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.
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.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (September 2016).
*Name changed for confidentiality
When I joined Young Families Connect (YFC) last year, I already had my daughter, Faith, who was two and my son Liam who was a newborn. With both of my pregnancies, I experienced postpartum depression which made thing hard. I was still in my baby blues stage while dealing with a two year old who was going through the “Terrible Twos” stage. The way I was dealing with Faith then was by yelling at her in an effort to get her full attention. I felt pretty badly about this because I was yelling a lot. I also noticed her behavior was becoming more frustrating to me and my yelling was causing her to be a little scared.
After Liam was born, I ignored how I was feeling – keeping my depression and fears inside. But, by comparison, the post-partum depression I experienced with Liam was a bit different mainly because I had on-hand support from my family. My mother’s involvement during that time was very helpful. She also encouraged me to find and use local community resources and to participate in local parenting classes because she thought I was such a young mother.
During that time my sister-in-law, Jackie,* was already enrolled in Young Families Connect (YFC) and taking classes. I decided to take action and take my mother up on her suggestion. One day, when Jackie was talking about going to the Incredible Years parenting class, I asked her if I could come. She welcomed me to attend. I attended and enjoyed it! I found the class especially interesting since I was a young mom raising two young children.
It has been about a year since that first visit. After going to the class with Jackie, I decided to attend a “Parenting Over Pizza” session with the YFC group and immediately connected with a Case Manager who arranged a home visit with me. Looking back, a turning point in my life was visiting the Incredible Years class. But it was really the staff – Dawn, Daphne and others that were so amazing! They have been here for me emotionally, and the classes have been an excellent support for me as a young mother. When I joined YFC, I decided to focus on the things that would support my personal development because I wanted to model the lifestyle I wanted for my children. The areas I decided to work on were positive parenting, healthy weight and school.
After joining the Young Families Connect (YFC) program and attending a few meetings, I felt like the YFC Program could really help me do some amazing things. I appreciate how YFC has classes for participants that help motivate and encourage participants to reach personal goals.
With the help of my Case Manager I was able to identify three goals to focus on. I also created some action steps to help me meet those goals:
- Parenting positively
- Healthy weight/lifestyle
- Pursuing school to be a certified interpreter or nurse
Parenting positively: My primary goal in YFC was to polish my parenting skills, to be a good mom and to have more patience in dealing with my kids. I like that each class that YFC facilitates is totally family-centered, meaning they focus each session on positive parenting.
Healthy Weight/Lifestyle: Another goal for me was to have a healthy weight/healthy lifestyle. I wanted to be able to lose some weight. Through YFC I was able to learn new ways to prepare my meals and to modify ingredients to make them healthier. As a group, my peers and I went on walks with our YFC team and measured our distance using a pedometer. I also learned the correct portion sizes of food – what I need versus what I want.
School: I have wanted to go back to school but at this point Liam is only one year old. Juan* and I decided that we would not put him in daycare now. I will wait to pursue my academic goals when Liam is a little older.
Taking it Day-by-Day
I recognize that creating goals for myself is a way for me to create a blueprint for my life. I have not totally accomplished all of my goals yet but I have been taking things day-by-day. I appreciate the growth I’ve made and recognize the challenges. Having the connection t YFC program staff and my peers in the program and the classes I’ve participated in, has really helped me to work through challenges such as my postpartum depression and my goal to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Parenting positively: Looking back on the last year, I have made a huge change. With the help of my YFC Case Managers and my participation in the Parents As Teachers program (in partnership with YFC at Rockingham Partnership for Children), I have had the benefit of having an in-home case manager who has worked with me on my positive parenting goal. It’s not been easy. Faith is now a three year old who is very active and requires attention like any three year old. Liam is developing into an active toddler.
While I proudly live the values of the parenting programs I’ve been in, I am constantly working on myself. Now, I find myself speaking to Faith and not yelling at her (the old way). My patience has increased and I listen to and more aware of Faith’s and Liam’s needs. I try to show that I am here for them and support them. I now have the tools to be able to communicate better with Liam as he grows. Every day I use the tools I’ve gained with my children and have a clearer understanding of how to calm myself down. I know that my reaction to Faith is a model for how she is going to act. I also understand the power of play – that doing something as simple as taking 10 minutes to play makes a huge difference in my children’s overall behavior.
Healthy weight/lifestyle: In the beginning I was losing weight because I was using the skills I learned to take better care of myself. I have not been doing this as much lately but I am still proud to say that I have gained an awareness of how to take good care of myself. For example, by doing daily activities such as cooking, cleaning and walking around the house I am using physical energy.
Some of the supportive ways in which YFC has helped me to maintain a healthier lifestyle has been the cooking class where we learned how to make a frittata and about appropriate portion sizes. I have also been walking with my kids when we go to the park where my husband plays soccer.
The main thing I’ve learned is the smallest things I do are still important in my healthy lifestyle. It’s an everyday process that I plan to continue to work on day-by-day!
Family Vibes and Looking Ahead
I have been using the tools I’ve gained in the Young Families Connect Program (YFC) to educate my loved ones like my husband, Juan. Juan hasn’t been able to participate in many YFC classes with me due to his heavy work schedule, but I try to share with him all of the knowledge I have gained from my YFC involvement. He listens to what I’m saying once he sees that these tools work.
Generally speaking, support from my family during my YFC participation has been outstanding from my sister-in-law, Jackie, and my mother. I am happy to have learned about the program through Jackie and also happy to have received some encouragement to engage with community resources from my mom. My mom is really happy about my participation in the YFC program, my use of newly learned parenting skills, and my connection to peers in the program. Family members have commented on my communication style with Faith Compared to last year they say they have noticed I don’t do much yelling, that Faith is much calmer and throws fewer tantrums.
While I have been in the program, I have noted that I should not expect my family members to adopt the exact same parent-child dynamic that I have learned through YFC. I know that grandparents express their love for their grandkids by simply spoiling their grandkids. I have learned not to let that frustrate me especially since my parents aren’t living close by.
In the near future, I want to continue to be a positive parent to both of my children. I also want to continue to work on some of my other goals such as healthy eating and returning to school. I have one more year with YFC and I plan to use this time well. I appreciate that the YFC staff continuously connects participants to resources and finds ways to help participants like me meet our goals. I am looking forward to all the classes we have, specifically the Love Notes relationship series, and any classes we have when our children are involved. Even when I graduate from YFC, I plan to always be around to use the resource and be a resource person for others. I am proud to be connected to YFC!