IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Picture Perfect Partnership

Patient Story

Ryder Lee Brooks entered this world on Aug. 9, 2018. Ten perfect toes. Ten perfect fingers … much like many other newborns.

But this perfect baby had a start to life that was slightly different than many – one enhanced by a home-visiting nurse program.

When his mom, Melissa Brooks, realized she was seven-weeks pregnant during her senior year at Bloomington Graduate School, she was a bundle of emotions and knew she needed help.

She first visited Women, Infants & Children (WIC) seeking out nutritional assistance. From there, she heard about a new program: IU Health Community Health Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). This team helps pregnant, first-time moms until their baby’s second birthday.

Nine-weeks pregnant and nervous, Melissa wanted to be a good mom. She signed up for the program.

“I was really excited about NFP because of the things they could teach me about my baby,” said Melissa.

Shortly after signing up, Melissa was introduced to NFP Nurse Christine (Chris) Sherwood, RN. Both were nervous at the first meeting, but you wouldn’t know that from seeing them now.

“I feel like Chris made the transition really nice,” Melissa said.

“This is such a relational program … it’s a pretty intimate relationship that you get. On both our parts, we had to go into it in a trusting way,” said Chris.

The trust was enhanced by yet another relationship. Melissa’s partner and the baby’s father, JD, had known Chris as a nurse when he was a child. Introducing himself to her, he said with a smile: “I think you used to give me shots.”

It’s important to remember that NFP is for more than just mom and baby.

“It’s got the same benefits for the dad as it does for the mom,” said JD. “If we didn’t have an NFP, we would rely on our moms and grandparents and everybody. And what they know is kind of out of date. So having Chris is like having an encyclopedia.”

Chris came for regular visits throughout the pregnancy. She would check on Melissa’s health, including her blood pressure, and talk to her and JD about issues they might experience. It wasn’t all smooth sailing.

“For me, I was always tired,” said Melissa. “I felt very unhappy with my body because for me it was the first time I’d ever been big.”

Both Chris and JD were there for support. Just knowing Chris was coming over was sometimes the extra push Melissa needed to do things like cleaning the house or to change out of her pajamas into “real clothes.”

JD didn’t miss a meeting during the pregnancy and encourages other dads to go to meetings and be involved as well.

“Give it a try. You won’t really know what you’re going to learn until you’re sitting there in the conversation and a question pops into your head,” he said.

Not only did Melissa conquer her image fears and fatigue, but she achieved a laudable education goal. She finished her senior year — including being voted prom queen and receiving scholarships to Ivy Tech to continue her education — all while “secretly” growing and preparing for the new life inside her. In the spring of 2018, Melissa hid her figure by wearing baggy shirts.

“I wanted to show people that just because someone is pregnant, just because it’s a teen pregnancy, that doesn’t mean that’s what they are and who they are.” While half of teen moms don’t finish high school, Melissa was determined to stay out of that percentile. She also wanted no pity or special favors.

The big reveal came on graduation day – which marked a double achievement.

“Nobody (at school) knew I was pregnant until that day because I wore a dress that showed everything off,” said Melissa with a determined glint in her eyes.

The Big Day

Ryder was born a little earlier than expected. During a regular checkup with her doctor in early August, the healthcare provider couldn’t see breathing motions on the ultrasound. This meant Ryder wasn’t practicing breathing. He also wasn’t growing as expected, so the doctor recommended Melissa be induced.

After a quick trip home to pack, she and JD went to IU Health Bloomington Hospital for the big moment. At 5:19 am, their son arrived.

"I had a really easy labor. I was really scared but Chris had talked to me about breathing techniques, and I had a pregnancy ball as an assist because Chris had told me about using one. That thing was a lifesaver,” said Melissa.

“Everything was fine and then suddenly I got an anxiety attack. I remember I was just really scared for Ryder.”

In the meantime, Ryder, weighing in at 6 pounds, 2 ounces, was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where he was constantly observed.

Although confusing and scary for Melissa, she leaned on Chris for help and comfort. The nurse was able to answer questions and help calm Melissa, and Chris was able to meet the first baby for NFP. “JD took me to the NICU. The pride in his face was really cute,” said Chris. “I just enjoyed being part of that moment.”

Chris’s connection to the young family has continued to grow since Ryder’s birth.

As Ryder approaches his first birthday, Melissa talks about NFP and the role Chris played in helping her deliver a healthy son.

“NFP is like having a nurse and friend all at the same time,” said Melissa. “For Ryder, I feel it’s like having a stepmom,” she added. “She’s here sometimes, but not all the time. And she takes care of him like his mom, but in a different way.”

She simplified her response and added: “Let’s say I could have done it without her, but I don’t think I could have done it so well without her,” said Melissa. “I knew when I had Ryder … yes I’m his mom and he has a dad, but he is her baby too.”

Information about IU Health Community Health Nurse Family Partnership (NFP)




333 E. Miller Drive
Bloomington, IN 47401


Visit the Nurse Family Partnership page to learn more.

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