Cultivating Connections in the Methow Valley 

By Sarah Bahn, PEPS Communications & Marketing Manager (Estimated reading time: 5 minutes) 

Sarah Simmons of Methow Valley Midwifery holding a stethoscope to a newborn baby’s chest. 

In dense urban areas, public spaces such as parks, playgroups, pools, and coffee shops act as natural gathering spaces where new parents can meet other parents and children. Even so, many parents report feeling isolated after welcoming a new baby to their family. For over 40 years, PEPS has offered families in King and Snohomish counties a way to connect with other parents going through the same phase of life. 

For parents living in rural areas, that sense of isolation may be more acute. Physical distance and fewer public spaces to organically connect with other parents can amplify the feelings of loneliness that often accompany the early days of parenthood. Through the PEPS Network, nonprofits or small businesses serving families outside the PEPS service area can license our curriculum to offer parent peer-support groups in their communities.   

Interested in learning more about all our Network Partners program? Read more about partnerships at PEPS.

Methow Valley Midwifery 

Methow Valley Midwifery is one of our newest PEPS Network Partners. The midwifery is run by Sarah Simmons, a licensed midwife and mother of six who moved to the Methow Valley, a rural region in Washington State, about six years ago after previously practicing in Tacoma. Sarah cares for about 70 pregnant people and parents every year, providing prenatal, birth, and postnatal care, as well as lactation support. 

While the relationship between PEPS and Methow Valley Midwifery may be new, peer support for new moms in the Methow Valley is not. For around 20 years, a Mothering Group has been operating in the Methow Valley, with the reigns of facilitation passed between different groups and organizations over the last two decades. 

Transitioning the Mothering Group  

Most recently, the Mothering Group was hosted by Room One, a social service agency and former PEPS Network Partner. Room One used PEPS curriculum to facilitate the Mothering Group in the Methow Valley for many years. As the organization’s program needs evolved, they sent out a call to the community in search of a new organization to partner with PEPS to provide peer support for parents in the Methow Valley. 

As a local midwife already connected with many families in the area and passionate about supporting women during their transition into motherhood, Sarah Simmons took up the call from Room One to take over leadership of the Mothering Group. Practicing in a rural area after moving from Tacoma, Sarah has seen first-hand the limited resources and community-building spaces available to families in the Methow Valley. 

She had the office space, capacity, and passion for parent support to take on this work. After she agreed to take on the PEPS programming for the community, Room One hosted a party with recent volunteers to raise money to fund upcoming groups. 

Stefanie and Sarah of Methow Valley Midwifery. 

The intersection of midwifery and parent peer support 

Sarah, along with her co-facilitator and midwifery student Stefanie, has hosted two cohorts of the Mothering Group so far. Sarah said, “Honestly, it’s kind of my favorite time of the week.” Her experience as a midwife made the transition to facilitating the group easy — taking care of hundreds of moms and babies (including her own!) has given Sarah the knowledge and confidence to support new parents and help them share openly about their transition into parenthood. Sarah’s vast knowledge and experience has given her an important perspective to share with new parents — there are many right ways to parent.  

Connecting Methow Valley parents 

Sarah and Stefanie host the Mothering Groups at their clinic, welcoming moms from up and down the valley who drive from within a 30-minute radius to join the group. Each cohort has included 7-8 new moms with babies born within two months of each other, helping the moms connect over their infants’ shared age and stage. Many participants are clients of Methow Valley Midwifery or find out about the group through the health clinic in town. Word of mouth is also strong in the community, which helps ensure new parents hear about upcoming groups.  

“It’s just really great to see how people from different backgrounds and different parenting styles all found this common ground to connect.” 

Sarah Simmons, Methow Valley Midwifery

After the first two cohorts, Sarah and Stefanie have been amazed by the community building that happens within the groups. They’ve gotten incredibly positive feedback from participants so far, and the most recent cohort continues to stay in touch through an ongoing text thread and regular gatherings and hikes together. Moving forward, they plan to host three Mothering Group cohorts per year, using wisdom passed down from Room One to determine the best times of year to offer groups. 

Partnering with PEPS

In addition to the value of their experience as midwives, the PEPS curriculum and training eased the transition from Room One to Methow Valley Midwifery for Sarah and Stefanie. When speaking about starting up the group in her own space, Sarah shared: “I thought it would be more work than it is, but the framework makes it really easy to plug and go.” Already busy with births, lactation support, and the many other services she provides to moms in her community, Sarah was relieved to find that the existing PEPS curriculum and training binder made it simple to start facilitating groups thanks to the detailed topic guides, sample discussion questions, and facilitation tips.

Meeting the diverse needs of each community is part of what makes the PEPS Network model so powerful. The Network Partners program makes it easy for organizations to offer parent peer-support groups without starting from scratch while allowing flexibility and adaptation to meet the unique needs of their community. From Hawaii to Texas to the Methow Valley, parents everywhere need support, community, and connection to thrive.  

Sarah cradling a newborn baby on her chest.

About the Author

Sarah Bahn (she/her) is the Communications and Marketing Manager at PEPS. She loves amplifying the incredible stories of the PEPS community through the PEPS blog, website, and social media. Sarah is passionate about the community-building power of nonprofits and loves to support our local organizations. In her free time, she enjoys taking long walks through Seattle neighborhoods and parks with a coffee in hand.

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