Port Arthur nurse-mother program featured in New Yorker series

Published 11:13 am Monday, March 14, 2016

Catalina Munoz’ day is longer than most teens her age. When others are socializing after school, or perhaps resting, the 16-year-old Beaumont resident’s day goes into full tilt.

Straight after school she is tending her baby — a precocious 1-year-old named Kyleigh Tyler who needs her mother everyday, day in and day out.

The teen mom was just 15 when she found out she was pregnant and going to have a child. Now, her 1-year-old daughter is her joy, the light of her life, but it’s not easy raising a child at such a young age.

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“I never thought I would be a mom at this age. Sometimes, it is difficult,” she said.

Munoz does have help.

When she was about four months into her pregnancy, she enrolled in a program administered through the Port Arthur Health Department that has recently gained national attention.

The Nurse-Family Partnership program at the Port Arthur Health Department is the subject of a new documentary on Amazon Prime. The documentary, “Lone Star Nurse” features Port Arthur Health Nurse Nicole Schroeder and her clients. It is part of the New Yorker Presents season.

If not for Schroeder, Munoz may not have gone back to school, let alone be taking steps to get a job and planning to go to college.

“If not for her I would be on the Internet searching for what to do. When I was pregnant I did not know anything about being pregnant, and she helped me the whole way. I think of her as a friend, Munoz said.

The unique program works by pairing nurses with first-time low-income mothers. The nurse works with the mother-to-be through her pregnancy all the way up to the child’s second birthday through home visits.

The Port Arthur Health Department Nurse-Family Partnership program currently has 105 clients who have 95 babies. The four nurses working in the program typically see about 25 clients at a time. Karla Quigley, the program’s supervisor, sees about five clients.

Since the program was started, it has proved to fill a need. As of the end of February, there were 48 women on the waiting list.

The service is funded by the state Human Services Department with a 10 percent contribution from the city of Port Arthur.

“These nurses put a lot of miles on their cars doing home visits. In February alone, the nurses made 168 visits,” Katie McCrimmon, interim communications director with the Nurse-Family Partnership National Service Office in Denver, said.

Schroeder keeps her car on the road. Right now she has 26 moms and 24 babies to check on every week in the program’s four county area including Hardin, Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties.

Schroeder said before she went to work for the program she was an emergency room and post partum nurse at a local hospital.

“The patient came in and was gone within a couple of days,” Schroeder said. “I never knew what happened to the mothers, or their babies. With this job, I like that I get to spent time and build a relationship with the mother and her child.”

Schroeder takes her job seriously, even referring to the new mothers as “her girls.”

“I try to be their cheerleader. I hope they know I believe in them,” she said.

Her relationship with Catalina is different today from when she first met the shy 15-year-old girl.

“You watch them become a mom, watch them struggle and watch them succeed. A year and a half ago she was so shy. It was so hard to figure out what was going on in her head,” she said.

While the first-time mothers can be any age, most of the time they are young.

But, no matter the age, a first-time pregnancy can often be daunting for young mothers who do not know what to expect.

“During the pregnancy they are really concerned about the pain,” Schroeder said. “Once they have the baby, that’s when they get excited and proud of themselves one moment and the next moment they look at that little baby and think oh my I cannot do this.”

For Catalina, motherhood has proved to be as joyous as it is difficult.

“She’s worked so hard, and I am super duper proud of her,” Schroeder said. “On her first day back at school there was a little part of me that wanted to pull into the parking lot and watch her go in.”

Catalina is one of the new mothers featured in the documentary.

It can be seen on Amazon Prime, or on Facebook. To the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheNewYorkerPresents/ Look for a link to videos on the left, click on the arrow and scroll through until the clip is visible.

The video can also be seen at the Nurse-Family Partnership website at http://www.nursefamilypartnership.org/.

E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews