/Gulf Coast moms find connection and resilience — even in times of crisis — through blog

Gulf Coast moms find connection and resilience — even in times of crisis — through blog

“My husband and my son were nine months old when we celebrated our 10th anniversary of marriage. She said that we waited very hard for our sweet baby. Elias is currently pregnant with her second child and is co-founder of Gulf Coast Moms Blog. She hopes that the team’s work since its inception nearly two years ago will provide a sense of connection to Gulf Coast moms as they adjust to this COVID-19 crisis. She is certain that these women will be as resilient as they were 15 years ago, when their lives were disrupted by another event. She said, “Most of us were through (Hurricane Katrina)”. “Now we are going through this (COVID-19 Pandemic) together with children. It’s so different. It’s so different. We’ve all been through devastation. But to experience it with the anxiety of a child is a whole new level of anxiety. Moms want their children to have normal lives. Although we might be anxious about certain things, we still want it.” Elias was born in Costa Rica, and moved to Mississippi when she was six years old. She decided to give up her dream job as director of student affairs at University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast campus to become a mother. She said, “To make that decision… it was hard but I felt so at peace with it.” It doesn’t happen to everyone. This is only my story,” Elias stated. She was able to witness that firsthand from Elizabeth DiLorenzo, her business partner and close friend. DiLorenzo and Elias were both first-time mothers. They searched for and read content online to help them navigate the unknown territory of motherhood. Elias was not aware of DiLorenzo’s idea until he presented it to her. This allowed them to create their own motherhood community and share the support and resources they needed. After being inspired by the stories on the New Orleans Moms Blog website (one of approximately 90 sites under City Mom Collective), DiLorenzo began to discuss a plan for a Gulf Coast Moms Blog. Elias stated, “The more we thought about this, the more we realized that there are women on the Coast who have stories.” We have mothers that can support each other. There are women who can share their stories with others and help someone else in the community. It’s amazing how different it is to be a mother. It was only after I became a mother that I realized this. “I didn’t realize how much support you required not only from your family and close friends, but also from strangers who were also in your shoes,” said Elias. DiLorenzo’s journalism background and Elias’ 11-years of experience in community development and sales combined with DiLorenzo’s editing and journalism backgrounds helped them launch the site just before Mother’s Day 2018. The Mississippi site is the only one that is part of the City Mom Collective. There are other sites across the country. The network, formerly known as City Moms Blog was founded in 2012 to provide a positive voice for motherhood. Elias and DiLorenzo made a list of different types of mothers that they wanted to see join the Gulf Coast Moms Blog team. The co-founders wanted to ensure that the content they created was varied enough to reflect a range of parenting styles, and that it was inclusive of all perspectives. Elias stated, “There are so many moms out there.” “I have come to the conclusion each mom is unique. Guess what? Each child is also different.” Over 50 women submitted writing samples to be considered for contributors. Elias DiLorenzo couldn’t manage 25 volunteers at the time so they accepted only 25. Elias stated that they had met almost all the criteria on their “dream list” and exceeded them. The 42-year old mother of three, Dr. Jennifer Ratcliffe was one of the first contributors. She currently works as an administrator at a Gulfport hospital. Ratcliffe was already blogging before she became a volunteer for the Gulf Coast Moms Blog. Writing was her outlet for staying inspired and connected while her husband, a pilot and military officer, was deployed. Ratcliffe, who is still part of the writing team shares her story about what it was like to work in a hospital during a coronavirus pandemic and also juggling the care of children who have been home since school closed. Ratcliffe stated that she had written a piece about it for Gulf Coast Moms Blog several days ago. We always want to take time with our children. All of this has brought us the gift that we have had the opportunity to press the pause button for ourselves. The daily rhythm of our lives that we are so used to has been lost, and we have been given these large empty spaces of time.” Ratcliffe was a founding contributor to the blog and witnessed the incredible growth Elias, DiLorenzo, and the blog’s second year of operation. The blog has over 6,000 followers on Facebook and 50 members of the current writing team. Ratcliffe believes it is the constant push by the founders for relevant and relatable content that has made the Gulf Coast Moms blog a success. Christy and Elizabeth have a large following by managing the content and making it relevant and relatable. The blog is now viewed as a resource by people who recommend it to others. Because of its diversity of contributors, Gulf Coast Moms Blog has a large audience. Everyone can find someone they can connect with.” Growth requires strategies that not only sustain, but also surpass that growth. Elias DiLorenzo knew this and hired Tori Bishop to be the blog’s business director. Three months into her new job, Bishop was confronted with the challenge to build the brand of the network in the midst a health crisis. Her main focus right now is to assess the needs of mothers within the community and find local partnerships that can offer resources and solutions. She said, “You don’t realize how connected your are to other people.” It is very difficult to maintain that connection when it has been broken by an invisible thing. We are trying to find ways for families to have fun and celebrate occasions like Mother’s Day, Easter, and birthdays. These are precious moments you can’t get back.” Bishop is currently creating a Facebook Live series to answer some mothers’ questions about the coronavirus. It also addresses topics such as homeschooling, mental health, and more. A neighborhood Easter egg hunt, similar to the bear hunt during quarantine, has been organized by Bishop. Gulf Coast Moms Blog provides printable coloring sheets for Easter eggs that can be decorated and hung in windows. This is an alternative to traditional Easter egg hunting. Bishop describes the challenges of being a working mom during this time. “But, I was there during Katrina so I know we are resilient people. If we do as instructed, keep everyone safe and quarantined, we will be able to get through this much faster than we think. Because that’s what you do, we’ll bounce back.”_x000D