Creciendo Juntos; A Conversation with Cynthia Arias-Cardoso

Cynthia Arias-Cardoso, MS, QMHP wants us to expand what it means to care for the health and well-being of women and children within the first year of birth. “Now that you (or your partner) have given birth, your days are filled with caring for your newborn or infant child – but who is caring for you? What aren’t you being told about postpartum health?” she asks before passionately describing her inspiration for creating Creciendo Juntos, a drop-in group for parents of children one year and younger.

“Creciendo Juntos is a safe space where parents have the opportunity to discuss postpartum issues such as infant bonding, the emotional development of both the child and the parents, building a relationship and bond with your baby”, and other culturally specific parenting needs.

Cynthia is on to something and she isn’t alone. A 2018 article in the Chicago Tribune reports that “The United States is experiencing an alarming rise in the number of women dying within a year of giving birth.” The article continues that since 2008, 650 women in Illinois have died due to pregnancy-related complications within a year of giving birth.

To address the problem, in May of 2018 “Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, who is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, introduced the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act in May. Known as the MOMMA Act, it would expand Medicaid coverage, establish emergency obstetric protocols, encourage training and create a federal collection of data”, the Tribune reports.

While it remains to be seen what will come from the MOMMA Act and other proposed legislation in Springfield, closer to home- Cynthia was inspired to offer the six to eight-week support group by the need to provide parents with additional support and information following the birth of a child.

Cynthia Arias-Cardoso’s goal is to provide a safe space for parents to get the support and information they’ll need to raise emotionally, developmentally, and socially capable children while also learning to care for their own health and well-being in the long-term. “When you are pregnant, women and their partners can receive up-to-the-minute information about how their baby is developing and how the growing child affects mom’s body. But once the baby is born, the focus shifts primarily toward the child’s physical and medical needs.” Cynthia explains.

Creciendo Juntos is a welcome complement to the vital preventative services of our midwifery groups as well as convenient next-step for families of our CenteringPregnancy© groups.

Creciendo Juntos is a wonderful example of the service integration that our providers and programs strive to achieve.  “We need ongoing services for mothers and their partners. For instance, most people don’t know that there are physical therapy services available specifically to help mothers’ bodies safely return to normal- especially after an event as traumatic as birth.”

That is just a single example of why ongoing care is necessary for new moms- almost like a fourth trimester of care. Another important issue that Cynthia would like to address during the weekly, 90-minute sessions is parenting advice specifically for fathers. “There is so much information about child development and parenting – all of which is written for the benefit of women. Even my own husband had a difficult time finding parenting advice that is specific to or written for fathers”.

“Dads need support too! Fathers are caregivers!” That is why Cynthia wants to provide a safe space for all types of parents and caregivers to receive the support, resources, and information they need to lead healthy and productive lives while raising happy, healthy children. “Creciendo Juntos is member-led. I will start the group with a general prompt or idea and then let the conversation develop based on participant needs.”

Creciendo Juntos is now enrolling. Group sizes are currently limited to no more than 8 families and is available in Spanish. “As interest grows, we will look into expanding the group to English speakers or adding additional group times. Our primary focus is meeting the needs of our current patient population…”, a population that is 96% Spanish speaking.

For more information about Creciendo Juntos, please call Cynthia Arias-Cardoso at 773.782.5003.