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Thursday, January 18, 2024

‘I’ve Learned to Believe in Myself:’ Young Mother Finds Confidence through Healthy Families

Shanish, a young mother in Catholic Charities’ Healthy Families North Shore program, was raised in Uganda by her grandmother. In 2018, Shanish made the difficult decision to leave her family and friends behind to start a new life in the United States.

Two years later, shortly after becoming engaged, Shanish unexpectedly found out she was going to become a mother at age 20. Only three weeks into her pregnancy, she began to experience severe nausea and was unable to continue working.

As someone who had always imagined having her grandmother by her side when it came time to raise her own family, the changes in Shanish’s life proved challenging.

Thousands of miles away from her grandmother and yearning for support, Shanish decided to join Healthy Families, a program that supports young, first-time parents through their pregnancies and early years of motherhood.

Now, nearly three years later, Shanish says she can’t imagine what her life would look like without Healthy Families.

“I would encourage every parent to get such a support system,” she said. “Family is great, but everyone needs an external support system to lean on too.”

Shanish’s Healthy Families Home Visitor Victoria helped her feel more at home in the U.S., educating her on the norms in American culture. “Things are done very differently in Uganda, so I had to learn how things are done here in the U.S. Most of the Healthy Families staff are parents themselves, which really helps, and my home visitor is an immigrant as well, which was amazing because she could really understand and empathize with me,” said Shanish.

Through the advocacy of her home visitor, Shanish received a breast pump –a medical device she said she had never heard of in Uganda – that was fully covered by her health insurance. Leading up to her son’s birth, Shanish said that Victoria educated her on post-partum depression and necessary vaccinations for her son. She also helped enroll Shanish in a cooking class and provided her with cookbooks that helped her to get creative about making food that aligned with their family’s cultural preferences.

More recently, Shanish has gotten involved in a committee comprised of both Healthy Families home visitors and Healthy Families clients, which seeks to raise awareness on ways to address racism and prejudice in everyday life. She said the committee has not only been a way to form connections with people in her community but has also helped her to feel supported as an immigrant living in the U.S.

“Through all of this, I’ve learned to believe in myself,” said Shanish. “You always are going to have those times where you doubt yourself. Am I doing enough? What else can I be doing? You look at your child and realize they don’t get to choose their parents. You want to make sure the decisions you make are best for them.”

To learn more about how you can support Catholic Charities Boston’s Healthy Families programs, and other services supporting those in need, click here.

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