For Kristina, 19, and her fiancé Monzell, 20, the best thing about being new parents is spending the first moments of each day together with their 8-month-old daughter. “When she wakes up in the morning, she rolls over and smiles and gives us kisses,” Kristina says. “I love her smile,” adds Monzell, “she’s a very joyful baby.”
Before their child was born, the reality of becoming parents brought Kristina and Monzell happiness and hope. But it also brought anxiety, especially for Kristina. “Feeling the baby’s kicks excited me,” she says, “but scared me at the same time.” Kristina’s concerns about employment, education and housing seemed constant and inescapable, and her stress began to take a physical toll. She learned from her doctor that her baby was underweight and that her blood pressure was dangerously high.
Because they enrolled in a doula program from the Ounce, however, Kristina and Monzell had support. Their doula, Loretha, helped them navigate every obstacle and uncertainty they faced during Kristina’s pregnancy. “She taught me how important it was not to have stress,” Kristina says. “She was always reminding me to think about my heath, and the health of my baby.”
Monzell describes Loretha as being like a third parent to their daughter. “She was there all the time, every time, whenever we needed her,” he says. “She would come over some days even when we didn’t ask her to, just to ask about the baby and bring Kristina healthy food and snacks.” Learning about his developing baby motivated Monzell to be the best possible partner, and helped him build the confidence he feels today as a father. “[Loretha] taught me so much about how to interact with mother and baby on both physical and emotional levels,” he says. “If I never interacted with [my daughter] while she was in the womb, I wouldn’t have the personal relationship I have with her now.”
Since the baby’s birth, Loretha has remained an important source of support for Kristina and Monzell. She helped them secure and furnish their first apartment together as a family, connected them to quality child care, and continues to encourage them both to pursue their own career and education goals. “We want [our daughter] to see us as her first love and her role models,” says Monzell.