At Your Place, At Your Pace

By Anglican Family Care | Posted: Sunday November 19, 2023

Our Family Start programme is a home-visiting service that aims to achieve positive health, education, and social change for pēpi, tamariki and their whānau. Support starts early - before the baby's birth or in their first year.

Family Start whānau worker Alex first started working with Sophie when she was referred to Anglican Family Care in North Otago by her midwife during the first trimester of her pregnancy. With a history of depression, and being isolated from family, Alex explained how Sophie was concerned that her mental health may deteriorate once she had her daughter and was determined to put strategies in place to help her and her unborn child.

Sophie told us “I built a close connection with Alex, who would come and visit me in my own home. She helped me with a plan to ensure my mental health was on track before I gave birth to my daughter, counselling was also recommended for me especially as there were concerns that I could develop postnatal depression.”

“My first counsellor wasn’t the right fit for me, and I learnt that it’s so important to get the right match with a Counsellor and to have your medication changed if it isn’t working. Having open conversations with Alex meant I got immediate help when I did get postpartum depression, and together with my new Counsellor, I was taught coping strategies that helped me with my feelings.”

“We focused on signals that we and others close to her could look out for when her mental health was deteriorating,” Alex explains.

Except for her partner, Sophie had no other natural supports, having relocated to Oamaru from the North Island a decade earlier to be closer to her Nana (who passed away last year), so isolation was also a big factor for Sophie.

Sophie told us that the point of difference with Family Start were the home visits that removed the barrier of a clinical setting.

“Initially Alex visited me weekly, with phone contact in between, which helped me to build trust. After having my daughter, I developed mastitis. This led to being hospitalised on several occasions for treatment. Alex helped our family by organising home-cooked nutritious meals through the local church, this made it so much easier for both me and my partner, who was working long hours over that time.” [Mastitis is a painful infection of the breast tissue] 
“When I hit post-partum depression, one of my symptoms was this overwhelming feeling of anger. Alex taught me valuable strategies that helped me get through these feelings. One natural stress relief that got me through was going outside for a short period of time. At the time I felt stupid, but through Alex’s reassurance and support I was able to normalise my feelings of depression and anxiety and I began to feel so much better and start enjoying motherhood.”

Receiving information about a baby's development and milestones can be extremely helpful for first-time mums, as it can enhance their learning and understanding of their baby's needs. She learned about the importance of responsive parenting and how to promote healthy attachment. As Sophie’s confidence grew, it made it easier to interact with her daughter through a range of activities suggested by Family Start.

Looking back on those difficult days, Sophie told us it was important that she share her story, as without her whānau worker she’s not sure how she would have coped.

She was very grateful for the support she had received through the Family Start Programme and the positive impact it had on her and her baby's lives.

“Willow is now a cheeky, happy girl who has a Mum who celebrates each milestone and is thriving. It has been a pleasure to watch Sophie go from a nervous parent to one who is sure and confident of herself and her parenting abilities.” Alex – Family Start Whānau Worker.

*Client names and photos have been changed