In Alexandria, Birthright’s ‘Opps and Apps’ classes offer more than changing diapers

Categories: Around the Diocese

Jan. 17, 2014, edition
By Kristi Anderson

Julie Desautels is just one of 25 volunteers who is working to change the image that Birthright in Alexandria is simply a “diaper warehouse.”

“We didn’t want to be known as a place people could only come to get free baby supplies,” said Desautels, Birthright office volunteer and board member since 1991.

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Suzanne Sudmeier (right) talks with with Blanca Garcia who came to Birthright in Alexandria with her four-month-old son Gabriel for a car seat evaluation. Paul Middlestaedt / For The Visitor

“While that is indeed a valuable and much-needed service, we wanted to get to know women on a personal level and provide them with opportunities for life enrichment.”

Since 1978, Birthright has brought hope and education to women facing unplanned pregnancies across the seven-county area through pre- and postnatal classes and parenting education.

More recently, through a Positive Alternative grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, Birthright has implemented a parenting curriculum called Opps and Apps. “Opps” stands for learning opportunities and the “Apps” for applications for life, including use of an iPad loaded with pregnancy apps.

“Women can choose from over 100 topics, including prenatal development, pregnancy and nutrition,” Desautels said. “It’s fun to watch them learn about prenatal growth and development. They love seeing how the baby changes. The more they learn, the more they seem to bond with their child, and that is so important.”

Classes also assist in postnatal topics such as car seat education, baby sign language, discipline and potty training.

Suzanne Sudmeier is one of three certified car seat technicians that volunteer with Birthright and is a retired certified nurse midwife.

“While other organizations provide education for childbirth and parenting,” she said, “the Opps and Apps program is designed to bring quality information to our clients tailored to their needs and interest in a personal and one-to-one manner that allows for individualized growth.”

Sudmeier recently worked with a young woman expecting twins.

“She had an ultrasound that confirmed the pregnancy and the presence of two living babies, but had not yet had her first OB (obstetrics) check,” she said. “She was filled with questions and had no personal support. She was referred to us from the doctor’s office where she had the ultrasound.

“Here, she was able to express herself, get a hug and information that answered at least some of her questions and decreased her anxiety,” Sudmeier said. “She went away with a plan that included contacting her physician and returning here for continued education.

“She did return,” Sudmeier said. “Sadly, she had learned that the babies she had been so joyful about were no longer living. She had learned this sad news alone and felt there was no one close to her she could turn to.

“I was able to take her into my arms and hug her and cry with her. We have resources in the Opps and Apps program for special situations like this, and I was glad to be able to share this life experience with her and let her know that she was not alone.”

Sudmeier said that not every day is dramatic.

“Some days are quiet,” she explained.

“Some days our primary service is the Diaper Club, and providing good used clothing for growing babies and moms. When a person is stressed or has little in the way of financial resources, we are here and ready for whoever comes in the door.”

Birthright in Alexandria is located at 1114 Broadway St. For information or to set up an appointment call 320-762-1224 or text 320- 200-2227.