Featured Image - Purple

Meet Diana

By connecting with a doula, Diana ensured her son would have opportunities to thrive from the start. Read her story.

November 20, 2020
  • Start Early Stories
  • Blog

Diana's story

For Diana Barrios, the best thing about being a new mother is [click to hear audio] “seeing him smile. He’s such a happy baby. Knowing that he’s happy, makes me happy.”

Now 6-months old, Matteo is almost crawling and sitting up by himself, and Diana has enjoyed watching him grow. “He’s really strong,” she says. “I’m just amazed with him.”

Diana’s confidence makes it easy to forget that earlier this year, she faced the uncertainty of giving birth during a global pandemic while living more than 2,700 miles away from her family and her support network in Venezuela. She explains, [click to hear audio] “There are a lot of things we don’t know here. We’re in a new country, we’re alone basically.”

That’s why a few months before her due date, the clinic where Diana went for prenatal checkups connected her with Start Early’s Health Parents & Babies program. Through the program, Diana was paired with her doula, Patricia Ceja-Muhsen.

Support through COVID-19 and Delivery

The Barrio Family Diana says Patricia has been her main support over the past year. In the months leading up to her birth, they would talk about prenatal care, fetal development and how Diana could best advocate for herself and her child. When Illinois’ stay-at-home order was implemented in March, Patricia continued to support Diana through video chats, phone calls and text messages.

Then, just weeks before her due date, Diana and her husband each tested positive for COVID-19. She recalls crying as she called Patricia, who helped connect her with a therapist and walked her though what would happen at the hospital if she were still positive on the day of the birth. Thankfully, her symptoms were mild and she tested negative before her delivery after self-quarantining.

Due to the hospital’s COVID-19 restrictions, Diana was only allowed to have one person with her in the delivery room: her husband. But even though Patricia wasn’t physically in the room, she constantly checked in with Diana to guide her through the birthing process and ensure it was going as planned. [click to hear audio] “She was always making sure, ‘Oh, you should ask for this.’ It was like she was there,” Diana recalls.

The strong doula-parent relationship that Diana and Patricia have built has been a lifeline for Diana. [click to hear audio] “I’m alone here. My mom just passed away two months ago, and she was my guidance.” Not having her mother to talk to has been difficult, but Diana is comforted knowing her mom knew she had support here in Chicago. [click to hear audio] “Because she knew, ‘Oh no, she’s not all alone because Patricia’s there, she’s going to help her.’”

Importance of Starting Early

Mateo Barrio smiling To Diana, early learning and care is important because there isn’t a parenting manual and like every parent, she wants what is best for her son. She knows the resources and supports she’s received from her doula and home visitors are laying the foundation for her son’s future success.

This knowledge has empowered her to take the lead in being Matteo’s advocate and best teacher. While she learned many of the basics of parenting watching her brother raise two children — like changing a diaper — she wasn’t aware of the developmental milestones for infants and toddlers or activities that helped babies reach them.

[click to hear audio] “I didn’t have any idea about the milestones and all the things that I’m learning now,” she says “But I would say that I know them now because of Patricia.”

As she looks ahead to the future, Diana has many dreams for her family. Although English will be Matteo’s first language, Diana believes it is important that he be able to speak, read and write in Spanish. She looks forward to deepening their bond by teaching him in the coming years.

In the meantime, she’s helping her son continue to meet his developmental milestone by sitting on the floor each day, talking and singing with him. [click to hear audio] “I talk to him. He’s going to be a talker, because of me,” she says proudly.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive news, helpful tools and learn about how you can help our youngest learners.

Sign Up

Little girl with blue headband
corner square pie shape-grid