I am Brittany, a YOUNG MOM, and this is my story.
Brittany, 26, lives in Wayne County, NC with her two children.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (June 2017).
*Name Changed for confidentiality
Meet Brittany, a young mom from Wayne County, NC. Brittany shares her journey as a preacher’s kid, deciding to get distance herself from unhealthy relationships, and Young Families Connect.
I am a preacher’s kid. I grew up participating in church activities, and serving as a leader at my church. My community was church. I wasn’t quite exposed to what was going on outside of my church. My father wanted to make sure that I was sheltered from bad influences. I was so shielded that by the time I turned eighteen years old, I started to explore my independence and truly started to rebel from my parents. This was period in my life that lasted a few years. During this time where I first started to rebel, I stopped going to school regularly during my senior year of high school. I got some tattoos, started to hang out and party with other people so much that by the time the second quarter of my senior year was coming to an end, I realized that I was in danger of not graduating. I was scared! This was a wake-up call that I had to get myself together, and I did! Instead of finishing school in Wayne County, where I would have had to make up classes, pretty much stay back, and repeat the 12th grade, I called my aunt in Washington, D.C. where I finished the 12th grade (during the same school year) with honors.
Discovering Myself, New Relationships
I returned to North Carolina before moving to Georgia for college. I was unhappy there and decided to return back to North Carolina. During this time, I continued to hang out with my friends, party and have fun. I wasn’t living with my parents at this time because they wouldn’t have allowed me to live my life the way I wanted to live- hanging out with friends, partying and having a fun. I lived with my friend. I was trying to move on from one roller coaster ride of an unhealthy relationship, and I reconnected with someone I knew, Tim*. Tim and I started to seriously date in summer 2011. And I would soon find out that this relationship was yet another roller coaster ride. This was an unhealthy, toxic relationship.
When I look back, I realize that Tim gave me some comfort during a time when I was getting over another relationship. At that time, I was still participating on the party scene, not taking care of my body by consuming alcohol and prescription medicine which made my birth control ineffective. As a result, I became pregnant with our first child, my daughter, in November 2011. When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared. I was unmarried and concerned about what my family would think. I was concerned about how the church community would respond and how my friends would respond. I was also afraid to talk to my dad about things that were going with me like my feelings about being a single mother and the current state of my relationship. I moved in with Tim at his mother’s house. When I moved in, he moved out. We had a toxic relationship: he cheated, even had another child with another person. We argued and even fought but I didn’t want to break up the family structure.
Moving On and Ahead
I became pregnant again with my second child which is when I discovered Young Families Connect, after meeting Mrs. Donna. After I had my second child, I realized that my relationship with Tim wasn’t healthy. I was holding on to Tim out of fear of losing my family structure but not realizing that the family structure wasn’t solid if it was toxic. Through the support and guidance of the Young Families Connect team in Wayne County, I have been able to leave Tim and focus on my needs. Mrs. Donna helped me to focus on a career path. With the support of the Young Families Connect community and especially Mrs. Donna, I have been able to live a healthier happier life. I have focused on my goals, became a Certified Nurse Assistant and used the skills from this program to co-parent my children with Tim. I know I do not have to be in a relationship with him to be give my children the support they need. Moving on and ahead, I am focused on having a healthy, happy family starting with a healthy me.
I am Brenisha, a YOUNG MOM, and this is my story.
Brenisha, 23, lives in Rockingham County, NC with her husband, daughter (6 years old) and son (10 month old).
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (June 2017).
New County, New Community
I relocated to Rockingham County about 2 years ago. One day, last year, I was at an appointment at the Social Services Department where I saw information about the Young Families Connect program, a program for young people who are pregnant and or parenting. At the time, I was in my first trimester with my son. I thought it would be smart for me to contact the program for more social support with my family since I was new to the area. I made my first contact by going onto the website and emailing Dawn (former coordinator). She emailed me back, scheduled an enrollment appointment at the Young Families Connect (Rockingham County) office and I have been a part of the program ever since May 2016! When I first came into YFC, I wanted to focus on how I could manage becoming a mom of two. I wanted to reduce the feelings of panic I had when I thought about having another baby. My daughter was my whole world – I had to get used to extending that feeling to another child. I also focused on healthier nutrition for myself and my family and drinking more water. These goals became very helpful for me during my pregnancy. The support from the program has been wonderful!
Managing Gestational Diabetes
After I had been in the program for two months, at 32 weeks pregnant, my doctor diagnosed me with gestational diabetes. I did not have that condition when I was pregnant with my daughter. Gestational diabetes happens when a pregnant person’s body is producing too much insulin which can be unhealthy for the body. This condition goes away when the baby is born. When a person has gestational diabetes, they have a strict diet, helpful for managing insulin. The diet consists of low carbohydrates and healthy vegetables. I felt like I was always hungry, but I didn’t want to have a sick baby. My doctor sent me to a diabetes education class where I learned about how to manage my diabetes by counting my carbs and eating a healthy diet. There, I learned what I should do to support my gestational diabetes, but YFC supported me by showing me how to make healthy meals for myself and my family. I came to learn how supportive my new YFC family was during this time when I shared this news with Dawn, Daphne and the other young families who participated in the program with me. When I was scared or stressed out, I was able to lean into this group. If I had a concern about something related to my fears with gestational diabetes or anything, they would help me or find the answer if they weren’t sure of the answer. During my pregnancy, I often walked with other YFC moms, and we cooked nutritious meals during in our healthy cooking classes. I started new goals for myself, like drinking more water and recognizing what types of food I was putting in my body and how it affected myself and growing son.
Leaning into a Support Group
Even though I felt better about managing my gestational diabetes with helpful tips from the diabetes education class and group classes with Young Families Connect, I was still scared, sad about this diagnosis. I went to the doctor every week during my pregnancy because of my diagnosis where I had to take a non-stress test. It seemed like I always got new, disappointing information. I always felt tired, sticky from sweating and afraid that I may die because of the symptoms I was experiencing. I was also disappointed because I learned from my prenatal visits that I was unable to have the labor and delivery experience I planned. With these never-ending fears, I was able to lean into the community of support with Young Families Connect. Another YFC mom shared that she experienced gestational diabetes. Her advice really helped me know what to expect from this experience which helped ease my fears. Other peers helped me with my disappointment from my birth plan change. They gave me helpful advice, encouragement, helped me to look on the bright side, focusing on the health of my baby. My YFC community also helped siblings like my daughter, an only child at the time, learn how to become a big sibling to newborn babies. YFC encouraged my husband to attend classes but due to some schedule conflicts, he was unable to attend; through this, my new community of support was there for me. They continue to encourage the whole family to attend meetings and events.
Focusing on a Healthy Family, Healthy Baby
Through my pregnancy, I tried to make sure my daughter was okay- that she was comfortable, not letting my worries upset her. I tried my best to meet her needs while coping with changes I was going through from pregnancy and even after I gave birth. I knew that my birth plan wasn’t going to go as planned. I was induced at 39 weeks. I made plans for family to be in town who would care for my new baby while I was healing from labor and delivery. My son had other plans; he was born two weeks later! He was very large which is normal for babies born to gestational diabetes persons. This experience was disappointing because I didn’t have anyone there to help as I planned and the birth itself was very painful. I tore badly and needed a lot of stitches. I was unable to walk. My doctor put me on bed rest for a few weeks and when I was able, I went to a YFC event. While at the event, I shared with my YFC case manager what I was feeling, that I wasn’t feeling like myself. My case manager talked to me about postpartum depression symptoms and recommended I see my doctor for a follow-up. My son’s pediatrician also asked me about these symptoms. This is a routine part of the postpartum visit because some new parents don’t go back for their visit and end up not getting a proper diagnosis. I was officially diagnosed at this time but didn’t have to take medicine for this. I recognized my symptoms. I was sad out of the blue, crying. MY YFC case manager and my doctor helped to manage my postpartum depression by leaning into my YFC peers and case manager. I shared what I felt with them. I also stayed active in YFC sessions like cooking classes and parenting sessions. With these activities and group support from Young Families Connect, I have been able to focus on all of the positives in my new life with my family. Young Families Connect has taught me that I have to take care of myself before I take care of anyone else. This is what my focus is now- a healthy family starting with a healthy me.
I am Britney, a Young Mom, and this is my story.
Britney, 22, lives in Robeson County with her husband and 18 month old son.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Media Outreach Coordinator for Young Families Connect
Britney shares how she has balanced nursing school, family and the Young Families Connect program. We will learn how Britney used time management skills and leaned into her support system while balancing nursing school, being a full–time wife and mother and participating in the Young Families Connect Program.
Marriage, School, Work…Surprise!
I grew up with a teen mother who had me at the age of sixteen, living in a community with a high crime rate, drug abuse (drug addicts and drug dealers). Many people from my background also become teen mothers, living off of welfare but instead, I chose not to become a statistic. I chose to create a life I wanted. I met my husband when I was fourteen years old, he was sixteen years old. We’ve been inseparable since then. After I graduated from high school, we moved in together with plans to get married. Things began to move pretty quickly. At this time, he was pursuing his career in law enforcement and I was pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse. We got married in our home and told our families about our marriage the next day. They had mixed emotions- hurt because we had not involved them in our plans but also happy for us because we had been together so long since our high school years. Each of our families were very comfortable with our relationship with one another. At the time, I was a 19 year old full-time student at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), working two full time jobs. One job was selling insurance and the other was tutoring students on campus at UNCP. At this time, I completed all of the classes needed to apply to the nursing program. I applied and found out I was accepted; then I found out I was pregnant! All of this happened back to back after I got married.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I was an emotional wreck! I planned on being pregnant with my first child when I was at least 30 years old. This pregnancy was surprising. I had to reconsider my next steps with school, but I ultimately decided that I would continue with Nursing School. Once my husband and I shared the news with our family, I shared my plans to continue with my academic program and our family said they would help me the best way they could. With their support, I figured I would just go with the flow and do what I could to accomplish my dream of becoming a nurse.
Nursing School: A Humbling Experience
I began the Nursing program in summer 2015, working at rest homes and caring for elderly patients. The experience was somewhat overwhelming, but it helped to prepare me for remainder of the program. I was five months pregnant at in the fall of 2015. This program was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. This was the hardest experience I have had while in school. When my class started fall 2015, the teachers gave all of us (students) a syllabus which is like an agenda for the semester that includes a list of course work and due dates. The syllabus also showed show teachers determine success for students. This agenda is meant to help us know what to expect from the program. This was overwhelming to my classmates and me; we were wondering how we would get all of this stuff done in a such a short time period.
Nursing School was a whole different world than I was used to. The first week of fall 2015, I remember thinking to myself “What did I get myself into?!” I noticed that I had to change my commitments. I was unable to manage studying for these intense courses and working. I decided to quit my two jobs and totally focus on my success in this program, especially because I had not developed a plan B. Nursing was my goal and I had to give it my best shot. During this time, fall 2015, I had five classes, two of which were clinical courses. This was tough! During this time, teachers reminded us (myself and other students) that spring semester is when we would start getting “weeded out” of the program. I had to use new methods for studying and realized that I had to sacrifice family time so that I could stay on top of my school work. I managed to continue my prenatal visits and managed a healthy pregnancy while managing a busy school life. I believe, however, that if I had my son during the first six months of school, I would have had a much harder experience. I passed fall 2015 by the skin of my teeth, proving by action that I would be able to do the work while pregnant and soon parenting!
I had my son in the spring of 2016. In fact, I gave birth to him on a Thursday and went back to school on a Tuesday! I had to fight tooth and nail to return to the classroom because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t behind. My advisor, a Nurse Practitioner, understood how taking off of school for a long period of time while in the nursing program would really put me behind. She took my vital signs, ensured I was in a healthy condition to return to school and allowed me to return.
Being a full-time mommy, breastfeeding and focusing on school 100% has been a humbling experience for me and my husband. I spent eight hours a day at school. My grandmother kept my son while my husband worked and I was at school. I used ten minute classroom breaks and lunch breaks to pump breastmilk for my son. I made sure to breastfeed my son as soon as I got home to make sure I was releasing my breastmilk and giving him what he needed.
I noticed that when I got home, I wanted to spend time with my newborn baby who I had been away from for eight hours a day. I began to spend more time with him instead of studying. This caught up with me because I bombed the first exam I had during the spring 2016 semester. That was the lowest grade I had ever made in college. Ever. At that point, I thought something’s got to give. I needed to juggle my responsibilities and multitask. I wanted to make sure that I was clear about my goal- to get through Nursing School, for my baby, for our future, but also make sure to not put my son on the back-burner. I began to study while I pumped, studied while I breastfed him and even studied out loud speaking in baby talk while I spending time with him. Once I figured out the time management and multitasking, I had a good spring semester.
Good News, Bad Storm
My husband had been working at a local sheriff’s department and moved to a local police department. During this time with a new baby, and in between jobs, we started to feel some of the financial burdens of having one income. We had living off of our savings account, and received some support from local churches and community members. One day at church, a member gave me the number for Mrs. Virginia (Young Families Connect Coordinator in Robeson County). I immediately started the program and realized how helpful it was for my family. Mrs. Virginia helped connect me to programs in Robeson County like one that gave short-term stipends to transitional workers. This was especially helpful due to our financial hardships. I really enjoyed the classes I have been a part of with Young Families Connect. I learned how to find some school-family balance; I learned how to show appreciation to my spouse and not to feel guilty for accomplishing my goals while being a full-time mother and student. I also polished my skills on maintaining healthy relationships, positive parenting skills and healthy nutrition for my family. These skills proved helpful for my next and last year of nursing school.
The fall semester 2016 was by far the easiest semester of this program. I took mental health, a community course, and research. At this time, Hurricane Matthew happened. My husband, a new local police officer and emergency responder, often on duty, responding to the community’s needs after the storm. I was often at home alone with an infant. No water, no power. We were out of school for a week but as soon as we came back, we had a test all as if nothing happened. We were able to apply the damaging effects of Hurricane Matthew in our Community class. Our program donated canned goods and clothing. We were able to see how churches in the community, our school, the nursing program and us as students were able to give back to victims of Hurricane Katrina in Lumberton. This wasn’t clinical time, it was our volunteer time. This experience helped me to grow as a nurse, to be selfless and give back to the community I live in and serve.
Weathering the Storm
My last semester in school, spring 2017, was very, very difficult! I would say my most difficult of my whole experience in the nursing program due to the time commitments I had with my courses, required paperwork and personal changes I experienced with my household. I had classes that required me to complete an internship which is like being a full-time nurse. On top of that, my semester included doing some resume building, a job search and taking a course on nurse management and leadership. I did very well in my classes but this was extremely hard with so many papers. I mean papers GALORE! My internship was on the Intensive Care Unit of our local hospital. This experience allowed me to apply my classroom experience to a real-life clinical setting. I enjoyed this experience so much because I had to think on my toes instead of asking a teacher for help. When I had questions, I was able to learn from my team members at my internship. I was even hired on that floor, with that team!
My commitment to school and my husband’s focus on his career, our new roles as parents began to put a strain on our marriage. My husband told me that he wanted to separate. It is not fun to have someone you care about walk away from you. I asked him to reconsider, to go to counseling but at that time there was no fixing the matter. I asked church members to pray for us and then reset my priorities on the two areas I was able to work on: motherhood and my last two months of school. I finished school successfully. My husband and I talked about what this was all for- making a better life for ourselves, for our son. I reminded him that I was present for him during his Officer Training program, 100%. After some talking my husband realized what he had, that the decision to separate was a mistake. We are now weathering the storm of that decision. We are making our back to one another, rebuilding the trust that had been lost in our relationship. I now know that I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to. Managing responsibilities as a wife, mother and student has been difficult but possible with focus on my goals and support from my family and community, including Young Families Connect. It didn’t hit me that I was graduating until I walked across the stage. I have a job in my field and I hope to pass the NC nursing exam. I believe I am living proof that if you put your mind to something and work hard, you can become a success!
I AM CORIANA, A YOUNG MOM, AND THIS IS MY STORY.
Coriana, 21, lives in Wayne County, NC with her son Kaleb (1)
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, the Media Outreach Coordinator (December 2016).
School Days, Surprising News
My life before Kaleb was about preparing myself for my life. I was a student attending Wayne Community College for Nursing. I had met Kaleb’s dad, Cory* in one of my classes. At first, I thought, I don’t want anything to do with HIM! We eventually became friends getting really close. We then took our relationship a step further and then there was Kaleb! When I found out about Kaleb, I seriously cried. I was at my grandmother’s house, took a pregnancy test and when I saw it was positive, I cried! After I saw my news, I shared the news with my cousin and friend about an hour afterward. I tried to contact Cory, he was unavailable. I left a message for him to call me and finally shared the news with him the next day. When I told Cory, he was shocked. He needed a “minute to process” the news because he was already going through so much in his personal life. This was overwhelming to him, to both of us. In the meantime, I began to share the news with my grandmother who was excited and then my mother who was a little disappointed. My grandmother’s reaction was comforting and a bit validating because I was already experiencing some disappointment within myself.
Once Cory came to grips with the news, he was offered his support, said he accepted the news and was going to be present during this pregnancy.
Coping with Depression During Pregnancy
During my pregnancy, I was actually depressed for some of it. I had all of these thoughts about my life and this new baby such as, I have school, I need money, I ‘ll have this child to take care. I completed the Fall 2014 semester of school but then had to stop attending because I was in and out of the hospital due to my high risk pregnancy having gestational high blood pressure. During one of these hospital visits, a nurse came told me about this program called Young Families Connect. I thought about what she told me but I honestly didn’t want to be apart of a class sitting around talking with a bunch of people so I didn’t join just as yet. I was focused on how to make ends meet for this baby I was preparing to raise. I was applying for jobs daily with no success. During this time, I didn’t have the emotional support from Cory as he stated. I would contact him to participate in my pregnancy and make plans for Kaleb’s future but he wasn’t there. This made me sad. My family was upset about this but really, there was nothing we could do. Even though I was upset by this I have chosen not to keep Kaleb away from his dad.
My mom was supporting me as much as possible but she was also working and had her hands full with caring for our household. During my pregnancy I would just sit around and think about all of the things I had to do to provide for Kaleb. My family and friends would always reassure me that everything will be okay; my friend and cousin would take me out to the movies and help me get my mind off my stressors; help me enjoy myself and not beat myself up. This was a big help! Toward the end of my pregnancy, I really became increasingly connected to my religion during my pregnancy. I began going to church more, reading the Bible every evening and attending Bible Study classes. I found that there were instances in the Bible that were similar to my situation which would encourage me to not beat myself up like I was earlier in my pregnancy. Participating in church activities, my community and with my friends helped me to broaden my focus on my whole life, renew my hope. I knew that I was going to take care of Kaleb regardless of my fears. I became confident that God will take care of all things.
Suddenly Kaleb’s Mom
You know, I didn’t even go into labor! I was a day past the due date given by my provider. As part of what became a normal routine, I went to the doctor for frequent checkups, a couple times per week due to my high risk pregnancy. This particular visit, my blood pressure was super high at 210/190 (normal blood pressure is 120/80). The doctor and nurses were like, you’re going to go straight to the hospital to have this baby! I didn’t have any contractions or nothing! When I got to he hospital, they hooked me up to all of these machines, a catheter, and told me that I could have a stroke because my blood pressure was so high. When they said there was a risk of a stroke, I was so scared. My mom was scared the whole time but the doctor told me that he thought I should have a C-Section to make sure the baby and I are both okay. As my mom and I were riding the elevator, I remember saying “I’m not ready!” (referring to being a new mother) to which she replied “whether you’re ready or not, the baby is going to come!” It was just a shock. I obviously knew I was going to have a baby during this whole pregnancy but then actually knowing he’s about to be born and be here- MY baby was going to be here. This was getting real! I was also thinking about what they were going to do to me during this C-Section.
My mom was with me during the whole time I was pregnant and during my delivery. Kaleb was born on March 11, 2015.
Coming Home, Connecting to Young Families
I came home, showered with gifts for Kaleb from my family and church community. Kaleb had all of the newborn necessities like diapers and a bassinet. They knew I was going through a hard time without a job, sometime hopeless and they were there for me. Motherhood was still a shock to me during the first few days with Kaleb. I had a lot of support from family. Some people weren’t totally aware that I was pregnant because I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with everyone except my mother, grandmother, cousin, and friend. My church family was aware but those were the only people who I shared my pregnancy with. My extended family and neighbors were there waiting for me to come home with Kaleb. It was a positive experience. I thought about how I have been taking care of my siblings but taking care of Kaleb, my own child is different. You can’t give YOUR baby back! I was actually going out looking for work at the Public Library, filling out job applications daily, still healing from the C-Section. I was determined to find work. After awhile of having been home with Kaleb, I decided that I needed to do something new. Before Kaleb and I were discharged from the hospital, the same nurse who mentioned Young Families Connect before (during my pregnancy) had given me the information again. I had been thinking about the program and finally decided to call the number.
I made an appointment with Ms. Donna. She taught me how to set goals and ever since I’ve been in the program, she’s been keeping me accountable to the goals I’ve set. When I started Young Families Connect, my main goals were to be emotionally stable and being able to provide for Kaleb and myself. I realized the program wasn’t just about sitting around talking.
Ms. Donna shared that Young Families Connect would pay for my schooling. I was unable to find a job and couldn’t afford school. She showed me all of the training programs available to me as a participant in the program. I wanted to continue my nursing path, so I decided to participate in the CNA-I course from June 2015-August 2015. After I completed that course, I chose to participate in the CNA-II course which ended in December 2015. I got an interview at O’Berry Treatment Center in January and then started working as a Certified Nursing Assistant in February 2016! I was so excited when I got this job. So thankful for Ms. Donna and Young Families Connect.
Amanda, a YOUNG MOM, this is my story.
Amanda, 18 lives in Wayne County, North Carolina with her husband Jack* and their son Zachary (21 months)
*Name changed for confidentiality
Amanda is a two year veteran of the Young Families Connect program. Amanda, her husband Jack* and their son Zachary have learned essential skills in the program, from early infant and childhood development to the ABCs of safe sleep: Always alone, on his Back to sleep, in a Crib or sleep space of his own. During the next few weeks, Amanda will share her story about being a young, expectant mom with her (then) fiancé Jack (now husband). Amanda talks about the sadness of having lost one child and the fear of the tragedy re-occurring. Amanda also shares how her support team (her family and Young Families Connect program) helped her to get through this period of anxiety. Enjoy your reading!
Starting a New Family
My boyfriend at the time, Jack*, and I started living together ever since I was fifteen. We actually had a pregnancy before our son Zachary which ended in a miscarriage. That was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with, but nine months later I found out I was pregnant was Zach. We were scared, happy… so many emotions combined in one. We planned Zachary. I was in high school, Jack* was working. I had some health issues (polycystic ovaries and endometriosis) so I had been told that if I wanted to have a healthy pregnancy, I would have to have a baby at a younger age. Since we were planning to get married we decided to plan our son. My mom even knew I was pregnant before I did! She said “you’re pregnant, I know you are!”
I decided to take a pregnancy test because I noticed a stretch mark on my side! Something told me to get tested – I knew my body well so I knew what was up! I went from being excited about being a parent to being scared after thinking about our first loss. It had been nine months since this loss. When the pregnancy test confirmed that I was pregnant, I went to school the next day and spoke to my guidance counselor about the news. My guidance counselor and I developed a fast pace curriculum which helped me to graduate that year (a year early). I took classes online and at school during the school year.
Young Families Connect
I learned about Young Families Connect (YFC) from Ms. Diana and another staff person. Both were doing an informational presentation about the YFC program at my high school during the time I was pregnant. I liked how YFC emphasized education and how they would support participants’ education. I was already pregnant so I called Ms. Diana and have been going ever since! Ms. Diana is AWESOME! My pregnancy was pretty easy – no bouts of depression or mood swings. My family was so supportive that I didn’t feel like I had any real complications – except during my third trimester. I couldn’t control what was going on within my body. My blood pressure was through the roof which meant I had to leave school and stay home on bedrest. I was induced at 37 weeks.
During my pregnancy, I had a wonderful support system, my mom, grandmom, my husband and the Young Families Connect group. Everyone was extremely supportive. I knew that if I ever needed anything there would always be someone there to help me. If I ever needed anybody to talk to, if I ever felt stressed out, I could just vent with my family and Young Families Connect program. My case manager, Ms. Diana, helped me get into a Certified Nursing Assistant program and think about how I wanted to live my life by setting important life goals.
When I was pregnant with Zach, I had three medical appointments because of the doctor’s concern with my blood pressure. I was induced at 37 weeks but was only 5 centimeters dilated after 26 hours. That’s when they told me I was going to have a C-section. It was almost 18 hours before I was able to see Zachary. When I finally saw him, I was filled with pure excitement and love. I was happy to know that I was finally able to make it happen – to have my baby! My husband was so supportive the whole way.
When we were preparing to bring Zachary home, we had a few scares. One issue was that we were having a hard time getting him to eat. The doctors kept an eye on the matter but couldn’t tell us what the source of the problem was. Knowing something was wrong with my baby without knowing the cause or condition was very stressful. We continued to think about the loss of our first baby and how we needed to keep Zachary healthy. Jack and I were both extremely concerned about our baby – but no one ever confirmed what the health condition was.
As this situation was going on, I couldn’t help but also think about all of the things I had heard in my Young Families Connect group such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, infant development and safety. Instead of sleeping, I would just watch Zachary sleep. We were able to take him home eventually where our family members were supporting us emotionally. The Young Families Connect team supported us by visiting us in the hospital, reminding us that they are always here for us. Ms. Donna was calling everyday to make sure we were doing okay, had transportation, checking on our basic and more complex needs. This really gave us a sense of relief.
Young Families Connect and Beyond
Since enrolling in Young Families Connect, I enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant I (CAN-I) program and have since completed that program. I then enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistance II. I completed the Certified Nursing Assistant series when Zachary was 4 months old. Now I am working full time as a CNA-II. I really value my support system – my family, Young Families Connect and the group support from the program. I also appreciate being able to tell my story today, whereas before I was shy and less able to talk in groups.
The skills I’ve learned from the program have even been used in my work setting. I am more outgoing and able to talk to patients at the hospital I work in. I feel comfortable being able to support another young mom by giving her valuable advice and guidance. To date, I have sent many of my friends to the program where they have had a place to talk, to share their fears and dreams. Additionally, I have become a much more confident mother. I appreciate how smart and advanced Zachary is, how well he is developing and my relationship with him. I credit Young Families Connect for this growth. Even though I am graduating from the program, I am still focusing on my goals, one of the most important self-development parts of the program. In a year from now, I see myself in nursing school. Luckily, I have a good job that will pay for my education. I am proud to be in Young Families Connect and proud to have worked with Ms. Donna and Ms. Diana.
I am Sabrina, A YOUNG MOM, and this is my story.
Sabrina lives in Rockingham County with her partner, Joshua, and four children: Kaley (8), Hunter (6), Cayden (5), and Kolbie (2 months).
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (November 2016).
*Names changed for confidentiality
Coming to Know Young Families Connect
I first found out about Young Families Connect (YFC) while I was in the Incredible Years parenting classes at Rockingham Partnership for Children. When the series was over, the YFC staff called and asked if I was interested in joining and I said,” yeah okay!” I’ve been a participant ever since, two years now. To be honest, I was initially in the parenting class because of a dispute between my ex(Kaley’s father) and me. Bob* and I, plus my boyfriend, Joshua, and my ex’s current wife were all supposed to take these classes but only Joshua and I completed the series.
Joshua is co-parenting all four of my children with me. However, my daughter Kaley lives with me half-time and with her dad and stepmother half-time.
Prior to taking the parenting classes, Kaley’s dad Bob*, stepmom (Sarah*) and I had a very hectic relationship. In fact, Sarah* even created a story that Kaley wasn’t my child and that she was Kaley’s birth mother. I think she created all kinds of drama to try to get me out of the picture. The Department of Social Services got involved, which is how I ended up having to take parenting classes to begin with. Sarah* also would block my communication with Bob* which really complicated how he and I co-parented Kaley. That was a very troubling time and we are still dealing with some of the stress from that period as we continue to co-parent in a blended family. But overall things are getting better!
Co-Parenting with a Blended Family
Because of the drama, we put Kaley in counseling when she was about six years old. It confirmed that Kaley was being manipulated by Sarah, Kaley’s stepmom. However the counselor informed us that there was nothing she could do about this. For example, Kaley calls me “Sabrina” instead of “Mom” and when I’ve asked her why she started doing this, she has said that if she doesn’t call me “Sabrina” then she would get a whooping. I understand that Kaley doesn’t have any control here, and so I have told her to do what she needs to do. But this is very hurtful to me. In fact, it has increased my anxiety.
This situation has not been easy at all! I have been resourceful in getting help including taking anxiety mediation. Luckily, the Incredible Years Parenting classes and Kaley’s counseling all took place at the same time (a little over two years ago) and both have been helpful tools for coping with this situation.
There are differences in my household and Kaley’s dad’s household. Here is what I do:
- I try to reinforce Kaley’s positive behaviors by having a positive relationship with her.
- I don’t ground her and punish her.
- I try to set aside special mom and daughter time.
- I remind Kaley that I am her mom and I gave birth to her. I show her pictures of us from her infancy.
My boyfriend Josh and I have been taking it day by day, really. Some things really stuck with me from the parenting classes like:
- My situation isn’t necessarily the worse situation.
- Pick your battles – do not snap or get mad at every little thing.
- Regardless of how bad it may seem, I can change my situation by applying the tools I’ve gotten from these programs.
After taking the parenting classes, my relationship with Bob* has improved and Sarah* is no longer intercepting our communication. However, Kaley is still suffering from all of the drama that took place previously. Kaley knows I am her mother and which roles all of the adults in her life play, but I feel her nerves are shot. She is doing what she must to live in her father’s house.
As a result of all of this, it’s been a bit difficult to parent my sons they way I’d like. Kaley not living here full time makes our family structure a little complicated, but we make sure we are getting all of our kids out and about, participating in karate (Hunter and Cayden) and having family time. Hunter (who is 6 years old) has a speech delay, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). Daphne, my Young Families Connect Case Manager has been exceptional with connecting us to resources for Hunter to get him all the help he needs.
When I joined Young Families Connect (YFC), I felt empowered by Daphne, my case manager. I liked how the YFC program had different kinds of get-togethers which allowed my kids to play with kids from other families. I have also been able to connect with other participants in the program. Sometimes we connect outside of our YFC facilitated group time and we have expanded our social circle as a result!
When I joined YFC, I wasn’t pregnant with Kolbie yet. In fact, my initial goals then were to become a better parent, lose weight, control my temper, and obtain a college degree. My plans derailed slightly because instead of losing weight, I gained a pregnancy. I had to rethink that plan! Instead, I focused on having a healthier lifestyle and healthy pregnancy. During my pregnancy, YFC staff provided me with a new crib, reassured me that they would be there for me as much as they could. I learned how to control my temper while I was pregnant. Some of the drama with Bob* and Sarah* were continuing during my pregnancy with Kolbie. I really feel like they were purposefully trying to sabotage my pregnancy with all of this drama. For example, Bob* and Sarah* were telling Kaley that Kolbie wasn’t Josh’s baby. I mean, really, they told my daughter this. I knew I couldn’t allow them the control over my pregnancy by entertaining this drama. I was able to transfer my energy from Bob* and Sarah* to my support with Young Families Connect.
Making Plans and Taking Action
Young Families Connect (YFC) has been so helpful to me in meeting my goals: controlling my temper, parenting, and obtaining a college degree. Daphne has helped me by showing me different strategies for calming myself down before I react. I especially make an effort to take time to breathe and to share what’s on my mind with a loved one who is not immediately involved in the matter I am reacting to. This loved one is usually my grandmother. I also try my best to bite my lip! Everything does not need a response! This goes hand-in-hand with what I learned about calming techniques in the parenting class, the Incredible Years, which was very helpful for improving my parenting skills.
I have reduced the amount of sugary foods and drinks my family and I have in our home. I have increased my cooking at home using some of the ideas that Daphne and YFC shared with us. The kids listened to Daphne’s suggestions for healthy eating which helped my healthy lifestyle goal. By the time I went into labor with Kolbie I thought it was going to be very easy, but it was actually pretty difficult. One of the things I most clearly remember, is my C-Section. I felt knots and pulling and tearing and then he was born. This is Baby Number Four so this isn’t new to me! The kids were excited about Kolbie, but Hunter took a while to catch on. With the addition of Kolbie in our lives, we have increased the level of structure with more detailed scheduling. Doing things like adhering to our dinner schedule and helping the kids become more independent makes my job a lot easier.
One of my goals was to obtain a college degree. I only had six months left to finish my Bachelor’s degree in information technology (IT) but I ran out of funding. My next step towards this goal is to get a job which will pay for the rest of my schooling. Right now, I am a stay-at-home mom to cut down on childcare costs. I plan to finish in the next year and half. I would like to put a large deposit on my education so that I am not relying on student loans. I ultimately want to finish school, buy some land to build a house (in about three years) and give my kids their own space! I am happy to say that I have an interview tomorrow as a live chat agent. This way I can work and stay home with Kolbie. My plan is already in action – work responsibly, save appropriately and take the next right steps to reach my goals.
To young women who need a resource like Young Families Connect – a note from Sabrina:
As I think back to my life before Young Families Connect and think about other young women and men who are in similar situations, I want to finally state that if a young woman is in need, please look for and use every resource you possibly can, starting with Young Families Connect. Daphne has been awesome. She is absolutely amazing to me and my family. She has been caring, thoughtful, and comforting. I am so grateful for her. She is always there and if I need resources she is quick to respond. Daphne allows me to reflect on my thoughts and shares her perspective when asked, instead of telling me what to do all the time. She has been a pillar of support for me and I cannot say that enough.
I am Britttany, a Young Mom, and this is my story.
Brittany, 25 lives in Wayne County with her daughter Za’Niyah (8) and Jaceon (2).
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (November 2016).
Catching up with Busy Brittany
In Brittany’s previous blog we learned about how she discovered the Young Families Connect program. Additionally, Brittany shared intimate details of her pregnancy, labor delivery with Jaceon in contrast to her experience with her daughter, Za’Niyah. Furthermore, Brittany shared her work/life balance: how she juggles being a mom of two young children and working to support her family. In this update, Brittany shares what changes have occurred since our last discussion, like changes with her children, family relationships and goals. Whew! Brittany is busy! In addition to Brittany’s role as mom, student and employee, Brittany shares (below) how she and her children lived through Hurricane Matthew in early October 2016.
Notes on #HurricaneMatthew from Brittany:
I left my apartment on Sunday, October 9th and I didn’t get home until Thursday night, October 13th. The hurricane didn’t affect my apartment but I was in the Dudley, NC area where I couldn’t go home because the roads to Goldsboro were flooded! I ended up staying at my parent’s house with my children, Jaceon and Za’Niyah. The children didn’t show any fear or ask any questions; I don’t think the hurricane affected them much but some of my friends and family were definitely affected. I was affected. My coworkers, work life and clients at my home ehalth job were affected. And finally, my school and classwork was affected by the hurricane. My home health job was affected because 1) I was unable to get to work because of the flooding which means I didn’t get paid! 2) without a home health aid clients are without the care they need. That can put a strain on the agency. I was, however, able to get to my 2nd job on Sunday, October 16th and return to my home health job on Monday, October 17th. Even though my routine was off track, I am okay and my children are okay. We are all okay.
Challenges of Parenting
Some things have changed since last time we talked- my support system, family relationships like that of Za’Niyah and Jaceon. To begin, we have recently celebrated Jaceon’s 2nd birthday by hosting a party in the park with family and friends. He enjoyed it until I smashed his face in his birthday cake. He got upset. I think I might do it again next year but I don’t know yet! (laughs). Za’Niyah helped me with preparing for the party; she kept Jaceon busy while I set up by playing with him during my planning and organizing time. Jaceon plays all day. He is a terrible two but he is getting better and is talking more and clearer. I’m trying to get them to get along because they argue and fight every day. I’m not really doing anything about it. I just yell at them and then soon after they are at it again. It’s mainly my son, he tries to be a bully. I have tried to redirect him and let him know what he can’t do. He says “no.” Everything is now running smoothly. It’s not like it was when he was first born.
Since last time we talked, Za’Niyah has transitioned to a new elementary school where she wasn’t doing well since she had become a big sister to Jaceon. At her old school, she used to talk and play because kids from our neighborhood attended school with her. I feel like she wanted to talk and play because she was so familiar with the kids from the neighborhood that she didn’t realize that school was not the place for that kind of all-day interaction with friends. She had an “I’m going to do what I want to do” attitude. Now that she is at a new school, considered out of district, she is doing well since she doesn’t know the kids or the teachers. She is transitioning well and even has a new best friend. Za’Niyah is really starting to buckle down because now she has to take the EOG and I think she is nervous about that. She is more like “Okay, I’m going to get it together and be good in school.”
Unlike before, I really don’t feel like I have a strong family support system. My mom was the main support person from my family but now she doesn’t want to babysit when I need her to. This really affects my weekend work schedule. I currently have weekday childcare, so I’m not experiencing this issue during the week but due to my mom not babysitting on weekends, I have to either leave early from work or not go in at all. This means, I miss hours and have less pay because I am an hourly employee on weekends. I hope this changes soon!
Jaceon, Jaceon’s Dad
Out of the blue, Jaceon dad’s side of the family reached out to me in hopes to establish a relationship with Jaceon. Since we had been talking, I decided to visit them while I was in Greenville where we met at their house so they can meet Jaceon and we can talk. This would have been the first time Jaceon would have met that side of the family, to date, he has only met a couple of his dad’s family members. This meeting didn’t go to well. For one, Jaceon’s dad showed up unexpectedly- I assume someone in his family told him I was coming over. Next thing I know he pulled up and everything when downhill from there. When his dad showed up we almost got into a fight twice. He just walked in and asked “Why are you here?” I explained that his parents reached out to me. He wasn’t listening to me and I wasn’t listening to him. We were just arguing back and forth with no communication. I almost punched him in the face.
Since that incident, I rarely speak to his family but Jaceon’s dad actually called to apologize to me about the whole situation and still it’s just been a rollercoaster with him. A recurring issue is the DNA test. Earlier in my pregnancy, I was with another partner when I was pregnant and I told Jaceon’s dad that was not jaceon’s father. This is what may have created this anger from Jaceon’s dad toward me. Jaceon’s grandparents want a relationship with him but need to make sure Jaceon is their grandson before getting close to him. I don’t have any doubts Jaceon is his dad’s child. The other guy I was with took a paternity test proving that he wasn’t my son’s dad. Jaceon’s dad has been saying he’ll do the test and that he wants to be a father to Jaceon but no action. No test. I keep thinking that we could have confirmed his doubts over a year and a half ago but like a said, it’s been a rollercoaster. I really want o make sure that Jaceon has his dad in his life as his primary male role model. I mean, Za’Niyah has her dad, I see the positive benefits of having a dad around when I see Za’Niyah her dad. I really want that for Jaceon. I’m not concerned with financial child support as much as I am concerned about Jaceon having extended love, support, care and nurture from all of his family. In the meantime, I am trying to concentrate on school, work and doing all that I can to support my family.
Busy Brittany: Mom, Student, Worker and More!
I will finish with my current certificate program in December. Before, I shared that I was in school for the CNA II program but I had to stop attending the program once we started to do clinicals due to a required background check I was unable to pass. Since then, I chose another program “Health Unit Coordinating” which is preparing me to work in a medical facility and register patients along with other administrative work in healthcare. The health unit coordinating program is all online and doesn’t require me to do any clinical work. This bought me some time while working to get my charges cleared. Classes are going good but I’m more of a face to face learner versus online learning. My test scores could be better but overall I’m passing. I haven’t spent much time studying at all. I just go over my work and old quizzes to help me study. Honestly, as a single mom without much help or support, it is really hard to study and get my work done with two active children. I just don’t have the drive to study. I try to stay focused on the end goal, to be able to work one full time job and I still think about my interests in pursuing a degree in nursing. Next, I want to continue my plan to get my CNA II which would help me move toward my goal in becoming a registered nurse. All this will have to happen after my background is cleared. Sometimes, I feel very overwhelmed but in the end I know it will be okay. Ms. Diana and the Young Families Connect team are always there for me to talk about what’s going on with me, how I feel, share when I’m overwhelmed. Right now, I’m trying to move forward and figure out which next step will be right step and strive to be great parent to Za’Niyah and Jaceon. I do talk to Ms. Diana and she gives me great feedback. I’m trying to move forward and figure out my next step as well as trying to be a great parent to Za’Niyah and Jaceon.
Stomach Painting – Baseball
My aunt painted my stomach for me near the end of my pregnancy. While on the surface it looks like something fun to do, it also showed me that my family embraced me and my pregnancy. This made me feel more secure in becoming a mom – I was surrounded by their support. I wasn’t going it alone.
Father Preparing to Feed Baby
Here we see a dad preparing to feed his daughter homemade baby food. By pureeing organic fruits and veggies on their own, these young parents are thinking proactively about their baby’s health while also being cost effective. This dad is engaged in his daughter’s day-to-day life, and is an active partner in her care.
Holding Hands in Labor
This image is one of unity during the transition to parenthood through a low-intervention labor and birth, with good results for mom and baby. It shows that dad is in the picture, and that it “takes two” through out the whole process, from start to finish.