This is an optimistic story to start the New Year. It is about a family enrolled in San Juan County's First Born®, a weekly home-visitation program for women pregnant for the first time and first-time families and their newborns, and how they have found their way.

Dustin Oldham, a former corrections officer, takes lunch time off from his new job at Jiffy Lube every Wednesday evening to come home to meet "the baby lady." He and his wife Latrice, who worked as an administrative assistant at Guardian Title Company until the minute she went into labor, are now the proud parents of two-month-old Gage.

The couple gets education, support and training from prenatal to three years to ensure that Gage has the optimum physical, social and emotional development. First Born is made possible by a $1.8 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Northwest New Mexico.

Once a week Gayle Bost, one of Farmington's home visitors, comes to their home near the Animas Valley mall to support the couple in making the right choices for Gage. He has recently had his two-month checkup, weighed in at 13 pounds and is in the 97th percentile for growth and development.

Gage is clearly happy about it, twisting his face into the beginnings of a smile. His eyes track his parents as they move around him.

Both parents come from large families, but they do not live close by, and Gayle's visits and advice assure them they are on the right path in rearing their baby. Though they are active Googlers on infant issues, they wait for their home visitor's day with a list of questions. She assures them Gage is developing well and compliments them on being such attentive, loving parents.

With her support, they have learned to read Gage's cues: when he is hungry or wants to be held or be changed. Daddy Dustin learned to change diapers from a video First Born provided. Latrice mastered breast feeding, which is advised for at least six months, thanks to a referral to a lactation consultant at San Juan Regional Medical Center.

At this stage, they are concentrating on "tummy time": placing Gage on a blanket-covered surface so he can learn to lift his head and develop his neck muscles and on completing a list Gayle has given them to discuss their new life as parents and as a couple. We believe one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is to love one another.

Actually, Gage was Latrice's Christmas present last year. After two years of marriage, she was ready to start a family and the couple thinks Christmas Day was the start of her pregnancy.

The couple discovered First Born at a booth at the San Juan County Fair. "The baby lady" has seen them through the last stages of Latrice's pregnancy, preparation for childbirth and the baby's jaundice at two days. Now it will see them through watching his brain synapses develop to their fullest and watching the stages of appropriate development: muscle coordination, vision, hearing and social-emotional.

Dustin wishes more people knew about First Born. He has seen through his corrections background the negative outcomes that poor child rearing can mean later in life.

Like most parents, the Oldhams want their child to have a good life. "I want him to go down the right path, to go to college," says Latrice, who has not yet finished college herself. "He won't repeat my childhood," says Dustin confidently. "I want him to have a healthy, happy life and give him opportunities so he doesn't have to find his way by himself."

The Oldhams, too, don't have to find their way by themselves. Gayle and our other home visitors are experienced and love this work. We hope more families in San Juan County will sign up for this one-on-one support that is scientifically tested and homegrown in New Mexico.

Our program is free and open to every first-time parent. First-time fathers qualify, too. OB/GYNs, midwives, pediatricians and other medical professionals can recommend us or expectant families can join on their own.

I believe in First Born because we make first time families become comfortable and confident in parenting, and I see it make a difference every day. For more information, to make a referral or to sign up, call us at 325-9187.

Sheeresa Begay is Program Manager of San Juan County First Born.