by Holly Cammuse, Assistant Director of Nursing of The Next Door
As I waddle around the building the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I have heard this phrase over and over again, “You are just GLOWING, Holly!” I have assured all parties involved that the “glow” they are imagining is probably just sweat glistening from my newly formed mustache… O the joys of pregnancy hormones! As we encroach upon temperatures nearing 100, I can’t help but reflect on the ease and simplicity of carrying my first child through the winter months. The other comments such as “There must be more than one in there!”, “You must be due ANNNYY day now!”, and “WOW, you’re carrying low!” make me giggle at the transparency of those women that we serve at The Next Door… transparency that I respect and have learned to love over the course of three years.
As I squeeze onto the elevator (because who wants to take the stairs at 9 months pregnant?!), I bump bellies with another Momma-To-Be, only this Momma is a client of The Next Door. So many things make The Next Door unique, but this is by far my favorite. We serve and embrace ALL women, even those fighting to better a life other than their own.
The Next Door took a leap of faith and began serving pregnant women in the winter of 2016. It was obvious that because we were one of few treatment facilities to accept a woman with child, the services that we provided would be sought out by women all over the state of Tennessee. NICUs were at capacity with children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition in which a newborn withdraws from drugs it was exposed to while in utero. Why couldn’t The Next Door play a part in ending this vicious cycle?
To date, we have served nearly 100 pregnant women, can you imagine the glow that has radiated from these walls!? Obstetrics certainly wasn’t our specialty, and we proceeded that first year with caution and good faith, putting some restrictions on what risks we were willing to take. All pregnant women using illicit drugs are high-risk, most have experienced many other births, some with poor outcomes, but if we weren’t willing to accept them into treatment, who would? There is such a small window of opportunity to make such a generational impact. It was a no-brainer to our ambitious team.
Although the future still holds many exciting opportunities for pregnant women at The Next Door, we have certainly come a long way in terms of knocking down barriers for this population. We are currently revising our admission requirements to allow pregnant women , even those with little or no prenatal care, to walk through our doors free of stigma and full of hope. We have a Registered Nurse Care Manager who assists these women with finding an obstetric provider and keeping appointments, an OB-GYN that assesses these women once a week, a Licensed Therapist that spends time unraveling fears and instilling lifeskills related to parenthood, and valuable resources like 180 Health Partners that provide a warm hand-off once discharged from The Next Door and through those critical postpartum months.
A dream of mine would be to provide housing for newborns with their mothers upon delivery; however, my view is still pretty sweet, as is, from my desk window. One of the first pregnant clients ever served at The Next Door now resides in our Freedom Recovery Community apartments, just behind our building on 22nd Avenue. What a precious sight to see her sober, successful, and pushing her little miracle in a stroller. Now THAT glow is one that cannot be beat.