My name is Kate Rooney and I am a recent graduate of Jewish Family & Children's Service Healthy Families program. My daughter Ariya and I participated in Healthy Families for over three years, and we owe so much of where we are today to the support and guidance given through this program. I would like to share my story with you, in the form of snapshot moments over the past four years.
May 6, 2013
The pregnancy test is positive. My head is spinning. I feel like a walking stereotype; I never imaged I'd be the one 16 and pregnant.
How can I take care of a child when I can barely take care of myself?
I've dug myself into a hole these past few years,with my depression as my shovel. I'm in state custody, and in and out of treatment facilities every month. I'm supposed to be a junior in high school, but I have barely any high school credits to my name.
What will my mother say? What will my probation officer say? All I know is that right now I'm on a road to nowhere, but soon I'll have a tiny life that will be walking beside me. I need to change my path, but how?
It took four months, but I'm slowly but surely turning myself around. I attended summer school and got my driver's license.
My sobriety has given me a newfound clarity, and the shadow of depression is falling further behind me every day.
I've been released from state custody and juvenile probation, and have enrolled in night courses at MassBay Community College with the hopes of graduating high school in the spring. I feel healthier than I have in years, but I still feel like I am only at ground zero.
My family is in disbelief. While my mother respects that it's my decision, and will never stop loving me,I can sense her doubt at the thought of me being a mother.
I definitely have a long way to go to be ready to take on motherhood.
My pregnancy has gone smoothly but I am so nervous about my imminent due date.
Thankfully, I found support from Jewish Family & Children's Service Healthy Families.
This program serves to guide young moms through the challenges of new motherhood and ensures that both parent and child are thriving. Through this program, I found Rachel Wallace, a family support advocate. Rachel radiates compassion and wisdom,and helps me set goals for my parenting, as well as my academic and personal aspirations.
It's a relief to know I'll have her guidance when my daughter arrives in a few short weeks; but at the same time I am overwhelmed just thinking about all of the logistics and details that need to be figured out before my baby comes.
One of the first things Rachel helped me to do was to obtain clothing and baby items from the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support. This helped me to feel a sense of independence and optimism.
On January 10, 2014, my daughter, Ariya, was born healthy and beautiful at 6 lbs, 13 ounces.
Against all odds, I received my high school diploma with my class.
It was difficult because of my challenges with finding child care: I was denied childcare vouchers when it was time for me to return to school.
Rachel immediately guided me to a different organization that could provide vouchers. Although there was a three-year waiting list, Rachel found away to get them to me on time, and helped me find the perfect daycare for my daughter.
It was such a relief to have a place for Ariya, but I have to admit it was challenging to find myself at a child care center with women in an entirely different place in life than I was. But that feeling was fleeting as I knew I had the community of other young mothers who were also in the JF&CS Healthy Families program.
With the help from JF&CS I graduated from high school, accepted a job, and confirmed my attendance to Wentworth Institute of Technology beginning in the fall. JF&CS seems to have an endless network ofservices, and has put me in touch with college programs, legal consultants, early intervention, and nutritional advisors… Rachel is always on top of making sure that Ariya and I are healthy. And Ariya sure is healthy; she's five months old today, and a truly beautiful little ray of sunshine.
I've been seeing Rachel for close to three years and during that time the Center for Early Relationship Support has been my lifeline. Rachel has provided infinite wisdom on every phase of Ariya's growth, routinely checking that she is meeting her developmental milestones.
Rachel helped me through a rocky path in my breastfeeding relationship with Ariya and we are now approaching a year and a half of nursing.
Last week, Healthy Families organized an outing to Drumlin Farm. It was so nice to let Ariya explore the farm with kids her age while I got to spend time with moms my age. Outings like these, and the six-week group series that Healthy Families hosts several times a year, remind me that I am not alone.
I can't believe that in just a year I will receive my bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering.
This summer is going to be a busy one,with twenty credits of courses, two research projects, and working part-time as are search assistant, but I'll balance the stress with plenty of time in the sunshine with Ariya.
I can't believe what a beautiful three-year old she has grown into. I feel grateful for the balance I have achieved between being a mother, a student, and an employee.
It feels so good to be acknowledged for what I have accomplished: last week, I was inducted into the national honors society for engineering technology, Tau Alpha Pi, and I've consistently been acknowledged on the Dean's List during my time at Wentworth.
Healthy Families has been such an important part of my support system, getting me to where I am today – a healthy and happy place.
Motherhood is mentally, physically, and spiritually transforming. I am making sure to take what I have learned from this experience to create a loving and secure environment for my daughter. I am eternally grateful for all that JF&CS – and particularly Rachel Wallace – has done for me and my family.
Actually, I have recently completed an ambassador program so I can be a role model for other new moms!