First-time parents can experience both joy and challenges while waiting on baby. But for Sheena Hall-Perry and Damaris Perry, a chance meeting would help them navigate both pregnancy and parenthood thanks to the Houston Health Department’s Nurse-Family Partnership.
“He saw my insignia and wanted to know what it meant,” said Rosemarie Brown of how she met Perry.
Brown, an HHD a public health nurse for the NFP, explained her insignia and the program to Perry.
“I felt like a program that was put in place to help first-time parents would be a benefit to us,” said Perry, who referred his wife, Sheena Hall-Perry, to the program. At the time, Hall-Perry was six weeks pregnant with their first child, Emmanuel.
Launched 11 years ago in Houston, NFP partners first-time moms 28 weeks pregnant or less with a registered nurse who makes home visits until the child turns two years old. Currently, NFP serves low-income moms living in Houston’s Sunnyside and Acres Homes neighborhoods.
The program aims to provide knowledge, support and resources to improve health outcomes, reduce maternal and child mortality and reduce health costs. NFP is modeled after its nationwide program, which has partnerships programs in 42 states.
Two weeks after the Perrys registered for the program, Brown made her first visit to their home. Brown visited weekly and then every other week as Hall-Perry’s pregnancy progressed.
“I bring lots of literature and explain everything. I also do demonstrations — how to bathe a baby, how to dress a baby, and explain what to expect if there are challenges,” Brown said of how home visits differ depending on the stage of a client’s pregnancy.
“In the beginning I was nervous because I didn’t know if I could commit to two years, but now that the two years is over I want more,” said Hall-Perry, who graduated from the program in July 2018. “She became like another mother to help me know things I thought I knew, but really didn’t know.”
When baby Emmanuel was born, Brown visited weekly and then monthly once he turned 20 months. Both Sheena and Damaris credit Brown and the program for preparing them for baby Emmanuel’s arrival.
“The examples, the bathing exercises, even the information about what to expect when she goes into labor and how she would start to dilate. I understood all those things when I was in the delivery room because Nurse Rosemary had explained it all to me,” Damaris Perry said.
“I felt way more prepared,” Hall-Perry said of how the home visits were tailored to be a hands-on approach.
Brown, whose service in the program over the past seven years has helped more than 150 moms-to-be, values the relationship she builds with her clients.
“I love the bonding that I achieve with my clients and being there as a support agent to meet the needs they have,” Brown said.
“As a first-time mom, I didn’t know how tired I would be. I didn’t know to look for certain things when he cries. It could be gas, it could be the formula. It was a relief to have someone I could call and ask questions,” Hall-Perry said.
It wasn’t long before Brown’s teachings were put into practice. After learning about growth milestones, Hall-Perry became worried Emmanuel wasn’t crawling.
“I remember Nurse Rosemariehad given me a book,” Hall-Perry said. “Inside the book was what to expect at certain months.”
Hall-Perry was able to voice her concerns when she called on Brown.
“Nurse Rosemarie recommend tummy time and to put some toys in front of him,” she said. “Eventually he got it.”
“It is just amazing to me to see not only the growing and maturing, but to see how it impacts them and how it actually works,” Brown said of the knowledge shared with parents during home visits.
“I realize that it takes a special person to do what she does,” Perry said of Brown’s role in helping first-time parents prepare for baby.
“She was such a big support,” Hall-Perry said. “I felt so special the hour that she was here."
Hall-Perry encourages first-time moms to look into the program.
“Once you meet with them for the first time, you’ll realize how much you didn’t know and how important it is to have that extra help,” Hall-Perry said.
To learn more about the NFP program, log on to http://www.houstontx.gov/health/nfp/index.html.