October 3, 2018 by Teresa Freitag

A young woman who was working full time got pregnant. This wasn’t part of the plan. She was very concerned about the financial impact. Could she afford car seats, a stroller, diapers, baby gear and medical insurance for a child?

She turned to First Steps, a community collaborative that connects new and expecting parents to free or low-cost services and resources for parents. First Steps assists parents of children up to age 5. The program is funded by Greater Mankato Area United Way, Mankato Clinic Foundation and Blue Earth County.

When she came to me, she did not know there were resources available for her. I helped her apply and receive medical assistance as a secondary insurance. Her baby would be insured and covered for the first year of life. She could breathe a little easier.

With my clients, we focus on getting ready to be a parent. We address parenting, child care, housing, daycare, domestic violence, chemical dependency, mental health, access to food. Everything I do is individualized depending on each person and situation. We look at where their life is now and where they want to be when their baby comes.

When you’re pregnant, everybody tells you all the gear you need for your baby. So I hand out a newborn supply checklist with the basics such as a two-week supply of diapers and a rear-facing infant car seat. When you break it down to the basics, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

This parenting stuff is hard so we talk about resources after the baby comes. Who can they call for help or advice? I connect them with public health nurses who visit their homes after they deliver to check in on feeding, sleeping and bonding. Several local agencies have parent educators to meet with parents to answer questions, look at developmental milestones and offer tips.

My office is in the Mankato Clinic Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, but I can help anybody who receives their health care in this area. My services are free and you don’t need a referral to see me. Although, healthcare providers, community organizations and county services often send expecting parents my way. Interpreters also refer pregnant women to me.

I look at my role as a bridge to medical, county and community resources. I help people who would get lost trying to navigate all those systems. They tell me they never would have known about all the resources and services available.

I am here to listen and find solutions so women can stop, relax and enjoy their baby. When that happens, then I know I’ve made an impact. I often step out of my office when I hear one of my moms is in the waiting room with her baby for her first postpartum appointment. Meeting those healthy babies is the best part of my job!

I encourage new and expecting parents to call First Steps at 507-385-3847.