Bonding

A strong support system: Registered nurse Diane Frankel smiles as she holds Natanya Taylor’s son, Zyheim. Taylor and Frankel worked together as part of the Buncombe County Nurse-Family Partnership program. Caitlin Byrd

As a first-time mother, Natanya Taylor admits she did not always know what to do when her son, Zyheim, continued to cry.

"Is he hungry? Is he tired? I just didn't know how to make him stop crying," she recalls.

To get answers, she phoned Diane Frankel, a registered nurse with the Buncombe County Nurse-Family Practitioner program. She is known as "an extra mom," charged with helping first-time, low-income mothers before and after the birth of their child.

"She's been there, even through my personal problems,” Taylor says. “She's been there to listen and be there for me.”And Frankel was also there to teach. She offers such as tips as turning on a fan to stop a baby from crying, and helped Taylor find solutions.

That nurse-to-mother bond is one that Taylor says she “won't never forget, and that I know [my son] won't never forget,” says Frankel. “Hopefully there's a way that we can always stay in contact with each other.”

Taylor was one of 10 mothers who graduated from the program on July 10, and adds that the advice and guidance she received from the program stays with her. [Frankel] “gave me a binder, and I still have it,” she says. “It has everything from what he should wear in the winter, to sunscreen, to baby care, and I still go back and look at it.”

The program does more than provide mothers with tips to get their babies to sleep.  It pairs nurses like Frankel with local first-time, low-income mothers to improve maternal health, promote healthy child development and help these new moms either continue their education, or find work.

And, according to statistics, it works.

"Longitudinal studies show that there's a decreased risk of incarceration for parents and children; higher rates of self-advocacy, employment and completing high school for the parents enrolled and also for their children," says Ginger Clough, a registered nurse with the program. She continues, "We're having lower rates of pre-term labor for our clients and higher rates for students staying in high school."

For 18-year-old April Burroughs, the program empowered her to earn her high school diploma from Community High School and graduate a year early — with the highest honors in her class and two scholarships.

"They're a good support when you need them and when you don't have anybody else,” says Burroughs. “I lived on my own at the time, and they really helped me figure out how my baby was developing and what I needed to do," she says. "I'm so grateful for my nurse. I couldn't have done it without her or my husband." Now, Burroughs dreams of becoming a crime-scene investigator, and plans to attend A-B Tech or South College-Asheville.

For this program to be effective, the relationship between nurse, mother and family begins well before the birth of the child, Clough explains. Through regular in-home visits, nurses work with mothers before the 28th week of pregnancy until the child turns 2 years old. The Nurse-Family Partnership is a national community health program, with participating agencies around the country.  Currently, the Buncombe County program serves 100 families, but will likely add 25 families after hiring a new nurse later this year.

"For me, personally, watching young women grow confidence and skills for parenting is truly special,” says Clough. “And a big part of our program is helping them reach their heart's desire. Helping mothers and fathers name that, and taking small steps toward achieving that, it's an honor to be part of someone's exploration of themselves and who they're becoming as a parent."

For Taylor, those moments she spent with Frankel cannot be forgotten.

"I feel like I'm providing stepping stones for Zyheim's future because someone provided those stepping stones for me as a mom," she said.

— Send your health-and-wellness news and tips to Caitlin Byrd at cbyrd@mountainx.com or mxhealth@mountainx.com, or call 251-1333, ext. 140.

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