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Healthy Beginnings, And Promising Futures, For New Moms In Windham Region

October 29, 2021

Just weeks before giving birth to her first child, 20-year-old Heidi Garcia Gonzalez had intermittent running water, was unsure if she would have enough food and overall lacked confidence in her ability to succeed as a new mom. That all changed when she was referred to Hartford HealthCare’s new Healthy Beginnings program, which was recently launched as part of  Windham Hospital’s Women’s Health Center. The program brings information and support directly to new moms, and includes home visits and connecting new moms to resources that they might not even know about. “I was scared, and had a lot of mixed feelings,” Heidi said as she held her sleeping baby boy Derian in the dining room of her sister’s home in Willimantic. “Now I am happy. Everything about this program is good — it helped me learn about things I didn’t even know about.” https://vimeo.com/640481920[/embed] Those things include home visits by Community Health Nurse Michele Brezniak, prenatal and postpartum care provided by bilingual Nurse Midwife Erin Bane and a host of education, including:

  • Healthy eating before and after birth
  • The importance of sleep
  • Postpartum depression
  • Breast feeding
  • Poison prevention
  • Water safety
  • Finances
  • Health insurance
  • Housing
  • Heating assistance
  • Food assistance.
“I feel very happy and very blessed because of this program,” Heidi said during a recent visit with Brezniak and interpreter Amelia Ferrer-Triay of the Health Education Center based in Norwich. “Everyone has been so helpful. They have made me feel so comfortable.” Heidi, who works for a sports net manufacturer in Colchester, is the first mom to take part in the Healthy Beginnings program, which is the brainchild of Joseph Zuzel, community outreach manager for Hartford HealthCare’s East Region, which includes Backus and Windham hospitals. It is open to any mom who receives care at the Windham Women’s Health Center, no matter where they give birth. Heidi gave birth at Backus Hospital, which is part a comprehensive, coordinated approach to maternity and women’s health. Windham Hospital has filed a certificate of need with the state to close its birthing center due to declining numbers of births and the inability to recruit and retain staff. “I loved Backus Hospital,” Heidi said. “All the nurses were very, very nice.” One week after giving birth to Derian, she received the first visit from Brezniak. “As most parents know, the timeframe after birth can be the most sleepless, beautiful, crazy time of your life,” Brezniak said. “What isn’t spoken about is how hard and isolated it can be. New moms face many pressures from today’s society beginning the moment they find out they are expecting. It can be hard to navigate the time period after birth even if a mom has gone through it before. We have noticed that women in our area feel they are unsuccessful at connecting to services they need or many times are unaware of what services are offered in their community. That’s where we come in. We want to help ease the burden on new moms, and set them up for success.” Brezniak and Heidi have formed an impressive bond, with Heidi texting Brezniak when issues arise. For her part, Brezniak gets to hold baby Derian when they meet in person. “I was kind of lost because this was my first baby,” Heidi told Brezniak. “Now I know if I need anything in the future, I can call you and you will be there for me.” What would have happened if Heidi did not have the Healthy Beginnings program? “It would have been much different,” she said. “Maybe I would have felt more frustrated.” Women are first notified of the program through the Windham Hospital Women's Health Center, which is staffed by OB/GYN Eugene Rozenshteyn, MD, and nurse midwife Erin Bane, who is bilingual. After delivery, new moms are contacted to set up a visitation time. A community health worker along with community health nurse visits mom and baby in their home or location of their choice. During the visit, the community health worker and nurse partner with the new mom to identify needs she may have and help her to obtain services. Then a follow up visit is scheduled for six weeks later to check in on progress and identify any barriers. “The goal of Healthy Beginnings is to help establish healthy behaviors and community connections while fostering a feeling of connectedness during the postpartum period that is historically lonely for a new mom,” Zuzel said. So far, seven expectant moms are enrolled in the program, with a goal of caring for all expectant moms who are cared for at the Women’s Health Center. While the number of home visits is limited to one, the program can last a lifetime. Heidi will continue to see the nurse midwife for her gynecological care. They have found a pediatrician for Baby Derian, who is now a month old, and primary care for Heidi. “We want to be able to empower women, and make sure they have everything they need to be successful,” Brezniak said. “I love being able to offer that motherly nursing advice that we all sometimes need as new moms. Knowledge is power — the more you have, the better off you will be at taking care of yourself and your child.”