“It takes a community to raise a baby”, says Shannon, first-time mom and Healthy Start client.
Shannon’s son, Alex, was born with Congenital Muscular Torticollis (CMT), a condition that causes shortening of the neck muscles, and makes it difficult for a baby to turn its head. Babies born with CMT are at an increased risk for delay in motor-skill development, and need extra care to prevent serious, long-term side effects.
Even before Alex was born, Shannon and her partner Ryan made an extra effort to have a healthy pregnancy. Shannon and Ryan’s Healthy Start Care Coordinator referred them to free Childbirth Education, Infant CPR, Breastfeeding, and Parenting classes. “We were determined to do whatever we could to give our baby the best life.” says Shannon. “I looked forward to the classes, and the parent groups made a huge difference.”
At three months old, one of Shannon’s counselors noticed that baby Alex was having trouble moving his head to one side, and shortly after he was diagnosed with CMT. In addition to countless hours of physical therapy, Shannon and Ryan enrolled in “ChildSpace”, a Healthy Start parenting group led by Barbara Leverone, focused on utilizing touch to support a baby’s development.
“Through touch, parents can help their baby experience movement options that are, in the beginning, unavailable to the baby.” explains Barbara. “They’re really making a big difference. It’s heartwarming to see both a mother and father so completely committed to doing everything they can to help their baby”
Alex’s development is progressing, and his condition is getting better. His mom will never forget how much the community supported her family. “It’s just feels good to have so many people on your side, and so many people who are willing to step out of their way to help you.”
Meghan found herself out of work after telling her employer that she was pregnant with twins.
With no health insurance and unable to find another job while she was pregnant, Meghan was eligible for Medicaid for pregnant women.
At 24 weeks of pregnancy she experienced back pain and a general feeling of unwellness. “I went to the ER and it seemed like they were really quick about getting me back and hooked up, The next thing I know there are six nurses in there, a doctor, and some specialty high risk pregnancy doctors. I had no clue what was going on. And they said, “You are having contractions every 3 minutes and you are already dilated.” So that is when they started me on drugs to hold off the pregnancy.
Prepared for a possible stay of 10 weeks in hospital, Meghan suffered more problems and underwent an emergency cesarean at 26 weeks of pregnancy. She gave birth to two tiny boys, Gavin and Landon.
“A week later the doctor came and told me that I had to make a decision, Gavin was not going to make it; I should take him off the ventilator and hold him in my arms and let him pass. I told the doctor, “I am sorry I cannot do that. He has to stay in the incubator. I have to give him a chance.” So we sat by his bedside 24/7 and just sang to him. And that night he made a turn around, just kept going up. It was quite an experience.”
Meghan pumped breast milk for both babies while they were in the hospital. She brought Landon home at four months. He weighed four pounds. Gavin came home at five months of age. Breast milk provided the best nutrition for her frail babies.
Shelley Rence of Healthy Start encouraged Meghan to pump for her babies. Later she provided baby items such as car seats and made referrals to other agencies like WIC and Early Steps. “I had a great job before but when something unexpected happens, losing my job and having to go on Medicaid, Healthy Start really helped”, she says, “Somebody out there cared.”
The outlook for Gavin and Landon is good and Meghan expects them to have a normal life.
Kanani, Healthy Start client with daughter age 4; twin girls age 3, and baby boy 10 months.
“I never knew I was having twins. I was told I was having one boy and it turned out to be two girls, two months early. I had an emergency c-section. When I went into (early) labor, they realized it was twins. It was a surprise to us.
Once I knew I was having twins, my husband stayed at home with my 4 year old while I was in the hospital and they expected me to be there for two more months. All of a sudden, my placenta abrupted overnight and an emergency c-section was done. There was no way of getting my husband to the hospital in time. By the time I called him from the hospital next morning, we already had twin girls. Healthy Start was there to connect me with other mothers who had more clothes and blankets.
They (Healthy Start) even helped with diapers. There was so much need from my twins being premature. Healthy Start was very helpful.
By the time we came home from the NICU we had everything (we needed) for the future, thanks to Healthy Start. We received a lot of help. I continued to get home visits. They would do the developmental tests to see if they hit the milestones and if they were on track. I did like that. It made me aware of where the twins should be. Healthy Start referred me to Early Steps. With my twins being premature, there was Early Steps (until age 3). Early Steps came to the house & did exercises with them, making sure they were on track.
After I had my twins, I struggled with post-partum depression. When I had my twins it was tough. It took a lot out of me . As much as I never really wanted to admit it, if it had not been for Healthy Start I am not sure I could have made it through. We (self & husband) have each other but these are people who are professionals and know about these things. I’m glad I knew who to call and I really needed just to talk to my worker. She told me to call that place or this person. I never really wanted to. I would talk to her and I would feel so much better. I would call on a daily basis and then it got to twice a week. She ended up calling me, “What is the matter? Are things OK? I haven’t heard from you.” I said, “Yes, things are getting better now!
Terri is the proud mother of a three year old girl.
Getting there has been a challenge. Terri came to Healthy Start after she had her baby and was having difficulty with breast feeding. She arrived at the Healthy Start office and was shown the correct way to breast feed that day. She says, “It takes a long time to understand how your body works and how the baby works. It takes a lot of support from other people. I know a lot of women have had a hard time with breast-feeding. It’s something so special for you and your child and it’s so healthy for the child. You don’t really know what you are putting into your baby with formula but with breast milk you know.
As a result, she joined the Healthy Start program and accepted home visits from a Healthy Start Care Coordinator. Although Leah was her first baby, her partner had two teenage children, a boy and a girl, who had arrived from Puerto Rico to be with their father. Terri, at the age of twenty four herself, was trying to parent all three. “I had to discipline them and they were not my children. They did not like it at all and it caused a huge conflict in the house. We (the parents) were fighting all the time and the kids were fighting with us.” The Care Coordinator was able to get to know her situation and recommended that the family try counseling. Through Healthy Start, they were enrolled with a bilingual counselor who was able to help with cultural differences.
“The counseling helped me and my partner and the children ended up leaving. They made that choice. They wanted to go back. These were problems that I thought I should be able to care of by myself. Then I realized there are some things you cannot handle by yourself and perhaps you are doing it the wrong way, the hardest way possible. She (counselor) really helped me a lot. And after they left, he and I still went to counseling.”
Healthy Start helped Terri find a group where she and her daughter go for social time (MOPS) at a nearby church. Her Care Coordinator has also encouraged her dream of returning to school. “I would definitely say that Healthy Start is a great program to go through. There are a lot of resources to help people.” This spring, Terri started a program to learn book keeping, a skill she enjoys and that will enable her to have flexible work hours while raising Leah.