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Nonprofit nurse partnership helps first-time mothers

For many women, being a first-time mom can be a daunting experience.

Through its Nurse-Family Partnership, the Austin nonprofit Any Baby Can hopes to ease that experience for Central Texas women.

The program, which Any Baby Can began offering in 2008, connects a first-time mother with a specially trained nurse who visits the client throughout the pregnancy and up until the child is 2 to teach the mother how to handle being pregnant, prepare for labor and guide them through their children’s infancy.

Ariana Martinez, a 20-year-old mother who completed the program in May, joined the Nurse- Family Partnership as a 17-year-old high school senior after she became pregnant with her daughter, Lucia, who is now 2. At first she was reluctant to enroll in the free program recommended to her by her school nurse, she said, but she’s glad she did because she learned so much from it.

This Friday, she and about 60 other women celebrated their completion of the program during 2015.

“I learned so much,” Martinez said. “I have my mom who has kids, but my mom also told me, ‘You might want to hear it from someone who’s more professional and has more experience.’ It was good getting another perspective and from someone professional, too.”

Martinez said she became very close to the nurse she was partnered with and felt comfortable asking her any questions about her pregnancy, even ones that might seem embarrassing.

“She really got to know me as a mom, as a person, as a friend,” Martinez said. “It’s like having a second mom as a nurse.”

During every session when the nurse came to visit her at home, Martinez said, they checked off items from a list intended to prepare a prospective mother for birth until they had gone through the full list after her daughter was born.

Even after checking off the entire list, Martinez and her nurse would come up with new issues to talk about. Martinez said she was most thankful for the lessons on child development, which taught her to be more patient as a parent by preparing her, for example, to expect her child to cry for no apparent reason between the time they were 6 weeks and 3 months old.

A big part of the lessons, she said, was putting a more positive spin on parenting and better understanding what things are normal for children to do so she can expect them. Even now, months after leaving the program, Martinez said, she still calls or emails her nurse when she has questions.

Jenny Baldwin, the director of family strengthening programs at Any Baby Can, said she values all the things the program teaches like nutrition and preparing for pregnancy, but thinks the most important thing is child development because it helps parents understand how to tackle issues with their children even after they complete the program.

The program is open to any first-time mother without any age requirements but they must register for the program before the 28th week of their pregnancy and meet the income requirements for WIC, the Women, Infants and Children food program. Any Baby Can’s program serves Travis and Williamson counties.

“I got really into the program and got really close with (our nurse), and Lucia got really close to her,” Martinez said. “I think it’s a good thing. I recommend it for anybody.”

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