Sharron Owusu-Afriyie, FNP Graduate
I was first introduced to the Family Nurse Partnership when I was 19 years old, 13 weeks pregnant, alone, scared and sleeping rough. I was sleeping rough to avoid my family who had no idea I was expecting until I was 34 weeks. I gave birth at 37 weeks, so they only had three weeks to wrap their head around the fact that the baby of the family was having her own baby.
My midwife referred me to FNP after finding out I was homeless and that I had an extremely limited support system - because nobody knew that I was pregnant. Initially I didn’t have any feelings towards the programme, I had never heard of it and my mind was dangerously occupied by other anxious thoughts.
My first meeting with my family nurse was in a local health centre, I was nervous but she was friendly and extremely likeable; she made the first meeting all about me, she talked me through the programme and told me everything I needed to know. We chatted about the aims of the programme and about some goals for me and my baby. It was during that meeting that any anxiety I felt regarding the programme disappeared. My family nurse provided me with a space where I felt safe and could talk openly about my baby- I.was.SOLD.
After the initial meeting I was optimistic about the programme but to be completely honest I didn’t expect to learn anything. I was wrong and naïve. At our weekly meetings my family nurse would present me with new material, worksheets and engaging information on so many topics that I had never really considered to be important.
We talked through all the stages of pregnancy and my changing body. I didn’t have much knowledge on how pregnancy would change or affect my body, my family nurse gave me information on how to stay healthy and take care of myself so that I could cope with all the changes. We also talked about childbirth and I really believe that my family nurse gave a realistic idea of what to expect in labour and also how to identify when I was in labour.
These were all very important things that I had given no thought to. We also went through childhood illness, mental health, well-being and so much more. I learnt such a wealth of information, all of it preparing me for the journey of motherhood.
After my daughter was born, the information and worksheets were tailored and specific to what we were experiencing, for example in the early days when I struggled with latching and breastfeeding my family nurse helped me to better understand breastfeeding. She did this through demonstrating and signposting me to specialists who could support me with the different aspects of this. I never felt that I was just being spoon fed or handed leaflets, all the information was specific and so very relevant to me and what I was finding tough.
Not only did my family nurse help me with very practical things, perhaps most importantly, she recognised signs of an unhealthy relationship from the onset - she signposted me to the right services that helped me to leave the relationship and seek the help I required to move on.
My family nurse consistently and actively supported my on-going battle with housing and she went out of her way to make sure me and my daughter safe. Without her input I may not have been able to identify the warning signs of the abuse, get out of that relationship when I did and find a safe place for me and my daughter to live.
I can honestly say that FNP changed my life! Very recently, I was invited to present and talk at my local FNP team annual review; it was such an honour to share my story with health professionals and let members of FNP team know how much of an impact they’ve had in my life and more so my daughter’s life.
Since graduating from the programme I have also graduated from university. I have completed a course in professional make up and since started my own freelance business. The support I received from my family nurse and the FNP programme helped me to realise that although there are many young mothers in society, the help and resources actually available to us are very limited. Because of this I am in the process of creating a blog/online space where young mothers can connect, express themselves and seek advice.
The programme taught me that I am capable and it helped me to realise my own potential.
I literally had no idea what I was doing when I met my family nurse. She helped me to prepare for the birth of my daughter, get out of an abusive relationship and find the strength within myself to raise my daughter on my own.
My family nurse was the light in my life during a dark time, the skills she taught me and what I learnt through the agencies she signposted me to will stay with me for life and I am so very grateful.