Nurses help young women blossom into mothers
By Sarina Trangle
On Mother’s Day 2010, Kristie Mercado, 21, first brought her newborn baby Nathaniel Platellas home to the Bailey Avenue apartment she shares with her mother.
Ms. Mercado, who was two weeks away from graduating from IN-Tech Academy, MS/HS 368 when she gave birth, had been given a head start on motherhood.
She had been building up her maternal instincts for months with help from the Nurse-Family Partnership Program, an initiative that pairs low-income, first-time mothers with Visiting Nurse Service of New York nurses who help the moms become more self sufficient. After mothers give birth, nurses visit them at home during the first two years of their children’s lives.
Ms. Mercado and Nathaniel were among dozens of families who strutted across the Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center stage in a Sept. 13 ceremony for the 92 graduates of the Nurse-Family Partnership.
Nathaniel, 2, hopped around the auditorium, waving his broken arm in pseudo-pitch motions, showing off the signatures.
At first, pregnancy didn’t change Ms. Mercado’s life much. She attended classes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then worked until 9 p.m. up until two weeks before she gave birth.
Ms. Mercado wrapped up her school work early, with help from Stephanie Fisher, a special education teacher who pulled Ms. Mercado out of classes for students with special-needs and often stayed after school to help Ms. Mercado. The day of graduation — just weeks after becoming a single mother — Ms. Mercado passed her final Regents exam at 8 a.m.
But when she returned from maternity leave to her job at the Dollar Tree on Broadway, Ms. Mercado said she had a hard time grappling with a new manager and coworkers. So she quit. That left her with the $200 a month in child support Ms. Mercado collects from Nathaniel’s father. She said the two don’t communicate much, but his visiting rights entitle him to watch the toddler every other weekend.
Her assigned nurse Rebecca Santiago got her started on a new path, putting the first bug in her ear about a job-training program she would later pursue with the help of another nurse from the program.