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Full Circle

Teri with her grandchild at PEPSapalooza

BJ with hos family
BJ with his wife and kids

By Erika Lee Bigelow

Thirty years ago, Teri Engelbrecht, was involved with a volunteer group at Evergreen Hospital. The group had started a baby car seat rental program for new parents. At the time, car seats were quite expensive and not required by law, but Teri and her fellow volunteers felt the issue of car safety was important, so they purchased a truckload of car seats and facilitated the rentals to the community. Somewhere in the camaraderie and communication between these volunteers, Teri heard about another new program that sparked her interest, and later that year after she gave birth in the first designated birthing suite at Evergreen Hospital, Teri joined PEPS.

She and her husband lived in Kirkland, then Woodinville at the time. Her PEPS group of approximately nine Moms and babies were scattered around the area. Much like today’s groups, her group rotated from house to house for weekly meetings and had a facilitator for the first few months. The leader introduced different topics each week and planned field trips to local parks. I spoke to Teri over the phone while she was visiting her youngest child, now a senior at Boise State.

For being a brand new Mom, PEPS made me feel so much better. Every time we went (to a PEPS meeting), the kids would be playing and it was a session where we could talk woman to woman. We were sharing all the things we were experiencing as first time Moms. It was a positive reinforcement session, a support group.

Teri said that the sharing element of PEPS was key. The group felt safe. They knew they could share details about their lives, which would be kept confidential. And the things shared weren’t always about babies. Sometimes there were marital problems, and postpartum problems, and work problems. The group supported one another. They also celebrated together when the kids had birthdays or reached milestones. They learned that every child is different and that no one book can cover everything. It was reassuring for Teri to know that other Moms had struggles and to discover different ways to cope with difficult phases.

The group slowly drifted apart over the years as kids entered school and gained different interests, and eventually those PEPS babies grew up. Teri’s son married and turned her into a Grandma twice over. And it was those grandchildren that brought Teri back to PEPS.

She hadn’t thought about the organization in the recent past, but one weekend last summer, when she was visiting her grandchildren, she ended up at an outdoor children’s music festival at the AquaSox Stadium; PEPSapalooza. Shortly thereafter, she attended a PEPS grandparent lecture and happy hour and was delighted to find PEPS going strong, bigger and better than ever.

“I’ll never forget it,” she said, referring to her time in a PEPS group. “I tell people now, I was in PEPS and how much fun it was and I’m so happy to see that it has changed to incorporate grandparents, and Dads, and evening groups.”

From expectant parents to grandparents, PEPS can say welcome and welcome back to everyone in Seattle and beyond. Check us out and find a supportive community that fits your exact stage of life.

About the Author

Erika BigelowErika Bigelow lives in Seattle with her husband and three kids. In between diapers, carpooling, lunch packing, laundry doing and occasional showering she engages in a series of futile arguments with her 8-going-on-16 year old daughter.

During the rest of the day she is a Director for the Wallingford Community Council, a Poetry Aloud coordinator at John Stanford Int’l School, a Going Places Editor for Seattle’s Child Magazine and she does a Seattle’s Child segment on Q13 Friday mornings at 8:15 a.m. Erika was in a PEPS Newborn Group when her daughter was born, has co-led two groups and has helped plan four PEPS Annual Luncheons and two PEPSapaloozas.

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