Love and Stress

Preparing for Parenthood
Special Section Feature: Love and Stress

Babies come prepackaged with love and joy—and fear and stress.

From the first time your baby looks in your eyes to his/her first giggles and beyond, the love for your baby is life changing.

And so is the stress of little sleep, less money for yourself, less time for yourself, less spontaneity and more responsibility. All coupled with the fear of doing something wrong for your precious, all-dependent and all-trusting baby.

Whether it’s your first, second or sixth, each pregnancy and baby is different. As such, the way you develop as a parent changes with each child.

While babies don’t come with manuals (though wouldn’t it be great if they did!), The Hatching Project, hosted by The Forest Institute’s Robert J. Murney Clinic, offers new or experienced parents tools and skills to manage the stresses of parenthood and how it changes you and your relationship.

“Pregnancy is a time of preparation for some big changes in a couple’s life—and even more so for an individual,” says Vice President of Innovation and Community Health at The Forest Institute’s Robert J. Murney Clinic Dr. Jennifer Baker, a psychologist and a licensed family and marriage therapist. “Planning ahead, learning skills and accessing meaningful support can make a tremendous difference in the transition to parenthood.”

The workshops, currently held at the Springfield-Greene County WIC office located at 440 E. Tampa St., are open to couples as well as single parents 18 years or older that are currently pregnant and those with a baby six months or younger.

“Couples who participate in programs such as The Hatching Project report much higher relationship satisfaction (which is very good for children) up to three years after the workshop is completed,” Dr. Baker says.

For single parents who may be skeptical or nervous to attend the workshop alone, Dr. Baker offers this advice: “Having a baby alone is a big adjustment, but it may be in the best interest of your child if the father is unsafe or unwilling to commit. In this workshop you’ll meet others like yourself, learn skills to make your life and your child’s life better, and form relationships with others that can help support you through the important days ahead.”

Currently, The Hatching Project is an eight-week series of two-hour classes (two-and-a-half hours if you come for dinner beforehand), though new options may be available soon, Dr. Baker says.

If you have to miss a class one week, she says there is no penalty and you can even make that class up in the next session.

“When we’re feeling happier, more connected and supported by others, we tend to be better parents,” Dr. Baker says.

The cost of the workshops, $25 for a couple and $15 for an individual (unless the referral comes through WIC, which then lowers the cost to $15 and $10 respectively), help cover the costs of the dinners that will be provided at the beginning of each session.

In addition, items like diapers, clothes, feeding accessories and more can be “bought” with Baby Bucks that are earned for attending each session. Attendees can earn more than $100 worth of baby items (if each session is attended) to “buy” such items.

If you’re interested in developing a stronger relationship or parenting skills but don’t meet the criteria for The Hatching Project, visit the Murney Clinic’s Operation Us website for other workshop and classes available.

Parents should expect to reap the following benefits from attending the workshop sessions:

  • Identify the characteristics of physical, emotional, commitment safety in intimate and family relationships.
  • Understand the effects of adult relationship dynamics on the health, growth and development of children.
  • Recognize the four patterns of negative communication contributing to family violence and methods of avoiding them in couple relationships during the transition to parenthood.
  • Learn and practice increased communication and problem solving skills that help individuals and couples safely and constructively handle conflicts common to new parents.
  • Distinguish between criticism and sharing concerns in a constructive manner.
  • Understand the complexities of stepfamilies, children from prior partners, and co-parenting situations.
  • Explain the significance of filters and expectations in relationships as they relate to becoming parents.
  • Explain the significance of “Sliding versus Deciding” in intimate relationships.
  • Describe the importance of keeping fun, friendship, and intimacy alive in the couple relationship after the baby arrives.
  • Explain the significance of father involvement to child well-being.


The expected outcome of this project is fourfold:

  1. Couples (married or unmarried) will learn the skills necessary to make a successful transition to parenthood and avoid patterns of interactions that will likely result in harm to them or their child. Unmarried couples will have knowledge and skills necessary for them to form and maintain a stable marriage, if that is their choice.
  2. Couples (married or unmarried) in a stressed relationship will be equipped with foundational skills for building a good relationship, as well as information about resources for additional help.
  3. Individuals concerned about potentially dangerous or harmful relationships will be equipped with the information required to access the resources they need to provide a safe and stable home for themselves and their child, and to make safe relationship choices.
  4. All participants will have exposure, opportunity and encouragement to additional resources to help them provide the safest, most stable, environment possible for their child.

Source: Dr. Jennifer Baker, PsyD, LMFT, The Forest Institute, Robert J. Murney Clinic


Mark Your Calendar

The next workshop starts March 20 at 5:30 p.m.

For more information or to register for the class, visit

Phone: 417.823.3469



About author:

Kandice Matteson is the Advertising & Editorial Director and Co-Publisher of From Our Nest magazine, residing in Ozark with her husband, two daughters and two dogs. With a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s in rhetoric, Matteson spends almost as much time dissecting the meanings and motives behind language and composition as she does watching Frozen with her two daughters. She's a quasi-crunchy mama who cherishes children and loves to share knowledge and information with all that will let her.

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