(Editor’s Note: During this 20th Anniversary celebration of the passage of Proposition 10 by voters in November 1998, creating First 5s across the state, the Early Childhood Matters newsletter will occasionally feature select stories of how our various investments improved the lives of young children and their families in Los Angeles County.)
When First 5 LA first piloted its Welcome Baby program at California Medical Center in 2009, Dulce Margarito was navigating a first of her own: she was only 15 years old, pregnant and mystified about motherhood.
“I had no idea what it was like to raise a baby,” the Maywood resident recalled.
She found the answers she sought about being a first-time mom in Welcome Baby — a voluntary, free home-based support and coaching program that provides information, support and a trusted partner to help pregnant women and new moms prepare for and succeed in early parenthood.
“Welcome Baby helped me be a better mother,” Margarito recalled after the birth of her daughter, Samantha. “They gave me support and prepared me emotionally. With Samantha, for example, my parent coach taught me a little about everything. Breastfeeding was always a challenge, but I was taught that breastfeeding was the best form of nutrition for my baby so I did it for a year and a half.”
Margarito also became despondent and isolated following Samantha’s birth. “The biggest problem that marked my life was the depression. I was really young and I gained a lot of weight. And I was having issues with Samantha’s father. I always wanted to be home and shut in.”
Thanks to regular visits from Julie Mendez, her Welcome Baby parent coach, Margarito began to come out of her shell — and her home.
“She came to my home to do activities with the baby and recommended other places to take her,” Margarito said. “And more than anything, she listened to me. Had it not been for my parent coach, I don’t know what would have happened.”