When Jordan Aberle learned she was pregnant, she had a lot of questions.
“There has been a lot of different things,” she said. “‘Hey, my baby is doing this. Is that normal?’”
That’s why Aberle, a rural McLeod County resident, had an extra house visitor — Cheryl Gehrke — every week, or every two weeks, since Aberle was about 15 weeks pregnant. Her son, Silas, is now more than 3 months old.
Gehrke is a nurse with Supporting Hands, a local program of the national nonprofit Nurse Family Partnership. By partnering with central and southwestern Minnesota counties, such as Meeker and McLeod counties, the service offers first-time expecting mothers advice and guidance for the emotional, social and physical challenges ahead.
Carol Kiefer, an outreach worker with Supporting Hands, said expecting mothers need to contact Supporting Hands before they are 28 weeks pregnant.
“The nurse visits the mom and most of the times it is at their home. If the mom chooses, it can be at a public place. It is very informal,” she said.
Supporting Hands nurses are there to provide information about pregnancy, delivery, nutrition and other subjects. Visits continue until the child is age 2.
“The mom can ask any questions,” Kiefer said. “They are there to help. If anything is going on at home, they can vent. It’s very confidential.”
Aberle, 23, said it has been helpful to have an expert on hand.
“Rather than calling Mom or Grandma, or your friends, and having some biased advice, you have someone there specifically who can help with that,” Aberle said. “The big thing we are doing right now, is (Silas) really hates tummy time. He hates it a lot and it’s important. Every week we have been brainstorming different ideas, different things we can do to get him to hate it just a little bit less.”
Spending time on the belly is helpful to newborns as a means to strengthen the neck and upper body, and help with the flat spot on the back of their head.
Gehrke said she has seen a lot of changes from Aberle since they started meeting.
“One thing that comes to mind that we talk about a lot, was getting ready for delivery,” Gehrke said during a visit Tuesday. She and Aberle chatted in the living room of the country home Aberle and her boyfriend, Colin Hackett, expected to buy the next day.
“(Delivery) was a scary event for you,” Gehrke said. “We spent a lot of time preparing for what to expect. One thing that is remarkable, Jordan was like, ‘This is something I’m going to get through. This is something I have to do. I’m never going to have another baby.’ And she had the most amazing experience ever. I came out after the baby was born, and she said, ‘This is awesome, it isn’t what I thought, and I’m going to have more babies.’”
“You have a baby and all of a sudden you forget everything from before,” Aberle said.
Since childbirth, she has been grateful to have advice on breastfeeding.
“I had no desire to do that whatsoever,” she said. “I said I was going to do it a couple of weeks, because, honestly, I felt a little bit pressured into it by society in general. She was so awesome. She told me about the laws, and ‘Whatever works for you is what you should do.’ It was so nice to have one person here who didn’t pressure me or wasn’t biased, but just gave me a lot of facts and information, so I would at least be knowledgeable. And I ended up loving it. I was going to do it for two weeks, but it’s been a couple of months and I have no intention of stopping for awhile.”
Kiefer said that, one way or another, the service is free. In many cases, insurance can cover the expense.
“If insurance doesn’t cover it, we still cover it,” she said.
Supporting hands is funded in part by its partner counties, but also by the state, insurance and grants.
“My position is a grant,” Kiefer said.
She started work with Supporting Hands in January. Her office is in a county building in Glencoe. Gehrke’s office is in Litchfield. Both said their vehicles often serve as their offices, though.
The service is working on expanding its horizons, with efforts to make a presence in schools and clinics. Right now, most of their clients come through the Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Service, commonly known as WIC. That’s where Aberle learned about Supporting Hands.
“I think I said ‘yes’ at first because the (WIC) lady intimidated me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them,” Aberle said. “So I thought I’d give it a try and see if it could work for me. I was a little hesitant at first to have someone from the county come to my house and tell me how I’m doing being a parent, but I’ve liked it a lot … it was really awesome for me to have someone with no pressure.”
Before joining Supporting Hands as a nurse, Kiefer was part of it as a mother. She has seen from both sides advice offered on subjects such as child protection, health, hazard assessment and baby proofing.
“They want the mom to know about every resource the community has to offer,” she said. “There are programs that provide free car seats, there are classes, free meals ... diapers. The nurse is basically a resource.”
Kiefer said Supporting Hands nurses are not judgmental about living circumstances, but will help mothers create goals, and make a plan to reach them.
“Bottom line is supporting in any way possible,” she said.
To contact Supporting Hands Nurse Family Partnership, call or text 320-287-2585, or visit www.shnfp.org.
For Aberle, and Silas, things are going pretty well.
“He is doing really well,” Aberle said of her son. “For the most part he is hitting all his milestones. I wish he liked being on his tummy a little more. He’s usually smiling. He’s a good baby.”
“Just how far she has come as a mom is amazing,” Gehrke said. “Even though she has some real doubts about herself, she is a good mom.”