I remember my first pregnancy. A pregnancy that didn’t just happen to me, but one that was planned, wanted, anticipated. I was married, my husband and I had good jobs, we had loving families to support us, and we were well-versed in the importance of preventative health care. As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I made an appointment with one of the best obstetricians in Yakima, went to every prenatal appointment, and followed all of my doctor’s advice. I read everything I could on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. I took a childbirth class through Memorial’s Maternal Health Services, and at every point in my pregnancy, I felt responsible for my own health and the health of my unborn child. I was surrounded by love, support, education and the best prenatal care, and though I knew I was fortunate, I took for granted that this is how it is when you have a child.
I recently worked on a grant for Yakima County’s Nurse Family Partnership that brought into sharp focus what it’s like for some women in our valley to bring a child into the world. At first I experienced heartbreak and despair. Teen mothers, some as young as 15, who didn’t plan to become pregnant, haven’t finished high school, haven’t held a job and don’t have many prospects for a job, who live in poverty, have poor nutrition, inconsistent health care, often come from broken homes, or are involved in gang life. Nurse Family Partnership steps into these young women’s lives at a crucial time. Nurses make home visits in Yakima County and in outlying rural communities to support child development, provide early intervention, enhance parenting skills, improve the quality of parent-child interactions, and promote school readiness activities for families at risk for child abuse, neglect and poor educational outcomes. For a two year period these first time teen mothers allow a home visiting nurse into their lives to provide guidance, education, and emotional support, and to follow their baby’s health and development.
Learning about all that Nurse Family Partnership does for vulnerable young women in the most difficult circumstances, who have no other support system in their lives, made me pause to appreciate my own life. Everyone deserves the best life has to offer, but not everyone receives the best. Nurse Family Partnership is a beacon of hope for many first time mothers whose lives appear desperate. My heartbreak turns to gratitude.