June 03--ANDERSON -- Deshante Armstrong watched intently as Lindsey Lewis, a volunteer at the first Madison County Community Baby Shower, painted a large pink heart and the footprint of a baby on her belly.
"She is painting my daughter's name," Armstrong said with a smile.
Armstrong, 23, is seven months pregnant with her first child and attended the community event to participate in the free seminars and activities.
"I think it's good we can all come together," she said. "It's real fun and I'm excited."
About 150 people, 80 of whom were expecting or new mothers, attended the event Saturday, sponsored by United Way of Madison County Inc.
United Way's Vice President of Resources Kim Williams said she was pleased with the turnout.
"This is the first year and you never really know what is going to happen," Williams said.
Williams said one of the goals for the event is to help mothers raise healthy children, safely.
"All parents want to do that, but do not necessarily know how to do that," she said.
According to a report from Save the Children, a worldwide organization, more than 11,300 children die each year in the United States due to early pregnancies and other complications making it the highest first-day infant mortality rate of any industrialized world.
The report also says teen births are contributing to the large number of deaths as these mothers tend to be "poorer, less educated and receive less prenatal care than older mothers."
Offering the resources at the Community Baby Shower is one of the ways United Way can help young or new mothers learn about health risks and programs available to help them raise and care properly for their children.
Presentations on infant safety, sleeping safety and prenatal nutrition were mixed in with a maternity fashion show, belly painting and a free lunch.
Information booths on baby safety and wellness were also on display.
Williams said United Way of Madison County acts as the lead agency for The Covering Kids and Families Madison County Coalition which helps insure the uninsured. The Covering Kids and Families helps those eligible for the program to enroll in Hoosier Healthwise and The Healthy Indiana Plan.
Those under 19, who are pregnant and meet income guidelines, can qualify for Hoosier Healthwise. The Healthy Indiana Plan is for those between the ages of 19 to 64 who are not eligible for other health insurance coverage plans. For those who qualify, the plans are available at free or reduced costs.
Planning for the event took three months, Williams said.
"The main goal is to connect people in the community with resources on better care and early learning," she said. "A lot of younger mothers are here."
Shelby Jones, 19, attended the event with her daughter, Dalilah, who is just over 3 months old.
"It's a great idea," she said. "I came mostly for them, " she said referring to the doctors and pediatricians attending the event who provide care for her and her daughter.
Jones introduced her daughter to one of the doctors who provided her prenatal care and spent time looking at the booths on display.
Other doctors, like Dr. Valentin Drezaliu, an obstetrician and gynecologist for St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, participated in the activities.
Drezaliu wore an empathy belly during the event. He said it was the first time he had ever tried the device that allows people to experience what it feels like to carry the weight of a pregnancy.
"Men don't get pregnant for a good reason," he said rubbing his lower back and complaining about the weight.
Drezaliu, who has been with St. Vincent for a year, was quick to answer when asked how many babies he has helped to deliver.
"The number doesn't count," he said. "Each experience is unique."
Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.
If you or someone you know is uninsured and expecting a baby, call 608-3062 to learn about free or reduced rate insurance plans and programs to help you raise a healthy baby.
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