Ana and Geno

Anastasia (Ana) Hartman moved to Price Hill when she was 10 years old. She has been on her own since she was 16. When Ana was 23, she gave birth to her son, Eugene (Geno). Unfortunately, Ana suffers from heart failure and, as a result, had to stay in the hospital an extra three months after she gave birth. She described this time as, “incredibly hard and painful,” due to both physical pain and the emotional pain of not being able to stay with her newborn son. Shortly after giving birth and talking to Geno’s father, Ana called JoAnne Dwyer, Every Child Succeeds Program Manager at Santa Maria Community Services. JoAnne helped her learn how to take care of her baby. Ana said that having JoAnne there helped her feel more secure. JoAnne shared that Ana embraced motherhood from the first time she held Geno.

Ana immediately began juggling doctor appointments for her son and her, as well as managing her vast medications, and changes in diet and lifestyle. Ana proved she was up for the challenge. Against the odds, her heart strengthened and her life expectancy grew! Ana began to focus again on building a future for herself and her son saying these health challenges made her all the more committed to enjoying every moment with her son.

At Santa Maria, Ana became part of the Every Child Succeeds (ECS) program, which offers first-time mothers and their families support to ensure an optimal start for their children. Ana had learned about this program through Geno’s father who had his daughter enrolled in ECS as well. In fact, JoAnne was the coach for both Geno and his half-sister. This connection gave Ana an opportunity to learn and understand the roles and responsibilities of parenting. Ana learned how to play, communicate with, and be patient with her newborn baby. Now, over two years later, Ana and Geno are learning to read together. Their favorite stories are “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

Santa Maria is helping Ana raise her son and take care of herself. For example, Ana and Geno are staying positive by listening to music and having dance parties. Ana is also continuing to help with Geno’s growth and development by teaching him shapes and colors, and playing with puzzles. After having her baby and going into heart failure, Ana is thankful for Santa Maria Community Services and the support she received from staff. One of the things Ana is most grateful for is how Santa Maria treats her like family, not just a client.

With JoAnne’s help, Ana was able to find work and save enough money for a car, get her temporary license and then her driver’s license. With that checklist of things accomplished, next was housing. Ana had been bouncing back and forth between family members’ homes, but none felt safe and secure. She worried that she could be kicked out at any moment. Ana attended a shelter diversion program through Santa Maria’s Stable Families program and has secured housing, saying that she feels safe for the first time in years. “No one can tell me to get out.  I’ve got my own keys to my own place.” Ana continues to look toward the future for herself and her son by setting new goals including moving into a new apartment and Geno graduating from the Every Child Succeeds program on his third birthday this June.

When COVID-19 hit, Ana was nervous as she is at high risk because of her heart condition. To her, and others at high risk, COVID-19 can be deadly. Recently her father caught COVID-19, and she felt afraid and nervous. Thankfully, he survived and recovered, but knowing someone so close to her who caught COVID-19 made her even more aware that she needs to stay safe and healthy. Ana uses every safety precaution she can, but working at a restaurant puts her even more at risk. To help combat these hurdles, she has reached out to JoAnne, finding ways to keep both her and her son safe. In addition to wearing masks and social distancing, Ana has a video chat with her parents every two weeks. This creates a great connection between Geno and his grandparents while at the same time keeping them all safe.

Ana encourages first-time mothers to utilize Santa Maria’s Every Child Succeeds program. She says, “As first-time mothers we can handle a lot more than we think. We just need someone who can tell us or remind us what we need to do and how.” From a newborn baby to learning how to enroll your child in school, Santa Maria can help with a variety of services. Ana is very appreciative of Santa Maria donors who help her and other first-time mothers. Many other families get what they need to survive and, more importantly, thrive.