On Tuesday morning, the faint sound of a baby crying brought a smile to Wanda Ely's face.
She had barely tapped on the door when she heard 4-week-old Gavin from inside the house.
"He's testing out those lungs of his," Ely said.
She waited a while longer before knocking loudly enough for Gavin's mother, Mandy Mourglia, 25, to hear and open the door.
These visits are nothing new to Ely, who began making house calls to Mourglia in June, when she was about 24 weeks along in her pregnancy.
Ely, a nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, makes similar house calls to 10 other women like Mourglia who are expecting their first child or have recently given birth to their first child.
Weekly and semi-monthly visits by registered nurses to first-time mothers fuel the VNA's nurse-family partnership program that began in May across Northwest Colorado.
Four children have already been born to first-time mothers enrolled in the home visitation program.
Baby Gavin, however, is special because he was the first child.
The real joy of spending time with so many women for so many months comes when they finally give birth to healthy babies like Gavin, Ely said.
Ely saw Gavin the day after he was born. It was a rewarding moment to finally see Mourglia, and her husband, Jeff, finally hold their son.
"It's just always nice to see new parents," Ely said. "They were just beaming."
Throughout her pregnancy, Mourglia said, Ely was more than a medical professional just checking in on a patient every once in a while.
Ely was a constant source of information and support when it was most needed, she added.
And she will continue to be, because the VNA's nurse-family partnership doesn't stop at childbirth.
Ely's visits to Mourglia's home can continue until Gavin's second birthday.
That's good to know, Mourglia said, because first-time parents like she and her husband can have many questions about caring for an infant when this is their first try at parenting.
Jeff and Mandy Mourglia have been married seven years, but it was not long after they moved to Steamboat Springs last year that they learned a baby was on the way.
"We had always wanted to have a baby, but it was still scary being in a new place and not knowing that many people," Mandy Mourglia said.
Mourglia, who was one of the first people to hear about and sign up for a nurse-family partnership, said she wants other first-time parents and mothers to know they can get the same care and support she found.
"It was not as scary having someone there to help you through it," Mourglia said.
Across a four-county region, 24 women are enrolled in this voluntary program that targets first-time and low-income parents.
Ely meets with 11 women from Routt and Jackson counties, and another registered nurse, Ann Irvin, meets with 13 women in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.
Because the program can take up to 50 families, people are always encouraged to take advantage of the services, nurse-family partnership director Marilyn Bouldin said.
"We're just about to 25, so we're almost halfway there," Bouldin said. "After four months, we're pleased that so many women have signed up."
Bouldin said word-of-mouth has brought several people to the program, and now she is hoping people will continue to call the VNA about enrolling in the program.
The education and support found in a nurse-family partnership helps parents and children begin a healthy lifestyle together, Bouldin said.
That begins with proper prenatal care to ensure mothers are not at risk of having children with low birth weight, Ely said.
"The one main goal of the program is healthy birth outcomes," she said. "We talk a lot about diet and nutrition throughout the pregnancy."
During her most recent Tuesday visit, Ely was able to weigh Gavin in a portable scale she carried with her from the hospital.
Weighing 6 pounds, 2 ounces when he was born on Aug. 26, Gavin had filled out to 8 pounds, 8 ounces.
"Mandy was so cute the day after he (Gavin) was born," Ely said.
"He was just so little. Now he's a growing boy."
After discussing Gavin's sleeping and eating patterns, Ely shifted her focus to his mother.
Understanding filled her voice as she suggested ways for Mourglia to meet her baby's needs while not forgetting her own.
"It's a tough balance," she said. "But one you can do."
Tips on diet, nutrition and simple exercises for Mom were offered, as well as information about immunizations, birth certificates and bedding for her baby.
So many of Mourglia's questions for Ely are those she doesn't have time to ask her doctor, she said.
A rash in the number of recent deliveries at the hospital has the three doctors on staff quite busy with new mothers.
"I always seem to have more questions that I don't want to take up his time with," Mourglia said. "It's nice to know that I can save some of them for Wanda."
One of the more important things that Ely will begin to focus on in future visits is development of Gavin's motor and vocabulary skills.
Reading and rocking before bedtime, talking, singing and even dancing were suggested to help build Gavin's vocabulary as he gets older.
"Maybe I'll save that last one for when no one else is here," Mourglia said.
Much of what is discussed is recorded and new questions are noted so Ely can bring the information on her next visit.
Obviously bored with all the grown-up conversation, Gavin fell asleep long before the visit ended.
As the nurse prepared to leave, the new mother talked about the importance of the visits and being a new parent.
"It's learning every day how to be the best mom I can be, but," Mourglia said as she looked over to Ely, "she has helped me to do that."
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