Nurse home visitors help mothers of newborns feel less overwhelmed
Tarmisha was expecting for the second time, but she was feeling much more overwhelmed than she did with her first child. When her daughter was born five years earlier, Tarmisha’s life had been very different. She was married. She and her husband had jobs, and she had lots of support from a large network of friends and family.
The year preceding her second pregnancy, though, had been filled with loss and change. She had gotten divorced. She had lost her job and her car. The grandmother who raised her had died, and she had moved to an unfamiliar city on the other side of the country where the only person she knew was her aunt. The pregnancy had been a surprise, and doubly surprising when she learned she would have twins.
So, even though she was not entirely sure what a nurse home visit was, she did not hesitate to accept when offered an appointment with Family Connects Durham. “Someone coming to help me?” she thought, “I’ll take it!”
Family Connects Durham (formerly Durham Connects) offers nurse home visits for any family in Durham County with a newborn. Whether a family is well resourced or facing challenges, the nurse home visit provides parents with supportive guidance, links to community resources, and help in bonding with their child. The program is part of CCFH’s wide range of family supports, developed in partnership with the Duke Center for Child & Family Policy and the Durham County Department of Public Health.
Three weeks after Tarmisha and her boys came home from the hospital, Tamara was the Family Connects nurse who came to help. Little did Tarmisha know at the time how much that two-hour visit would mean to her.
Much of their time together in the home visit focused on challenges with breastfeeding. Tamara noticed that both twins were probably “tongue-tied” – a condition where an infant’s tongue is anchored to the floor of the mouth, which can impede breastfeeding. She referred Tarmisha to a doctor who confirmed and corrected the problem, making it much easier for the boys to nurse. Tarmisha was also using an old breast pump she had used with her daughter, but Tamara diagnosed it as weak and insufficient.
“And do you know?” Tarmisha beams, “This angel brought me a new one on her second visit with new bottles and two bags of diapers!”
During the first visit, they talked about a better way to swaddle the boys. “Thank God for swaddling,” says Tarmisha, “It’s the only way I can get them to go down at night to sleep.” And after the visit, Tamara connected Tarmisha with a social worker to talk about benefits eligibility and assistance with a job search.
More than tips and referrals, though, it was Tamara’s attentive care and concern that meant the most to Tarmisha. “She is so friendly and so easy to talk to,” Tarmisha says, “I probably told her my whole life story during that first visit.” And Tamara has remained available to Tarmisha, responding to new questions or concerns as they come up and even checking in occasionally to ask if Tarmisha needs anything.
“That little text just to ask how I am doing,” says Tarmisha, “it means so much to me. Tamara is the cheerleader that every new mom needs.”
Tarmisha has a new job now and has moved her family to a larger apartment, but she still faces challenges in building a new life here in Durham for her and her children. She feels a little less overwhelmed, though, because of the support she received from Tamara and Family Connects Durham.