Nurses, family working together for betterment of the child
Kaleb Smith has big blue eyes, long eyelashes, curly hair and an adorable personality. Falling in love with this almost 19-month old baby is easy.
Sitting on the lap of his mother, Kristie McCall, Tuesday afternoon at their Rutherford Manor apartment, Kaleb is the delight of his mother’s life, his dad’s life as well as a community of supporters.
His mother was 17 years old when she became pregnant with him. Despite trying to finish school at East Rutherford High School,it became a struggle because of three months of continuous morning sickness.
After Kaleb was born, Kristie later returned to high school and in May graduated from the Rutherford Opportunity Center in Forest City.
She is planning to get a job soon to help take care of herself and Kaleb and wants enroll at Isothermal Community College.
One day Kristie wants to be an environmentalist.
When Kristie became pregnant with Kaleb she enrolled in the Nurse Family Partnership in Rutherford County. The program is an evidence-based, community health program that transforms the lives of vulnerable mothers pregnant with their first child.
The program, administered through the Rutherford County Health Department, begins for the pregnant mom and follows mother and baby to the child’s second birthday.
Kaleb turns 2 years old on Feb. 4, 2014.
Kristie says the education and support she has received from her coach, R.N. Rhonda Wright, will help her as Kaleb continues to grow.
“I love the program,” Kristie said. “It just helps me figure out what Kaleb is going to do. He is usually a step ahead of what others are doing so I will call Rhonda and tell her what’s going on.”
“I can call Rhonda anytime,” she said. “They do not see this just as a job. They are trying to be your friend and they make your life better and easier,” Kristie said.
Wright said the nurses with the partnership are there for the expectant mother and the father if he’s in the picture.
Kaleb’s father, Kenneth Smith, is in his life and he sees him every weekend.
“We try to teach them what to expect during the pregnancy and we educate the mother on the topics she needs to know once the baby gets here,” Wright said.
She said the nurses teach the mother and father about development and they always offer encouragement.
The mother knows there will always be a support person for them they can contact any time.
“It builds them up to know that someone is going to be here every other week,” Wright said of the nurse visitations.
Right now there are 25 patients in the the partnership and there are four nurses in the three county health department who work in the program.
Wright encourages her patients to set goals and to work hard towards them.
Although it was difficult for Kristie to complete high school, she persevered and finished despite a lot of struggles.
“It was kind of hard, but it wasn’t as hard as it could have been,” Kristie said.
She said her mother, Ann Barnett; grandmother, Margie Younger; Kenneth’s mom, Sheila Smith and relatives, Steve Austin and Cynthia Smith, have been there for her and helped her along the way. They have cared for Kaleb when she was in school so she could study.
Kristie says Kaleb is always happy. “It doesn’t matter if he is sick, you can make him happy just by making a funny face,” she said.
He started walking when he was 10 1/2 months old, loves to play and his favorite food is chicken nuggets. He is no trouble, but bedtime is not his favorite time of day.
Kristie was 17 when she gave birth and would advise other teenagers to wait before having a family.
“I would tell them to wait. If you really care about the person you are with and if you are very close,wait for a couple years, get married and then have kids,” Kristie said.
“There is a lot of stress on relationships. So much stress on both of you. When you have a baby, you don’t have all that time that you did before, just the two of you.”
Kristie said Steven has been in Kaleb’s life since the beginning and he gets him every Friday and keeps him on the weekends.
As Kristie was sharing her goals with Wright, Wright told the now 20-year-old Kristie, that she can do whatever she wants to do and to set her goals high.