Deep Breaths: Healthy Beginnings Start with Support
United Way fights for the education, health, and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa County.
Katrina was twenty-two and six weeks pregnant when I first met her. She asked me to call her Kat.
“My parents called me Katrina,” she told me with a note of ambivalence and a deep breath.
I recognized a toughness in her voice that often comes with a complicated history. From her medical records, I knew this was her second pregnancy. Her first was a year ago. She had lost that baby two months into the first trimester. Experience told me the next two weeks would be difficult for her.
That two-month milestone was a hundred pounds of worry that no pregnant woman should have to carry alone.
As a community health worker, it was my job to help alleviate Kat’s burden of worry. She may not have believed it then, but I would be with her every step of the way.
“I need to leave soon,” Kat said after checking her watch for the fifth time in as many minutes. “I have a six-hour shift at the grocery store I work at across town, and I need to make the bus.”
“Why don’t you let me drive you?” I suggested. “We can continue chatting in the car.”
“You don’t need to do that,” she responded in that same ambivalent tone.
This was someone who was used to doing things on her own. I looked at her file. The doctor had attributed her miscarriage last year to physical and emotional stress.
“It’s no trouble,” I said, watching her pick at a loose thread on the sleeve of an old sweater. “We don’t need to talk. Come on, I have some grocery shopping to do, anyways. You can cash me out.”
After a moment, she nodded.
We drove in silence for a while. I’d worked with women like Kat before. I knew behind that toughness was someone who hadn’t always had a reliable support network, someone who’d been let down and expected to be let down again.
Halfway to the store, she broke the silence. “I’m not a cashier,” she said.
I glanced at her. “What do you do at the store?”
“I stock the shelves. Bag groceries. Things like that.”
“Have you told them you’re pregnant?” I asked.
Dodging the question she said, “It’s not that bad, and it’s only three days a week. I work as a bank teller the other four days.”
“Sounds like you’re on your feet a lot,” I casually mentioned and looked at her as she shrugged off the implications from my question.
Kat’s situation was becoming more clear to me. She had two physically-demanding jobs, no transportation, and a complicated relationship with her family. Plus, she was pregnant. It was my job to make sure she had the support and resources she needed to give birth to a healthy baby.
When we arrived at the grocery store, she thanked me and put her hand on the door handle. However, she didn’t immediately get out of the car.
After a moment, she said, “I had a dream last night that I lost the baby.” She paused, then continued, “I was inside the store, stocking shelves in the baby aisle. I was on a ladder, stacking diapers on the top shelf and I slipped and fell to the floor. I knew immediately. And people... just walked past and no one stopped to help me.”
“Kat?” I said. She looked over at me. Her eyes were steel. “I know you don’t know me very well. But, I’m going to be here for you. For you and your baby. The whole way. To take you to your health appointments, make sure you’re eating healthy, pick up your prescriptions. More than that, I’m here to listen to you. Whether you need to talk about your bad dreams, or about anything else you have going on.
You’re not alone. I will be here for you and your baby.
She looked at me a moment, then nodded. It was a good beginning.
“I think we should start by talking to your bosses. The more people we have looking out for you, the better.” And with that, together, we started to make our way into the grocery store.
We made it past the two-month mark. Then we made it seven months more. Kat gave birth to a healthy baby boy. In fact, I drove them both home from the hospital. When we arrived to her house, I helped her inside. She gently laid the baby in a crib her co-workers had bought for her, and we stood smiling down at him as he fell asleep.
Slowly, she took my hand. “I don’t know what we’re going to do without you,” she said.
I squeezed her hand. “Oh, you’re not getting rid of me that easily,” I said. “Didn’t I tell you? I’m with you the whole way.”
Kat looked over at me. The steely look from months ago was gone, and together we stood there a while longer, watching the strong, deep breaths coming from her beautiful baby.
CHANGE MAKER ACTION: Because of your support, women with at-risk pregnancies in our community are able to access the health and support services they need to give birth to healthy children. If you would like more information about Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB, please contact the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio at (419) 842-0800.
*This blog post is based on a true story / success narrative from the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio’s Pathways HUB program. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s successes and struggles.
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