you.

Mother of three with one on the way, Julie Lopez of Little Rock said, “I learned a lot about breast feeding and how I was doing it wrong. It’s not going to harm my baby like I thought it would. I’m going to do it again. I like centering. You pay attention to me and make me feel important. I made it to the last appointment! I liked it. I can’t wait until we all have our babies and see each other and see what they look like.”