news & perspectives

news & perspectives

Building the Love of Family

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By: Jessica Simmons Gonzalez
As featured in the February 14, 2020 issue of the Lunenberg Ledger.

Love works in mysterious ways. If I could go back in time to my younger self, that’s what I would tell her. "Don’t worry, things are tough now, but you will have a beautiful life overflowing with love one day." That’s what I would say.

My childhood can be defined in one word: trauma. I was born in Florida and grew up in foster care. I was adopted in Massachusetts and then my adoptive mother passed away. I don’t share this for sympathy, but to explain why getting pregnant at 19, which is scary for any young mother-to-be, was terrifying. When I found out I was pregnant, my boyfriend (now husband) and I were living together on our own for the first time, in our first apartment together. We were just learning how to be adults.

But we found love and support in an unexpected place: Peggy and Leah. Peggy and Leah are home visitors with a program called Healthy Families, run by the Children’s Trust, which connects young, first-time parents to a home visitor who comes to your house to help you learn parenting skills and to assist you for the first 3 years of your child’s life. They helped us with everything: answering my questions, finding appropriate toys and baby supplies, packing my hospital bag, figuring out my delivery plan, breastfeeding, teething. Literally everything. I didn’t grow up with a mom who could answer these questions for me or tell me about her experience giving birth. I can’t imagine going through this experience without my home visitors by my side. Healthy Families was like a mother to me.

But more than that, they educated my now-husband and I about how to build a family. Healthy Families wasn’t just for me, it was for us. We learned how to co-parent, even when we disagreed, and sometimes our home visitor become a de facto therapist when we just needed someone to talk to. Adding a child to a relationship is hard on even the most seasoned adults, but as terrified teenagers juggling long hours to support ourselves and learning how to be adults ourselves, having this support made all the difference.

In 2008, we got married in a beautiful wedding. I graduated from college with a degree in human services and we are saving to buy our first house. My son is now 7 years old and we are ecstatic to share that our family has continued to grow with the addition of a beautiful 2-month old. My life is filled with so much love, support and happiness everywhere I turn. Life always has its hard moments, but I am so thankful to be on this journey with this beautiful family by my side.