How PIP Began: A Founder's Story

I’m pretty sure my high school English teacher advised me to start my papers with self deprecation, so here it goes:  I’m not a great writer.  I try to be a good mom, but it doesn’t always work.  In an effort to be a good mom, I sometimes forget how to be a good partner.  Our house is marginally clean some of the time, and daily victories are getting healthy food in my children’s bellies.  Raise your hand if you can relate. 

Rewind ten years.  I knew I wanted to be a mom.  Actually, rewind 30 years and I knew I wanted to be a mom…someday.  I didn’t really know what that entailed, but knew my life wouldn’t be complete without it.  How hard could it be?  I taught 25 eight year olds every day for 13 years.  It couldn’t be harder than that.  So, after falling in love (check), getting married (check), traveling the world (check), completing degrees and certifications (check), we were finally ready for the next step.  I was in my late 30’s and supremely confident that I had figured out my life thus far, so I would figure out how to parent as well.                                     

Traveling...just the two of us

I started my pregnancy journey in a Bradley class that taught unmedicated childbirth methods.  There, I not only learned how to calmly breathe my way through contractions (ha!), but I connected with other soon-to-be new parents.  Krista Miller, a Bradley participant and PIP co-founder, suggested that we get together outside of class.  We were all due in March, so we, along with other moms we met, formed the March Moms group.  We met once before our babies were born, and then again when our babies were about 6 weeks old. 

Now, I’m a sociable enough person on the outside, but a true introvert on the inside.  Prior to having my beautiful daughter, Maizy, I didn’t think I’d need much help.  I tend to do most things by myself, and I prefer it that way.  During the first March Moms get together after the babies joined us, I quickly came to understand how much I would rely on these women.  We began by sharing our birth stories.  There was laughter and tears and supreme understanding.  The bonding came easily because all of us had just experienced a life-altering event. 

March Mamas!

To say that being a new mother was effortless and easy…well, I’m no comedian, but that would be funny.  My identity as a person changed.  My priorities changed.  My relationship with my husband changed.  My body changed.  Navigating these changes alone was just too isolating.  I needed to know that what I was doing and what I was feeling was normal.  I craved advice on how to overcome challenges, and cheerleaders to revel in the joys of parenting.  I found that in the group of mamas who continue to be my dear friends today.  We have been together through almost 5 years of parental bliss, have celebrated the births of second (and third) children, enjoyed moms’ nights out, play dates, family pool parties, and holidays together. 

One fall day, Krista and I got together for a play date, and she asked, “What if we can create groups for all new Austin parents?”  If you know me at all, you’ll know that my type A personality is hard to locate.  But, I’m a great dreamer.  So, Krista and I decided that we should try to provide neighborhood based peer support groups for new parents.  We reached out to a Seattle nonprofit, PEPS (www.peps.org), who has been doing this exact thing for 30 years.  We were hoping they would support our endeavor, and while they couldn’t provide the infrastructure for a branch, they gave us their support in numerous other ways.  I don’t want to bore you with the details, so we will flash forward a year, and Krista and I had formed Partners in Parenting (www.pipaustin.org), which is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to helping new parents with their transition into parenthood. 

Krista and I began as a two-woman team.  Together, we facilitated groups, created marketing materials and a website, built an active Board of Directors, recruited dedicated volunteers & guest speakers, and tried to spread the word.  Now in our third year, we have seen the success of many Newborn and Baby PIPsqueaks groups, hired Rachel Ladov, an amazing Executive Director, and generally found ourselves a part of Austin’s vibrant birth community. 

I’m grateful.  I just had my second child at the beginning of the year(a little boy named Miller).  Maizy is a super spunky and imaginative four year old.  I still have my March Moms group with whom I can share my parenting journey, and many other Austin families are experiencing the joys of their own PIP groups.   Through this venture, I have not only found my village here in Austin, but have surrounded myself with caring, thoughtful, and positive people.  My March Moms group has become a foundation in my life. I truly hope we can help other new parents find a community of support with our PIPsqueaks groups. If you or someone you know is becoming a new parent, we hope you will join a PIPsqueaks group

Carolyn Opps is a PIP co-founder, mother of two, and can often be found on the Ladybird Lake trail in Austin, TX.

Carolyn Opps is a PIP co-founder, mother of two, and can often be found on the Ladybird Lake trail in Austin, TX.