By her own account, Alexandra O’Neal, 26, had everything going for her. A child of well-to-do parents, she was a student at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
But, one year ago, she had dropped out of college, was homeless, in jail, and estranged from her family. What could have led to such a dramatic change? “I’m here to tell you that meth will destroy your life,” she says.
Alexandra was on a downward spiral, but all that changed when she got some unexpected news. “I was in jail for probation violation when I learned I was pregnant,” she says. Instead of panicking, she saw it as an opportunity to turn her life around.
“I was ecstatic. I realized what was important in life. Do you want to party and have a good time, or do you want to achieve something, be able to give back to society? I was hanging around with the wrong people; I got lost, I went too far. I had been using meth and that’s why I was homeless. Now, I’m a recovering addict and all I can say is, thank God I got arrested. Thank God for my baby. I had to get clean for her.”
“My baby is amazing and I am blessed. I don’t have much, but I see how much more I can achieve.”
Out of jail and living in an emergency shelter, Alexandra learned she could receive plenty of help during her pregnancy through the NorthBay A Baby is Coming (ABC) Prenatal Program. It offers women without insurance or a regular physician access to a comprehensive perinatal services program that includes health education, medical care, nutrition and social services.
“Alexandra came to us in the second trimester of her first pregnancy,” says Diane Harris, ABC Program director. “She took full advantage of all the resources we have to offer here—working with our nurse practitioner, medical social worker, health educator, and our registered dietitian.”
The program also includes an array of free prenatal classes, such as Labor of Love, the Art of Breastfeeding and Newborn Care. ABC staff are certified to grant temporary Medi-Cal coverage, and can coordinate referrals to other Solano County agencies.
“The ABC program has proven to be an important bridge for people in tough times,” says Kathie Thoming, prenatal educator for NorthBay. “No matter what their circumstance may be, or how the baby came about, there is a baby coming and we’re just going to make the best of it! It should be a time of excitement; a new life is on the way!”
On numerous occasions it has also proven to be an opportunity for new parents to get the resources they need to make a change of direction or to become motivated to get out of abusive or drug-addicted situations, Kathie says.
“I love that place,” Alexandra says. “I loved my instructor. I took all the classes and it was really cool when they gave us those little gifts. I just loved the Christmas party they had for us. I still have the pillow and baby blanket. It all meant so much to me, because I had barely anything.”
During one of Alexandra’s third trimester assessments, she was talking with Sylvia Rosell, Perinatal Care Specialist, when she confessed that she had taken the Solano Car Seat Class and spent the $25 gift card she received for completing it on shoes for herself. Her shoes had holes in them, and she needed a new pair but was now worried that without the voucher she would not have a car seat for the baby.
After the appointment, Sylvia mentioned Alexandra’s dilemma to her co-worker, Mari Escalera, a clinical support specialist. “Mari sprung into action,” Diane recalls. “She clocked out and went home to get her own Graco stroller and car seat and gave them to Alexandra.”
“I was amazed by the generosity,” Alexandra says. “I couldn’t believe my good fortune.”
It has been just over a year since Alexandra found herself at the precipice. Her baby, Savannah Leafty, was born in November. Today they live in Mission Solano’s Bridges to Life transitional housing.
Alexandra is going back to school, has been talking with her parents and is in love with being a mom. “My baby is amazing and I’m blessed. I don’t have much, but I see how much more I can achieve. I would recommend the ABC program to anyone. They really care about their patients. They’re amazing.”