Where can women find help with a new child?

Jennifer Luna shows off the Baby Boutique where supplies are available in exchange for mommy bucks.

Nathan Wilson | Reporter
New and expecting mothers can find help in Natchitoches at 107 North St. There, the volunteers and staff of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) offer support and guidance for women as they face the challenges of bearing and rearing children in a safe, caring environment.
Jennifer Luna, Executive Director of the WRC, describes what the WRC offers. “The majority of women that we see are between 17 to 30, and they’re just trying to figure out if they’re pregnant or not.” she says. “The core of what we do is pregnancy confirmation as well as ultrasounds.”
Luna explains the WRC helps women who often have a limited support network and few resources. “The majority of women that we see have not had any type of prenatal care,” she says. “We have medical grade tests that we help perform for them (and) we get them scheduled for an ultrasound which is free of charge for them.”
The WRC serves an area much larger than Natchitoches. “Transportation is such a large issue,” says Luna. ”We are the only free and confidential resource, 100%, within 50 miles,” she says. “Even getting a girl from Robeline to get here is a struggle.” She describes the Natchitoches WRC’s geographic footprint. “From Many and Zwolle all the way to Winnfield and Montgomery. We had a client last week down from Anacoco.” she said.
The WRC also provides information and educational resources. “Our classes are kind of like the crème de la crème that a lot of women are really interested in,” Luna says. “We just unveiled our most recent class taught by the Natchitoches Parish Fire District 6 and they do the child safety class. That is one of my personal favorites because they do infant CPR, fire safety in the home, (and) all around home safety.” She lists other classes the center offers. “We also have a childbirth education class as well as a breastfeeding education class. Even if women know they are going to be induced and have a C-section, we just want them to be informed.”

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“With that education, we know, comes healthier pregnancy and we’re proud that over 88% of our women delivered past 37 weeks, which in Louisiana, we are second highest in the nation for pre-term births,” says Luna. “(If) she is an avid smoker, then we will address that throughout her pregnancy. Obviously we cannot make those decisions for her, but we can provide her with the educational literature that shows the effects of smoking as well as substance abuse, drinking, et cetera.”
Most children aren’t exclusively raised by their moms, and Luna is quick to point out anyone can attend the classes they offer. She is excited about the community interest she sees in the child safety class. “With the child safety class we do see a lot more partners, a lot more mothers, grandmothers, sisters, people that they know are going to be around the child,” she says. “Our last class that we have is healthy beginnings and that’s a partnership with LSU Ag teaching healthy nutrition.”
Education helps women experience healthier pregnancies and raise healthier children, but the WRC also offers a variety of incentives to attend their classes. “For one, we have our car seat safety class. Any client that attends gets a free car seat,” she says. “We have a system called mommy bucks and daddy bucks. Every time a client comes to a class we offer these.” She recounts a popular purchase women make with their mommy bucks. “We’ve had women that have absolutely cleared out our diaper storage, and someone goes, ‘Oh no!’ and I say I’m for it. If you’ve got the bucks for it, please take it all, because that’s what we want because she earned it because she did those classes.”
The WRC also helps women gain access to other resources. “We’re a registered Medicaid site, so let’s say she does not have anything. We’re able to sign her up here that day, we’re able to get her connected with WIC, get her signed up with her food stamps (and) housing,” Luna says. “Let’s say we have an NSU student walk in and say ‘hey I think I’m pregnant.’ There’s a scholarship that’s available, not through us, but it is a great resource that we can refer her to for young mothers.”
As Luna describes the ways WRC supports women in her community, she’s also careful to point out the support her organization receives. “We’re largely community donor based, but a lot of different grants that we get allow us to cover the cost of the car seats, the cost of the first aid kits that we provide for the child safety class, the breast pumps that we give during the breast-feeding class,” she says. “Being a non-profit organization, we pride ourselves on that community effort, because we care about (the mothers), not just through her pregnancy, but her entire life because all those factors are going to affect her pregnancy.”