Improve lives of at-risk moms & babies in the USA

Oct 1, 2012

Helping new families advocate for themselves!

Lum and Min with their son, Bless
Lum and Min with their son, Bless

One of the goals of Nurse-Family Partnership is to encourage and teach the moms and families to be the best possible advocates for their babies and themselves that they can be.  Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps examples such as Lum's story, below, become possible.

Lum was just beginning her new life in the United States when she found out she was pregnant. She and her boyfriend Min, both refugees from Burma, would have their first child together. It was another great challenge in their young lives.

Lum had fled Burma out of fear of the militant groups, and had lost her mom to a violent death in Burma. She was thankful to be in the United States, but she now had only her sister and brother as family to turn to in Des Moines as she and Min started their own family.

Then a local healthcare provider referred her to the Nurse-Family Partnership program at Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa.

“As refugees, we really need someone to be a guide for us. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby, and the culture in my home country is different than the culture in this country,” said Lum.

Because Lum spoke little English, Marcia’s first home visit with Lum was done through a Chin-speaking interpreter. Marcia saw a timid and reserved young woman. “We really needed my nurse Marcia,” said Lum. “She could see how I lived – what I needed. When Marcia comes to my home, I feel more comfortable for talking.”

Lum relied on Marcia to help her fill out her Medicaid enrollment forms, decipher mail from state agencies and call her doctor. Lum was lost in a new country without the knowledge of how to access resources. “I had to help her advocate for herself,” Marcia said.

“Because I didn’t have a parent in the U.S., I felt really lonely,” Lum continued. “I didn’t know anything about being a mother. Marcia was like my sister, parent and my wonderful teacher. I was so happy when I met with Marcia. I could ask her everything I needed. I asked her so many questions.”

As the home visits with Marcia continued, Lum stopped using the interpreter and practiced her English. And, she slowly opened up when Marcia asked one special question: what was Lum’s heart’s desire? Lum said she wanted to have her very own hair salon.

“It was my dream to have my own salon!” Lum recalled. “I thought when I became pregnant maybe it’s too much to want my own salon. When I told Marcia, she convinced me that I could get my dream. She made me feel more comfortable.”

Marcia encouraged her to follow her dream by taking classes at the Iowa School of Beauty.

“I saw many strengths in Lum,” Marcia said. “She was industrious and hardworking. And she had a desire to succeed and the benefit of a wonderful support system.”

Lum was trying to do it all while being pregnant, and it wasn’t easy. She attended school for eight hours a day, and then would continue on to work evenings at a chain store until 11 p.m. Adding to her load, her pregnancy was making her nauseous and tired. As they watched her try to cope, her family and Min decided they would take on additional responsibilities to help Lum concentrate on graduating and allow her to stop working.

She was determined to graduate from beauty school, but had her final few weeks of pregnancy to go. With her graduation planned just over a week before her due date, Lum knew timing was everything. She had to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy to be able to attend all the classes needed for graduation. With guidance from her nurse Marcia, support from her family and a bit of luck, Lum finished her classes before giving birth to a beautiful, healthy son. Lum and Min named him Bless – for the blessing he adds to their lives.

Marcia says the Nurse-Family Partnership aims for three main goals for every client: healthy pregnancy and delivery, improved child health and development, and economic self-sufficiency. Lum is achieving all three.

“I’ve gotten to see her inner strengths grow and blossom as I’ve watched her evolve and transform into a strong, confident mom,” said Marcia.
“Marcia gives me strength,” Lum remarked. “She was my guide to become more powerful. Marcia is my light.”

As Bless approaches his second birthday, Lum no longer needs public support from WIC or Medicaid. With her partner Min to do the electrical wiring and her family and Marcia connecting her with resources, Lum has made her dream come true. She is now is the owner of The Amazing Beauty Salon. She even had the self-reliance to develop a business plan and to take out a small business loan. Lum’s salon is attracting customers and she has hired her first employee.

“The Nurse-Family Partnership program really helped her to be self-sufficient,” Marcia said. Just like the name of her salon, Marcia describes Lum as truly amazing – an excellent mother and skilled business woman. No longer the shy young woman Marcia first met, Lum now feels empowered to advocate for herself and go after what she wants.

Lum and Min are now expecting the birth of their second child. They feel ready to grow their family and they want Bless to have a sibling companion in life. Lum says she now has the knowledge, thanks to Marcia, to be a confident mom.

When asked how her life has changed, Lum exclaimed, “I changed a lot. I know myself. I now feel comfortable with my life. Before I thought maybe I can’t get it. Now, I know I can get it and I did it!”




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Project Leader

Michelle Stapleton

Denver, CO United States

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