Mom Squad — Helping new mothers embrace motherhood
The timing couldn’t have been worse, but the result couldn’t have been better. Maya Donald was 24 and exceling at her job in customer service for a telecommunications company, when she learned that she was pregnant. She’d also just ended a romantic relationship with the baby’s father. Having an infant at this point in her life wasn’t part of the plan, but once the shock of her new situation wore off, Donald fully embraced the process.
“I knew I was going to be alone, but I also knew since I was a kid, that I had wanted to be a mom. I was pretty ready for motherhood—or so I thought.”
Donald had “an amazing pregnancy” and experienced no morning sickness. “I felt healthy and strong,” she says. Working with a team of midwives, she planned a water birth for the delivery of her baby, but her son had other plans. Donald was a week overdue when an ultrasound showed dangerously low levels of amniotic fluid indicating the pressing need for an emergency C-section. Soon Jeremiah was welcomed to the world and at eight pounds, seven ounces, he was a healthy, happy baby.
While recovering from surgery in the hospital, Donald received an unexpected visitor: Patricia Santos, the Home Visiting Coordinator for Family and Children’s Agency. FCA, now in its 75th year, is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families build strong, nurturing relationships. An FCA representative visits every first-time parent who has a baby born in Norwalk Hospital, and offers an array of information, free services, and robust family programs to help support healthy parenting from day one.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what your personal situation is,” says the FCA communications manager Lindsay Perry. “Whatever your socio-economic background, immigration status, marital status, or personal situation, our programs are open to everybody.”
Every new mother, no matter what her circumstances, can benefit from a welcoming smile and the offer of help from someone with experience. But initially, Donald was wary—it all seemed too good to be true. “But then Patricia offered me all these services that I knew could really help me. When she told me that someone would meet with me once a week to go over any concerns I might be having and be available to answer questions, I realized that FCA could provide me with helpful tools for being a great mother.”
Soon Yadira Morales, a specialist in the home-visiting program, began coming by for weekly visits to check in on Donald and Jeremiah. A former pre-school teacher and mother of three, Morales was also available by text, should Donald need more immediate assistance or advice that couldn’t wait. “One of the things that helped me not getting too overwhelmed was knowing that I had someone who I could call.”
Morales helped guide the new family with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), a standardized series of questions, which assesses a child’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and cognitive development.
“It was really helpful,” recalls Donald. “These were questions I wouldn’t normally have thought of and they helped me measure Jeremiah’s developmental milestones. Yadira also helped me to set goals for myself and my child.”
Donald also discovered that when she became a mother, that her priorities had quickly changed. “I learned how to care for someone other than myself but also about the importance of self-care,” she says. “If you are a new mother, know that you are not alone and that you can seek out help. I never felt judged and the FCA program had a huge impact on me. They’ve inspired me and taught me so much.” The Nurturing Families program is available to everyone in the greater Norwalk area including Wilton.
Families First at FCA
FCA offers a full range of free developmental programs that focus on the early years of a child’s life, birth to age eight. They are available in both English and Spanish.
›› Nurturing Home Visiting provides trained home visitors to help first-time families by offering in-home visits for up to five years, education on parenting and child development, and access to important community resources.
›› Nurturing Connections offers phone support, parenting education, and referrals to services for first-time families.
›› Nurturing Groups regularly held prenatal and parenting groups for families with a child between birth and age five.
›› Fatherhood Initiative
for expectant and first-time fathers, designed to increase the participation of fathers in the lives of their child, increase knowledge about developmental needs, and promote bonding and attachment.
›› Maternal Outreach and Mentoring Service (MOMS), Minding the Baby (MTB), and Parents as Teachers (PAT).
familyandchildrensagency.org and available to Wilton residents.