Joy//Former Jumpstart participant, current Jumpstart home visitor
Have you ever wondered if the Jumpstart program is REALLY for you? Have you thought maybe “other” people might benefit, but surely you could do it without this “extra” support? Perhaps you’ve even been afraid of what may happen if you did enroll in the program! I felt all of the above emotions, concerns, and even a bit of pride when I was considering enrolling in Jumpstart.
So why did I do it? Why enroll in a program that I wasn’t even sure would actually help me? The impetus behind my decision to participate in the Jumpstart program is deeply personal, but it is worth sharing here, in the hopes that I may ease your fears if you are considering being a part of Jumpstart.
As a matter of fact, I would say that being in Jumpstart is the reason I am currently employed by this same organization today!
That’s right! I went from client to employee at Jumpstart, largely because of my experience in the program. In order to understand where I am now, it’s important to understand where I began.
At the beginning of my Jumpstart journey, I was in what I like to call “the slums” of depression and anxiety. When I was about four weeks postpartum, I found myself numbly sitting in my midwife’s exam room for a last-minute appointment to be screened for postpartum depression.
I was diagnosed with PPD (postpartum depression) and PPA (postpartum anxiety) and placed on a mild SSRI to help. I’d had a traumatic pregnancy and shortly after delivery had been told my newborn son would need surgery before his first birthday. I also have three older children, and it was the dead of winter–the icing on the cake of my chemically imbalanced depressive moods.
I shared my situation with a few friends I trusted, and they began telling me about a program they knew about that would surely help support me! I was initially hesitant and extremely skeptical.
But adjusting to my SSRI was proving to be far more difficult than I’d initially thought. Vertigo and a strange, floating head sensation were making the simplest of tasks difficult. One of these friends visited me during this time, as I was beached on my couch, asking my children to bring me various necessities like a diaper and wipes for the baby, a burp rag, tissues, etc. She sat with me, listened, and helped me with the baby, and when she left she reminded me one more time about this Jumpstart program.
I thought about it for a little while after that, and then I decided it certainly couldn’t hurt! So, with still a little timidity, I enrolled in the program. I began receiving visits at a minimum of twice per month, and I was so nervous in the beginning.
My home visitor would ask how parenting was for me that week, or how I was continuing to adjust to my medication, and initially, my mind would be sent reeling with possibilities of what she would think of me if I were honest. She was patient with me, though–she never pushed the issue. She spent a lot of time listening, and met me in my emotions at our visits. If I was energetic and ready to go, we could do a screening and I could spend a lot of time interacting with my infant son. If I was tired and stressed, I could sit with a cup of coffee and quietly read one of the books she had brought to the baby.
I began to share more openly with my home visitor, and after a couple months, I realized she had become an essential support system for me. I was amazed at how much of a change I had experienced with the help of a mild SSRI and consistent, healthy support in the form of home visits.
Screenings helped me to feel assured that my child was healthy and on track developmentally, especially if he hadn’t had a recent well-check at the doctor. Children’s books she brought us encouraged me to spend quiet, focused time engaging with my son, and nurtured in him a love for reading. Activities were integrated into our visits, bringing authentic interaction with my baby into my day, when previously it may not have happened, or it may have been stunted due to the demands of mothering multiple children.
If all that weren’t enough, my home visitor brought me resources surrounding parenting more than one child, maintaining healthy relationships with my loved ones, establishing self-care routines, education and employment, nutrition, teething, potty-training, group activities where my children could interact with their peers and I could meet other moms, and a plethora of other things.
Finally the time came for my son’s surgery–the long-dreaded source of anxiety was now at my doorstep, and I was terrified.
Have you ever heard a person describe someone else as a rock of support? Well, when my son had surgery, my home visitor was a BOULDER. We had agreed that she could text me to check in on how things were going, and she was sure to do so. I found I could be honest and receive the very partnering and support I needed.
After several months passed, my life began to ease into a normal, well-regulated, adjusted situation. I had previously attempted working again, but had found it too strenuous for my schedule and mental health. After about 7 more months, though, I decided I was ready to try working again.
I spoke with my home visitor about my new goal, and she encouraged me and offered resources to help me think through what life would look like if I began working again. She compared crystal balls and rubber balls, the idea being that if I were juggling balls, I would need to consider which ones would bounce and remain intact if dropped, and which ones would shatter on impact.
Jumpstart had so immensely helped me, and I always knew I wanted to work in a field that helped others. I had been emotionally and mentally healthy for quite some time, yet discovering a job that would fit in my schedule and still be an essential service to others was challenging.
I mentioned to my home visitor eventually that I was really struggling to find work that would be fulfilling for me, but also conducive to my family life. She asked what kind of work I saw myself doing. I told her I wanted to work with parents and children together, that I wanted to be in a preventive and supportive role, and that I wanted to work with like-minded people. She said, “It sounds like you want to be a home visitor,” a lightbulb flickered on in my mind. I knew that I wanted to help others the way my home visitor had helped me–with preventive care, supporting me, partnering with me, and providing much needed resources.
I decided to look into the job, and asked her for more information. Jumpstart was hiring, and I could apply right away. I took a leap and, again with my home visitor’s support and resources, brushed up my resume and sent it in to the office. I was shocked to receive a call back almost immediately. I interviewed, spent time discussing it with my husband, and when offered the position, I took it without hesitation.
I’m now employed in one of the most fulfilling, supportive environments for which I’ve ever had the privilege to work, but I know that this would not have been possible without the experience I’d had in the Jumpstart program.
My home visitor’s consistent care, genuine support, and reliable provision of information helped to pull me out of the deep ditch of PPD and PPA, where I had lived discontentedly, and brought me to a place where I could have healthy and essential interaction with my family.
As a matter of fact, I was recently able to wean off of my medication completely. My experience with Jumpstart was deeply helpful, not only to me, but to my family as well. Without this program, I truly don’t believe I would be working to support others in a preventive role as I am today.
In closing, I would like to encourage anyone considering joining the Jumpstart program to give it a try. It’s completely voluntary, free, convenient, and among the most helpful experiences I’ve ever had. We work with all kinds of families, and are eager to work with families just like yours.
Joy and Lindsey (Joy’s former home visitor-turned-coworker!)