February is Parent Leadership Month, and we are celebrating parents across South Carolina who work to improve the lives of their families, neighbors and communities every day.
Ashley Ray is a first-time mom who lives in Sumter. Her daughter is six months old.
Since her first trimester, Ray has participated in the home visiting program Nurse-Family Partnership implemented by McLeod Health, a funded partner of Children’s Trust. The program connects great nurses with moms expecting their first baby, beginning in pregnancy until the child turns two years old.
This week, Ray shared her parenting journey with us.
What’s the best part of being a parent?
It’s like having a little best friend. I’m able to stay home with her. It’s really nice getting to watch her grow and watch myself grow as a mother. I don’t really know what my favorite part is because I love all of it so much.
What’s the hardest part of being a parent?
The postpartum anxiety and depression is the hardest part. That’s one thing about Nurse-Family Partnership. The nurse who comes to see us is a mom. So she understands it from a personal standpoint, but she also has that training. She’s not a counselor but she did a really great job helping find somebody. Now the toughest thing is just finding somebody who takes insurance, but that’s just the system.
What’s one thing you would have told yourself as a new parent?
Take your breast pump to the hospital and be a better advocate for your child. When we were in the hospital, she would not latch. I knew she was starving, and she had issues with her blood sugar. Finally, a nurse came and said, “It doesn’t look like she’s latching. Are you OK with formula?” I’d been saying the whole time, “We need formula, We need formula. She’s not eating.”
If she had gotten her formula or if I had been able to pump – they didn’t bring me a pump because they didn’t see that it was medically necessary – she would have been fed. So yeah, one thing I would have told myself as a new parent: Bring your breast pump to the hospital and be a better advocate for your child.
How has Nurse-Family Partnership supported you as a parent?
When I was pregnant, it was nice to have someone who could tell me what’s up; like this is what this trimester is going to be like or this is how you’re going to be feeling. It was also nice to have someone just help prepare me for motherhood. There’s a lot of things you don’t get prepared for; you kind of just get thrown into to it. And now [in postpartum] it is nice to just have someone there for you.
They have been there for a lot. They’ve been very, very helpful—whether it’s with resources, or coming in and doing crafts, or just being there when I’m having a postpartum episode. After a while, a lot of people forget about you as the mom because the newness of the baby wears off. It’s nice to have somebody still there saying, “How are you? Do you need anything?”
Do you have any plans for the next part of your journey?
I want to go back to school, and honestly, being with Nurse-Family Partnership has kind of opened a new door for me. I was in nursing school before I had to drop out. So I’ve thought about going into a field like Nurse-Family Partnership because I’ve always wanted to work with kids.
Children’s Trust administers the federal investment in home visiting for South Carolina – the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Nurse-Family Partnership is one of three evidence-based home visiting models that Children’s Trust supports. Learn more about home visiting.