A Personal Story from our Executive Director about the importance of Healthy Start:
“My husband John and I were living in Birmingham, Alabama in 2012 and we had everything in the world we could ever hope or wish for. I was the Executive Director of a 6 million dollar agency in the suburb of Birmingham, John was a director of a cell phone tower inspection team, and we were expecting our first child together. We could not be happier or more successful…our life was awesome!
I was called into HR the day after my 7-month ultrasound. I was on cloud nine. The HR director and our CEO told me even though I was doing the best job ever but our association was not. Since I was the newest ED hired I was the first to be laid off in tough economic times. My first thought is I am pregnant why are they doing this to me?! They offered me COBRA and it was $2200 a month. I knew there was no way we could afford this.
About 4 weeks later John came home from work and told me his company laid off his whole division of the company. So there we were 8 months pregnant and we both were jobless. We both were applying for everything we could think of. No one was going to hire someone 8 months pregnant and my husband was struggling to try to find something.
We packed up all of our belongings and came home to Sarasota, FL. My parents found us a rental house that was not in the best part of town but we knew we could afford it for a few months without working. At this point, I was 9 months pregnant with no provider and scared to death. This was my first baby and of course, I had the stigma of the advanced maternal age stamped on my forehead. I didn’t know the first thing about applying for Medicaid or even what that was. I was too proud to accept the help because I always had such great insurance. I had a friend tell me about a great OB in town and I called and got nowhere. They wouldn’t see me without having the pregnancy Medicaid and since I was so far along in my pregnancy they were afraid to take me. As I was leaving the office in tears, the receptionist handed me a brochure for Healthy Start and told me to not give up and to call them.
I did…I called them and talked to the most wonderful and caring woman that navigated me through the Medicaid process. She got me in the OB I wanted to by making one phone call. She referred me to WIC and that helped with groceries and taught me about the importance of breastfeeding. She guided me through the food stamp process. I was so embarrassed to even admit we needed the help. This is for poor people and people who don’t want to work. I then realized that family was ME! I needed the help, I needed the support to have a HEALTHY baby. She set John and me up with some childbirth education and parenting classes. I put all of my pride to the side and I accepted the help. I thought the hospital and doctors were going to treat me different because I was on Medicaid. I had such a wonderful experience and treated like a queen. When Jackson was born his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. He was whisked away from me so the Doctors and NICU nurses could work on him. All I kept hearing was breath baby breath baby! When I heard his cry it was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. We did it…we had a healthy baby.
I was bound and determined to breastfeed. I was having a very hard time with it. My Healthy Start Care Coordinator called to follow-up to make sure I was doing okay. I was not. I was having such a hard time breastfeeding. She had someone out to my house in less than 3 hours to help me. I was able to breastfeed Jackson until he was one year old.
In the months after Jackson was born, I was able to secure a great position as Executive Director of the Literacy Council. John got a great job too. We were able to get out of the hole we were in when we were not working and get our insurance and buy a house.
Healthy Start was there for my family when we needed it. It is my honor to work for them now. To be surrounded by mission-minded and caring individuals that care and fight for our Moms and Babies…It is our jobs to make sure all babies in the state of Florida get a HEALTHY START. We are family and we need to be a united force!
I just wanted to remind everyone why we are here….. I am Healthy Start!!!!”
Shon Ewens, Executive Director
Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, Inc.