As we shift from the rebirth of spring to the full blooms of summer, we bring you a few stories of births from new moms and dads throughout Los Angeles County who have delivered healthy babies and blossomed with new parenting skills, thanks in part to First 5 LA’s initiatives.
“You’ll Never Be a Mom . . .”
Jenny Rose Brown was crushed when, two years ago, a doctor told her that she would never have children. She had dreamed of becoming a mother. So when she became pregnant in 2016, she was surprised, elated . . . and more than a little worried.
“I was worried I was going to lose the baby,” the 27-year-old adult education teacher said. “My mother weighed only a pound when she was born. And my brother was a preemie. I was looking for answers and I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to make sure my baby was healthy and I was healthy myself.”
Thankfully, Jenny Rose found Welcome Baby, a free and voluntary program from First 5 LA that provides Los Angeles County pregnant women and new moms with information, support and a trusted partner to help them through the journey of pregnancy and early parenthood.
“I was worried I was going to lose the baby.” -Jenny Rose Brown
Her Welcome Baby parent coaches, Evelyn and Katie, taught Jenny Rose tips to a healthy pregnancy, helped her find a good pediatrician and encouraged her to talk and sing to her baby during pregnancy to encourage attachment. After her son, Adrian Jr., was born in November at a healthy 9 pounds at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro, Jenny Rose’s parent coaches also helped develop her parenting skills and showed her how to encourage her child’s brain development, as well as fine motor and social skills.
“They taught me skills I didn’t know and helped me stay on track with what he was learning in that time of his development,” she recalled. “He was cooing a lot and he was saying ‘baa baa’. They taught me I could sing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ to help him form words. I also put his hand on my mouth as I would go through the alphabet. I would make the ‘c’ sound and he is starting to say it now.”
Her nurse and parent coaches also helped Jenny Rose through struggles with breastfeeding, including how to use coconut and olive oils as lactation aids. Moreover, they taught Jenny Rose to stay hydrated and well fed.
“When you have a newborn, it’s hard to think about yourself,” Jenny Rose said. “You forget to eat or drink. And if you don’t eat, your baby doesn’t eat, because you don’t produce enough milk.”
As a low-income mother, Jenny Rose was also stressed about having enough money to pay for her newborn’s needs. Thankfully, Welcome Baby connected her to local resources that provided a free bassinet, diapers and other necessities.
“That helped me with my stress levels because I wasn’t worrying about my finances,” she said.
“I recommend it to all of my friends who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant.” -Jenny Rose Brown
Today, Adrian is 4 months old and at the development level of a 5 month old. And a lot of it, Jenny Rose said, is thanks to the help of Welcome Baby.
“I recommend it to all of my friends who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant,” she said.
When her boyfriend went to juvenile detention camp, 18-year-old Ashley was three months pregnant. She felt alone, lacked focus and was not even sure she would graduate from high school.
Then she heard about Best Start, First 5 LA’s community capacity building initiative in 14 communities in Los Angeles County that provides skills building and leadership training for parents and caretakers to create supportive communities where children and families can thrive. Ashley remembers attending her first meeting of the Best Start Compton-East Compton Partnership with some reservation.
“I didn’t want to come because I thought to myself, ‘They will never give me help. I’m just a teen,’” Ashley recalled.
But she soon learned otherwise.
When members of the Compton-East Compton Community Partnership chose their community-identified project to build stronger families, they emphasized the need to support pregnant and parenting teens. As the Building Stronger Families (BSF) grantee for the partnership, El Nido Family Centers implements a program entitled Young Driven Parents (YDP), which is designed to encourage, educate, and guide young parents to use their voice and experiences to play an active role in improving their community.
Ashley got involved with Best Start and joined YDP during her pregnancy, gaining support and learning how to become a good parent. It was in here that she met another pair of teens, Pablo and Dulce, a couple who just had their first child.
“Best Start really helped me through a lot being pregnant alone.” -Ashley
Dulce, then 17, was very shy and seldom spoke out when she joined the YDP program, which empowered her as a leader and public speaker. Pablo, then 16, was unsure how much the program would help him as a teen dad and with his own father, as well.
Through YDP, the trio learned to make good choices for themselves and their families, advocate for themselves and to better the future for their babies.
“Thanks to Building Stronger Families, I was able to stay on track, focus on school and graduate even during these tough times,” said Ashley, who went on to deliver a baby girl. “Best Start really helped me through a lot being pregnant alone.”
Since Ashley’s boyfriend was released from juvenile detention camp, BSF has also helped him step up to his responsibilities as the father of Ashley’s child. Now he has steady work, comes to the Compton-East Compton Community Partnership’s Fathers’ Parent Café, which provides a casual setting for parents to talk about issues and give and receive feedback.
“Now he’s a whole different person,” Ashley said. “He has stayed off the streets. He has grown as a man and a dad since his involvement with BSF. Thanks to the program, we are in a better place.”
Nor is he the only father who has benefitted from the BSF Young Driven Parents program.
“The program helped me understand the important role I play as a father in my baby’s life.” -Pablo
“The program helped me understand the important role I play as a father in my baby’s life,” Pablo said. “I never knew how important the 0-5 years were in my baby’s life. But now that I know, I want to help other teen and young dads know and understand this and learn how they can positively affect their baby’s life, too!”
Pablo, Dulce, and Ashley were all elected to the leadership group to help guide the direction of the Best Start Compton-East Compton Community Partnership. Together, this trio also hopes to help empower other young parents.
Dulce, who overcame her own shyness to lead parent cafés and become a public speaker, summed it up this way: “When I joined Best Start, I didn’t think it would change my life the way it did. Now I want to help other teen and young moms to feel and be empowered or at least have the same opportunities as me.”
Spoken like a true teen titan.