Healthy communities start with healthy families. That’s the guiding premise behind Motherwise.

I knew my boss wasn’t happy about my taking time off for the baby. And what would happen if the baby got a fever and I needed to call in sick. I wouldn’t get paid for that. The whole thing was stressing me out.

Seven months pregnant, Jane Doe regarded the pending arrival of her first bundle of joy with off-the-charts anxiety.

After all, everything in her life was unstable. The father of her child was underemployed; the couple faced a pile of bills; and her own part-time job might well be at risk once the baby made his entrance.

But then Doe was referred to Motherwise, a Denver-based program created by Galena Rhoades, a research associate professor in DU’s Department of Psychology. It recognizes that during pregnancy and once a new baby arrives, everything is different. For everyone in the family.

“A new baby comes with many changes and many decisions to make,” Rhoades explained, noting that the six-week MotherWise program works with women in different stages of preparing for a new arrival. Some may already have given birth; others may have their babies while in the program. Regardless, MotherWise helps them hone their communication skills, learn to speak for themselves and develop ways to think through problems—all in the interest of helping women and their families thrive.

The program grew out of Rhoades’ research on how people form relationships and make decisions, as well as her work determining which relationship-building programs yield the best results.

Sally Smith of the Women’s Care Clinic at Denver Health, which partners with Motherwise, considers the program an essential way to help families learn about everything from infant care and parenting to nurturing healthy relationships.  “When put into practice, Galena’s research has far-reaching potential. Mothers who participate are more likely to raise their children in stable environments that, down the road, lead to better performance in schools. That leads to higher graduation rates, to more successful outcomes. For our community as a whole, this program delivers lasting dividends,” Smith said.