Becoming a parent is at once joyous and terrifying. When I had my son, I felt I had done something both miraculous and incredibly stupid.
In my family, I had all the support I could have hoped for and still I wasn’t cut out for the first night at home with my son. As he cried endlessly and my husband and I each tried and failed to calm him, I wondered, “How can anyone do this by themselves?”
And no one should have to.
The amount of support needed to care for a newborn, infant, or toddler is great. But not all new parents are as lucky as I. Not everyone has a partner or a mother who is willing to take a frantic phone call about baby poop at midnight. That’s why home-visits are a key component of early childhood care in New Mexico, because no one is an expert on children, especially not the first time around.
With home-visiting, parents can ask questions which don’t seem to come up in the hospital. Parents can find out if that little rash is normal or if their child needs to see a physician. Most of all, parents have another person to listen and tell them they’re doing okay. And if they’re not, home visits can help them become better.
Isn’t that the point? To be better? To nourish and teach our children so they have a real chance for a healthy life?
We’ve all heard politicians extolling the importance of our children’s health and well-being, but services like home-visits and budgets for early childhood development are continually underfunded.
Typically, the United States has had infant mortality rates higher than our counterparts like Sweden and the United Kingdom. To be fair, many infant deaths are due to circumstances outside of our control, such as congenital anomalies. But a great many infants are still dying from events like suffocation. These may be easily prevented with a few minutes of instruction for new parents. A 30 minute consultation on how baby is sleeping, can make all the difference.
Home visiting services can be there for that baby through the first few years of development. These are the critical years, the ones where she makes connections to her world. The ones that will guide her through her education and relationships.
From the parenting end, this can be such a hopeful thought, but it’s also daunting to know you directly influence an entire life.
A good support system—whether in family members or home visits—can ease the pressure and allow new parents to focus on the small victories: switching to solid food, walking or even sleeping through the night for the first time (a miracle of a day which I hope all new parents experience sooner than later).
These small moments become memory, become experience, become a healthy childhood.
Home visiting helps create these patterns for New Mexico families.