Teacher education instructor turns trauma into encouragement

Jenn-Rogers-AEM

Pregnant and restricted to a hospital room for 11 weeks, Jenn Rogers found comfort in handwritten notes from a group of mothers she had never met. Those mothers had once been on bedrest too, and their words gave Rogers solace through the dark time in the hospital. After her son was born at 36 weeks and perfectly healthy, Rogers decided to support mothers in similar situations by starting a nonprofit.

“How in the world do you repay anyone for this kind of support?” said Rogers, a 2003 graduate who teaches in ACU’s Department of Teacher Education. “You feel this desire in your heart to do something. I always knew that at some point I would need to give back in the same way that was given to me.”

Rogers started World’s Okayest Mom (WOM), a nonprofit that has delivered more than 500 care packages to mothers in need. Each care package is custom made for the woman’s situation, whether she’s on bedrest, chronically ill or even homeless. On the WOM blog and Facebook group, mothers connect and encourage each other in the daily joys and struggles of motherhood.

“We live in this world of ‘mommy-comparison,’” Rogers said. “We’re all doing the same thing, raising little humans. I am not always going to be the best mom. Perfection is not attainable."

The sentiment struck a chord with other moms who flocked to join her Facebook group and purchased T-shirts by the hundreds.

Rogers, who has taught at ACU for eight years, has three children: Haelyn, 7; Hope, 5; and Hunter, 2. Her husband, Mark, also a 2003 ACU graduate, was recently named president of Abilene’s Big Brothers Big Sisters.

When she was pregnant with Hunter, Rogers’ doctor told her she had placenta previa. While on a trip to Arlington for her husband’s work, Rogers suffered intense bleeding and was rushed to the emergency room.

“They could hear his heartbeat,” Rogers said. “They knew he was moving but until you have a baby, you’re the patient.”

Her doctors decided it was safe to wait to deliver the baby, but Rogers had to remain in bed, closely monitored for 24 hours. Twenty-four hours turned into 11 weeks, and Rogers was not allowed to return to Abilene. She could only take a 20-minute wheelchair ride or a 10-minute shower each day. Her in-laws and some friends lived in Arlington and visited often. She received care packages with toys for her daughters, jewelry, meals and hygiene products.

“I wrote probably 400 thank-you notes,” Rogers said. “It’s amazing that there are women out there who would support other women they don’t even know.”

Hunter was born at 36 weeks, weighing 6 pounds.

A year later, in April 2015, Rogers started an invite-only Facebook group to encourage other moms. Inspired by a phrase on a coffee mug, World’s Okayest Mom started with just 10 members and has grown to more than 15,000. Rogers decided to sell T-shirts with the phrase printed on them.

At first she said “no” to selling T-shirts, “but then I thought that would be a really great way to give back to moms in need,” she said.

The sale of T-shirts quickly became a taxable amount so Rogers and her husband decided to apply for nonprofit status. They submitted their paperwork in May 2016 and received notice of their 501c3 status in July. Now people can submit a request form online, and Rogers works with a nine-member board of directors to plan care packages. Sometimes WOM donates funds to groups like Hope Mommies or Young Lives.

“Our cause is to just care for moms,” Rogers said.

Experiencing WOM has given Rogers more emotional intelligence, something she uses as a teacher to understand her students. She also encourages students to be aware of the issues facing their future classes and ways to interact with parents who may be suffering.

“I read some of these moms’ stories about their experiences, and it opens my eyes,” Rogers said. “It has made me a more understanding educator.”Donors to WOM can give one-time gifts, purchase a T-shirt, or become a Wonder Wom giving $20 a month.

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