I watched her change him and feed him, weigh him, and dress him. She was not scared. He was hers. She’d been with him during her pregnancy. All 6 weeks and 15 days. She pushed him into the world and stayed with him during the 45 days he spent in intensive care. No amount of bony ribs, unworldly wailing, or baby vomit, could shock her now. She knew him and she knew what he was capable of. We may have been shocked. She was not.
At the same nursing station, there was a mom taking her exit test. Her baby had reached her goal weight and they wouldn't be coming back to the center on Monday. The exit test is mostly questions straight out of the health education classes. But there are two un-scored questions that are just for us. "What hopes and dreams do you have for your child?"
Who doesn’t love to hear that?
And "how did the center help you?"
These questions are just as important as testing whether the caregivers have captured the important health messages. After all, these women have spent anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months with us, it's important to hear their side of the experience.
When asked How did the center help you?, this particular mother acknowledged everyone from the cooks to the security guards and thanked the nursing staff by name. "I have nothing negative to say. You valued my baby. You respected me."
Hidden by a computer screen I was able to pretend that I wasn't paying attention. In reality I was eating this up. It's a reflection of Second Mile's upstanding staff members to hear a mom say that she felt respected. Even though I know they’re awesome, it was nice for the staff to get such a rave review.
Respect. That's the goal.
By 3:30 pm Moms had started to convene in the education building. I'd already sat through half of a health education class, and by the looks of it, I would also catch the start of the daily literacy session.
Both classes had me in awe. I enjoyed hearing mothers dialogue during the health class. They asked questions. They wanted... no, they needed... to know this critical information.
But literacy class... it knocked me off my feet a little bit.
The average years of schooling achieved by caregivers admitted into our program is 3.
And more than half of the women cannot read or write. Literacy class is an opportunity for mothers of all ages to learn and practice these skills in a safe and respectful environment.
There was just something about the way the mothers made literacy class their own. They were in it together: 20 moms ranging in age from 16 to 67, from 0 years of formal education to 11. They sat at the tables with pens and notebooks and a few took to the chalkboard. The class had split somewhat organically. A mom with a baby in her arms led half the mothers in recognition and repetition of numbers and letters.