Someone To Talk To by Julianne Toms
This month officially marks one year of being in a global pandemic. Around this time last year, I was a senior in college. I left for spring break and never ended up going back to school. I had no clue what I was going to do once I graduated and did not know what the world was going to look like a year later. I knew I wanted to go into healthcare but did not know exactly what field I wanted to go into. I thought, what better way to figure out what field I wanted to go into than a public health-focused service year during a global pandemic? Little did I know how important service was during this year of isolation.
Five months after the pandemic began, I found myself with the National Health Corps Florida in a year of service at Children’s Home Society in the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. As a Care Coordinator for Healthy Start, my role was to offer pregnant women and new families guidance and support throughout their pregnancies and the first year of the baby's life. The program focuses on positive infant and maternal health outcomes by educating families who would be at risk for poor health outcomes on topics such as nutrition, signs of preterm labor, stress management, basic newborn care instructions, and much more. There are many different branches of the Healthy Start Coalition but Children’s Home Society focuses specifically on mental health. Mental health has always been a big component of my life and I knew that this year, more than any, people would be struggling and I wanted to help in any way that I could. Every day I meet with clients and give them support and guidance as they learn to care for themselves and for their developing baby.
When I first started at Healthy Start, I was so nervous that I was not actually going to be able to help anyone. I did not think I was qualified enough
to be giving parenting advice. I kept thinking that my clients were going to laugh at me when I tried to help them be good parents. What business did I have, a recent college graduate at 22 who has never had a baby, teaching older women how to parent? What was even worse was that when I first got my clients, most of them had already had a few children and were seasoned pros. I stumbled through my days and did not feel like I was actually teaching anyone. After a few weeks of meeting with the same clients regularly, I came to realize that a good portion of them were already great parents but they kept showing up to our appointments anyways. I started to realize that the reason they kept coming back week after week was because they just wanted someone to talk to. Sure, I had some first-time moms who had no clue what to do, but almost every single mom felt isolated and enjoyed having someone to talk to. I started developing great relationships with my clients and let go of the feeling that I was not qualified. I started to finally believe that I was actually making a difference in these women's lives. I became more confident during my meetings and was making great progress with a lot of my clients. After a few months of meeting with one client, she told me that she was so thankful that I was willing to talk to her all the time and actually listen. She told me that she felt like the system had failed her in the past and was never actually able to get help from other programs. She told me that she felt heard and understood from me. It was in that moment that I came to understand how important my service was at Children’s Home Society, Healthy Start.
At the beginning, I was constantly worried that I would not be able to actually serve these women. However, after becoming more comfortable with my clients, my definition of how I served them changed. Instead of trying to push information on clients I thought they needed, I sat and listened and was able to give them what they told me they needed. My year has not been what I thought it was going to be. I thought I knew how I was going to be serving my clients. However, that’s the thing about service, your definition is always going to change as you grow and learn.