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Jill Lewandowski, Cara Graduate and Staff Member, tells how she found her strength and courage.

A baby’s first twelve months are full of milestones; their first smile, first words, first steps. But the first birthday? That’s probably a bigger milestone for mom and dad. “He’s big and he’s alive!” Jill laughs, talking about her son, Santi, who is celebrating his first birthday this weekend with a Mickey Mouse party.

Jill’s little family is fairly new, but she’s been a part of the Cara family for a long time. Jill originally came to Cara as a participant and, after graduating from the program, became a staff member. For more than four years, she’s worked as an Admissions Specialist, helping Cara’s new participants get acclimated to the journey they are just beginning – a role that much like motherhood required a mixture of strength and compassion.

These attributes helped Jill when she found herself feeling nervous about being a first-time mom. “Before he was born, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to handle everything. But then I saw him and I knew everything was going to be fine. It was like a switch flipped, I couldn’t believe how natural it was.

“I learned that being a mother isn’t just keeping a child healthy, it’s raising them and shaping his life. It’s my job to take care of him and to teach him things, to teach him his values,” she continues. “My experience at Cara gave me the confidence to be a mom and to make decisions that affect someone’s life. Cara taught me what I want to instill in my son.”

Santi’s birthday is extra special for Jill and her family. Jill’s husband is from Mexico where, unlike the United States, they celebrate Mother’s Day on the same date every year – May 10th. That just happens to be Santi’s birthday, the day Jill became a mom. It promises to be an extra-special day for their family.

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