Do Something Different to Commemorate Mother's Day

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Sam and Izobel
Sam and Izobel

‘I am about to have a baby on my own, I need the help!’” said Sam, an Nurse-Family Partnership mom.

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps thousands of moms every day - like Sam.

Following is more of Sam's story: 

After several failed attempts to reach out to Sam by phone, Karen Mitteness - nurse home visitor for the Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership program in rural Minnesota - thought she may never connect with Sam. Karen was adamant to make this connection, but it was not working out.

It wasn’t until Sam was at her local WIC office in Benson, Minnesota and her nurse there told her to speak with Karen, that a connection was finally made. Karen recalls Sam walked in her office and kindly said, “Hi, I’m the girl who never returns your phone calls.” The relationship grew from there.

Twenty-four-year-old Sam had a lot on her mind and wasn’t sure if enrolling in the Nurse-Family Partnership ® (NFP)  program was something she could manage. She had recently called off an engagement and knew she could use help since this was her first baby. “I really had no idea what Nurse-Family Partnership would offer. After meeting Karen that first day, she explained the program is there to prepare me to have my baby and we would discuss topics I wanted to learn about. I thought, ‘I am about to have a baby on my own, I need the help!’” said Sam.

In the beginning, Sam was not comfortable opening up to Karen, but after several visits that all changed.  “I am a private person and it was hard sharing with Karen,” said Sam. “I now get excited to share things Izobel  (Sam’s daughter) does and I want to share everything all the time!” said Sam.

The relationship Karen and Sam built has helped Sam learn to take on life’s moments, one thing at a time. “Learning I was pregnant was scary at first. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Sam. “I thought, ‘Oh boy what did I get myself into. I have to bathe her on my own and get up in the middle of the night.’” Sam realized she was beginning a journey that would be both rewarding and difficult, but with Karen’s help she learned to take on each moment as it happened.

“Karen has helped me be more relaxed about things,” said Sam. “Karen says, ‘Do what you can and that is all that matters.’” The support Sam received from Karen helped Sam in the most difficult times. When Sam was 20-weeks pregnant an ultrasound showed her daughter had a swollen kidney. “The doctors continued to monitor Izobel’s kidney, but there was no improvement,” said Sam. Sam’s daughter would need kidney surgery. Karen and Sam discussed what to expect with Izobel’s surgery. “Karen and I went over the surgeon’s plans and orders. I think Karen knew better than I did that the surgery was going to be rough on me. She was right,” said Sam.

When Izobel was 3-months old, Sam drove three hours in blizzard conditions to the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota for Izobel’s kidney surgery. Sam was terrified to drive in a big city and in bad weather conditions. “My home town of Appleton has about 800 people, we don’t have a stop light in our town, so driving in a big city and in the snow was nerve wracking, but my friend and I found our way safely,” Sam said.

Sam’s daughter Izobel didn’t just have one surgery for her kidney - she had three. Her first surgery was unsuccessful and had to be repeated. Izobel was also sent home with a suprapubic catheter. The second surgery was successful and Izobel’s third surgery was to remove the stint placed on her kidney. While Sam was in the hospital she was gracious to the kind nurses who took care of her daughter and gracious to the guidance she received from Karen during that time.

“Izobel’s nurses were amazing,” said Sam. “Izobel’s nurses taught me how to take care of her and my CNA training also made me less nervous about it all. After Izobel’s surgery Karen reassured me that I was taking care of Izobel the way I needed to. It was nice having Karen there to talk about Izobel’s surgery.”

Taking care of Izobel after her surgery sparked more interest in Sam to continue her schooling for nursing. “I thought, ‘These nurses are great.  Why can’t I do that too?’”

Karen will tell you one of Sam’s strengths is when she puts her mind to something and has the support, she gets it done. Sam did exactly that. With Karen’s support and motivation, Sam applied for an online licensed practiced nurse (LPN) program in Watertown, South Dakota and received the news she wasn’t expecting to hear. “Sam was told she needed a letter that would demonstrate she was worthy of admittance,” said Karen.  Sam was determined to get accepted and asked Karen to write her a letter of recommendation. “I wrote a letter for Sam and she was told she was put on a waiting list,” said Karen. 

Being put on the waiting list did not stop Sam. She signed up for online classes with another institution and began taking courses. While attending a doctor’s appointment for her daughter, Sam received a phone call saying she was admitted to the online LPN program in South Dakota and was overwhelmed with joy.

This was great news that would help her reach her goals.Sam would now take on even more classes since she was accepted to the LPN online program. Today, Sam plans to complete the LPN program and continue to go on and become a registered nurse. Sam is currently facing her most difficult semester. “I am taking 16 credits in school, I work part-time and I am Izobel’s mother full time,” said Sam.

Sam lives with her father, who is hearing impaired and divorced her mother when Sam was a young age.  While her dad has been supportive, one of her goals besides obtaining her LPN and becoming a registered nurse is to move out of her father’s house. “My dad is a great support to me and Izobel, but I don’t want to live at home forever,” said Sam.  Sam currently is raising her daughter on her own, but has a good relationship with Izobel’s father.

Little 1-year-old Izobel is the light of Sam’s life. “She is outgoing and not afraid of anyone,” said Karen. “Izobel is a gem!”

Sam shares, Izobel’s unique way her name is spelled comes from a character from one of her favorite television series, but she made her name even more unique by spelling it with a ‘z.’

Sam has learned to focus on her goals and has become a confident mother because of the NFP program. “This program has helped me so much, Karen is always so positive and makes me feel good about school and Izobel,” said Sam. “Karen doesn’t make every meeting only about Izobel, because once you have a baby it is all about the baby. Karen discusses school with me and my future.”

The next challenge Sam faces besides balancing being a mother, school and working a part-time job is her daughter’s vision. Izobel has to wear an eye patch three hours a day and wears glasses all day as well. “Izobel’s gotten a lot better about wearing the eye patch and glasses,” said Sam. “She of course doesn’t like wearing the eye patch and glasses all the time and wants to take them off, but she is learning she has to wear them.”

Izobel wears the eye patch to strengthen the muscles in her eye. “Sam is very good about keeping the eye patch and glasses on Izobel, which you can imagine can be a struggle at times, but she always has the patch and glasses on Izobel when we have visits,” said Karen.

Sam and Karen’s relationship continues to grow. If it wasn’t for Sam making that initial connection that day in Karen’s office, Sam’s life would be different. “I would definitely be more uptight and worried that I was doing something wrong with Izobel. Karen has been great because she never puts me down or makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong, so I wouldn't have that positive support either. Karen gave me the push to go back to school. With Karen’s help, I can make good decisions for me and Izobel. It's going to be strange when she (Karen) stops her visits.” said Sam.

Karen will continue to visit Sam until Izobel turns 2-years old. Karen has seen many improvements in Sam and knows Sam will have a bright future. “I give Sam a lot of credit. She has demonstrated so much maturity and made many decisions. She focuses on her strengths and I see things moving in a positive direction for her,” said Karen.

Postscript - Sam completed her first semester with a 4.0 GPA and made the President’s list. She and Izobel are doing well and Sam is looking forward to Izobel growing and learning more every day. 

Sam graduated from the Nurse-Family Partnership program in December 2014. 

Thank you for helping to make a difference in the lives of families through Nurse-Family Partnership.

Baby Joe
Baby Joe

Mother's Day is just over a month away!  Have you thought about how you are going to honor your mom or a mom in your life?

We have said it before, at Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) every day is Mother's Day.  We work with vulnerable new moms - before their baby is even born - to make sure they are going to be the best mom, advocate and provider they can possible be for their baby.

“I was a very young single mom and I didn’t feel prepared,” she said. “Health class in school doesn’t really prepare you.” said a young NFP mom in PA.  You can read more about her story in the March 16, 2015 article from the Times Leader, "'Health class doesn't really prepare you'... but a visiting nurse can" by Mary Therese Biebel

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership moms not only honors and supports them, but it also honors those moms you value in your life - thank you!


Your support helps to change the lives of moms and babies, but the nurses who form relationships with these families are forever changed as well.  Here is a story about Gail, one of our Nurse-Family Partnership nurses:

When I first came to Guilford Child Development, a Nurse-Family Partnership implementing agency in North Carolina, I never dreamed my work with NFP would become a peak employment experience.

First of all, as a registered nurse, I had not worked in maternal-child health nursing since I completed my bachelor’s degree. Nor had I ever worked with teenagers, pregnant mothers, or infants. Consequently, I knew I had a huge learning curve to overcome. At the time, I would not have described myself as someone comfortable doing an intense home visitation program. Boy, was I wrong!

The Nurse-Family Partnership training represented a paradigm shift in my views of infant development. I have worked in many different areas of nursing, other than the training I received as a surgical intensive care nurse, and none have come close to the depth of preparation I received for NFP. And, after training, the program also had excellent internal supports in place to help new practitioners circumvent failure.

During initial training, I became acutely aware of what a nurse’s visits meant to an inexperienced mother. Throughout the prenatal months, the nurse was a source of support and information that covered the gamut of topics and concerns a new mother might anticipate. One important goal was to convey the messages required by the program’s protocol, in order to give the mother an opportunity to experience a healthy pregnancy. To the mother, it often meant having someone teach her and her family how to make a healthy pregnancy possible— to impart information in order to alleviate fears of the unknown abyss of childbirth, breastfeeding, and the dayto-day care of a newborn.

Once an infant was born, the goals changed. At this juncture, not only was it important to teach the mother how to be an informed parent, but it was also important to facilitate self-efficacy. Assisting the mother in finding solutions for positive outcomes was an integral part in the mother’s development. For this challenge, it was necessary for me to understand the mothers’ dreams for themselves. Some articulate their life’s vision quite easily, while others were in the formative state of goalsetting, and more self-exploration was required. It was this experience that separates Nurse-Family Partnership from other programs designed to improve outcomes for vulnerable new mothers. I felt as if I were teaching these young women to fish.

The transformations I witnessed in the mothers were a constant source of gratification for me. To observe the benefit our relationship had upon their infants’ social and physical development gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment. During the 2+ years I spent with each mother, I witnessed changes that were life-altering. Many
of the mothers I served were from different countries and backgrounds—which meant that on occasion, ideas I suggested were sometimes opposed to traditions and information prevalent in their cultures. I was also exposed to new customs as I listened to understand their thinking and feelings. The sharing of beliefs allowed us to decide what was negotiable, and this strategy created an environment in which both could grow and work toward common goals.

In order for me to facilitate such a major change in their beliefs and practices, a trusting relationship was required.
Having a woman allow me to be part of one of the most important and sacred events of their life sprung from the
strong commitment I had to guard and protect their trust in me.

I had moments of great pleasure throughout my relationship with each family, not just at the end of the time I spent
with them. As a relationship would come to a close, I realized I had a very strong feeling of ownership. I was ecstatic
to see a two-year-old—previously destined to be physically, emotionally, and developmentally delayed—move to
within the normal ranges of infant growth and development. Even more rewarding was to watch them progress into
toddlerhood with flourishing cognitive, motor and language skills.

I was always impressed with the mothers’ commitment to create a nurturing and supportive environment that allowed
their children to meet developmental milestones. After many months together, these women were finally in the
position to teach their own children and others to fish.

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps to make these life altering differences in the lives of families - thank you!

Brady and Ginevieve
Brady and Ginevieve

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership creates bright futures - not just for the babies born into the program, but for the moms too!  Here is a story about one of our families: 

Hers is a strong, clear voice with an energy that young people seem to have when their future
is undeniably bright. To talk with Brady today, you’d never know it wasn’t always that way.

"I was in a low point," she confides.  A low point just before she met the young man who would quickly become the father of her child.  Her first marriage had ended in less than a year, due to domestic abuse. The divorce was followed by job loss, and the need to move in with her grandmother for a while. But Brady began to pull herself up.

“I got a new job waitressing and moved in with a colleague who introduced me to Sean,” she said. “I tell people that he and I shook hands and we were pregnant!” she laughs, in hindsight. But at the time, it wasn’t something to laugh about.

“We were doing…not great,” said Brady. The timing could not have been worse for starting a family, as the Great Recession had begun and job lay-offs were prevalent, especially in construction, where Sean worked. He had moved back in with his parents.

“We both had messed up personal lives,” said Brady. On top of that, neither one knew anything about babies, yet these almost strangers were going to soon become parents together.

Brady did know enough to seek out prenatal healthcare at a clinic in Shreveport, where a nurse referred her to Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). “I thought it was an automatic that everyone signed up,” she remembers. “So I did.”

That was the start of her two-and-a-half year journey with two nurses who became her sounding boards, her support and her friends. Her first NFP nurse home visitor was Nancy, who helped her through her pregnancy and when her daughter was born.

July 15 marked six years since Ginevieve was born and was named after Brady’s grandmother, who was born on the same day 81 years earlier. She was perfect.

The young family, however, was struggling. “We didn’t know each other very well and I wasn’t very good about knowing how to talk our way to compromise,” said Brady. "I spent the time trying to fix everything, do everything. I think I changed all the diapers for the first two years." 

Brady was feeling the stress of the relationship and baby. On top of that, she felt criticized. “A lot of what I heard when Ginevieve was very young was how I was doing everything wrong.”

What often kept her going was Nancy and Wendi, the nurse supervisor who took over when Nancy left her job mid-way through Brady’s time in the program.

“Nancy and Wendi were there to have an adult conversation with me and care about me,” said Brady. “I didn’t have any of that. No one else was telling me I was doing a good job, but to hear from an actual nurse, validating me…I felt like a success because of that.”

Give credit to Brady, says Wendi. “She was hungry for knowledge.”

The nurse-client mom relationship is a trusted one. Nurse-Family Partnership tries to keep the same nurse with a mom throughout the program, but it isn’t always possible because of moves and job changes. When Nancy left NFP, Wendi knew that there was a chance that Brady would not connect with her as the new nurse. “But she took it in stride and really welcomed me with open arms,” said Wendi.  "I felt like after our very first visit, I had known her a long time.”

Wendi also knew that this young woman, who was dealing with instability in her relationship, her housing situation and her job, was someone who had a great deal of strength.

“I was enchanted by Brady,” said Wendi. “She was one of the very few moms that I’ve known who was still breastfeeding at 18 months. It told me she had a lot of perseverance and heart.”

Brady had learned from Nancy just how important breastfeeding is to a baby’s health and development, and Wendi reinforced that. Brady embraced that knowledge, breastfeeding Ginevieve past the age of two. Today she believes it has made a difference to both her child and herself.

“It’s one of my proudest things,” said Brady. “It is invaluable. Ginevieve is so smart. And we are so close, because breastfeeding is not only about breastfeeding, it’s about closeness.”

Ginevieve is now an artistic little girl who reads well and is ready to start second grade in the fall of 2014.  She also was one of only two children in her kindergarten class who were invited to test for Louisiana’s Gateway accelerated program in first grade.

Her mom is understandably proud, and so is her former nurse, who recently saw both Brady and Ginevieve more
“Ginevieve was thriving,” said Wendi. “Very smart; she had a big vocabulary. Not to mention that she is preciously cute!”

Wendi is also quick to compliment her former client, who is employed as a WIC breastfeeding peer counselor. “If ever there was a role model for breastfeeding moms, Brady has a market on that!”

It is a job she adores. “I love working with moms to give back what I was given,” said Brady

Does she see just a little bit of herself in some of the young women she now helps? “Absolutely,” Brady said. “Too many women don’t have support. I didn’t.” To pay it forward just a little more, she often refers her clients, when appropriate, to Nurse-Family Partnership.

Today, Brady and Sean are no longer a couple, but they continue to raise Ginevieve together. Despite their difficult start, Brady is quick to praise.  "He is a great dad," she said. “We made it work; we raised our daughter together for six years.”

And, thanks in part to two strong role models, Brady found her own voice that seemed to be at risk of being lost in that early rush of pregnancy, relationship and motherhood. “Everyone needs support, and for me that was NFP.”

Brady has a child who is thriving; she has a meaningful job that she loves. And, she is earning her Bachelor’s degree in
Education from Louisiana State University in Shreveport. She knows that NFP made a significant difference in her life, and she knows she now loves working with moms and babies herself.

As for her future? “Wherever the Lord puts me and wherever I'll be the most effective is where I'll go."

Mela's NFP nurse, Mela and Mela's baby

We are now about two months past Mother's Day, but since Nurse-Family Partnership believes that every day is Mother's Day we wanted to share with you a Washington Post blog post that was written just before Mother's Day. This story talks about some of NFP's little successes and big successes; like getting the pregnant mom's blood pressure down, having a full-term pregnancy, breastfeeding, bonding with the baby and more!    

“From our visits and her desire to have a better life for herself and her baby, she’s making better choices,” says NFP nurse Gloria.

You can read the entire story at the following link:

The Washington Post

Helping first time moms in need: Nurse-Family Partnership



Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership has helped make both the big and little successes possible for these families and the more than 29,000 other families across the United States – thank you!


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Michelle Stapleton

Denver, CO United States

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