When Ana Woonten first found out she was pregnant, she was full of anxiety about what lay ahead. Ana had only recently turned 20, and the idea of raising a baby as a young, single mum was daunting.
“I didn’t really know what to expect or how I was going to do it,” she says.
When she was eight weeks pregnant, Ana was referred by Local Doctors to the Best Start to Life programme, a Total Healthcare-funded initiative that provides support to young expectant mothers who are Māori or Pasifika, under 22 and living in South Auckland.
Soon after the referral, Ana was contacted by the programme’s maternity service coordinator, Bijal Soni.
Help with getting organised
“The first thing Bijal did was organise a midwife for me,” Ana says. “I had had no idea where to look or what to look for in a midwife. Bijal asked me about what I wanted for my birth and then gave me some options.”
Throughout Ana’s pregnancy, Bijal checked in regularly with Ana, helping her with everything from booking vaccine appointments to arranging scan referrals.
“Without her it would have been really overwhelming. I didn’t know what to organise, what injections I needed or anything like that.”
Meeting at last
Ana had her daughter, Anaiyas, during the lockdown in May. After months of text and phone contact, Ana was able to meet Bijal in person for the first time at her six-week postnatal check-up.
“It was really lovely to meet her. She was absolutely kind and a really good support. It was lovely that she had gone out of her way to visit us at the doctors.”
Bijal says it’s an honour to be able to help young mums and their pēpi to have a happy and healthy life together.
“The most overwhelming moment for me was when Ana’s mother gave me a hug and said ‘thank you so much for looking after my daughter during her maternity journey’. I feel so delighted when I see a satisfactory smile on young mum and their whānau’s face.”
Best Start made things easy
Anaiyas is now seven weeks old, and doing “really well,” Ana says. The pair live with Ana’s family at home in Papatoetoe, where she has lots of support from her parents and siblings, as well as ongoing contact with Bijal.
Ana would like other young mums who may be eligible for this programme to know that it is “absolutely helpful.”
“Especially if you’re a new mum, and a young mum, you don’t know what you need to do, but you feel like you need to be really independent about putting all these things into place yourself. With Best Start they made it really easy throughout my pregnancy.”