Tawana Moss never expected to be a mother. Told they could never have children, she and her husband were stunned last year to discover that she was two months pregnant.
“I cried the whole seven months,” she said, laughing as 9-month-old Tatiana squirmed on her lap. “But I wouldn’t trade her for nothing in the world. She’s my joy.”
Tawana and Tatiana were among dozens of families that attended an annual celebration this summer for the Nurse-Family Partnership, a Calhoun County Public Health Department program that walks first-time mothers through pregnancy and the first two years of their baby’s life.
NFP is a funded partner with United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region.
A handful of families celebrated their graduation from the program at the event. They were honored with a ceremony, toddler-sized graduation caps and family photos. Lunch preceded the festivities, and families had the opportunity to take part in activities organized by another partner of both United Way and NFP — Early Childhood Connections.
The NFP program is free to any woman in Calhoun County who is pregnant with her first child, no more than 28 weeks along and eligible for WIC or Medicaid. Program participants receive visits from their assigned nurse anywhere from once a week to twice a month, depending on the stage of pregnancy or age of the child.
“We believe — and the research shows — that the two and a half years a women spends in the NFP program changes the trajectory of the woman and child’s life by giving the mom the skills and confidence that she needs to provide a stable life for her family,” NFP manager Michelle Datema said. “The long-term relationship with the nurse helps the moms learn to trust others and themselves.”
For Tawana, whose extended family lives in Texas and whose husband is often on the road for work, her nurse, Kelly, has been a lifeline.
“She knew the answers to the questions I didn’t know,” Tawana said. “Becoming a first-time mom was something new and different – very different, and very challenging. Especially when you don’t have family.”
Paylend Swartz also attended the NFP celebration, accompanied by her 6-month-old son, Reagan. Workers at Grace Health recommended the program, and she decided to give it a try. She has the same visiting nurse as Tawana, and said she’s been grateful for the support.
“She’s been there through the whole pregnancy and everything,” Paylend said. “She’s pretty awesome.”
In addition to providing education on a number of parenting topics and answering any questions Paylend might have, Kelly has supported Reagan’s development by bringing books and signing him up for Imagination Library.
“He loves all the books she brings for him,” Paylend said. “He gets so excited. If he gets a new book he’ll stretch out and start squealing and stare at you until you read it to him.”
In another year or two, it’ll be time for Tatiana and Reagan to don their graduation caps, but for now, their mothers are happy to celebrate others in the program and reflect on the difference NFP has made in their own lives.
“I love it, and I thank them a lot,” Tawana said. “If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have made it this far with this baby girl.”
Click here to read more about the impact NFP has made nationally and how the program has led to decreased child abuse and neglect, reduction in use of the ER for accidents and poisonings, increased readiness for school, less behavior problems at school age and less involvement with the criminal justice system for both mother and child.
Your support can help programs like NFP continue to grow healthy families in our community.