Marwa & Mustapha’s Cleo story: Family comes first

When other support systems fell short, Cleo pulled them back from the edge and provided the reliable, compassionate support they needed to feel healthy and whole.

For new parents Marwa and Mustapha, when their daughter Celia contracted a virus shortly after birth, it set off a cascade of physically and emotionally taxing challenges. And when other support systems fell short, Cleo pulled them back from the edge and provided the reliable, compassionate support the family needed to feel healthy and whole.

The power of personalized support

Almost immediately following birth, Celia became quite sick and seemed unable to nourish herself. This resulted in marathon feeding sessions that left Marwa—still actively recovering herself—depleted and in pain.

Marwa’s earliest days as a new mom continued to be entirely consumed by efforts to nourish Celia, both at her chest and by pumping. While Celia received the medical attention she needed, Marwa’s own needs went largely overlooked, and Mustapha could see her slipping into a depression.

Via their national health service, the family received follow-up visitations from a midwife and was connected with a lactation specialist, however, the support received failed to consider how Marwa was feeling through all of this, and ultimately left her even more frustrated and emotionally exhausted. With each visit and consultation, she had to repeat the same story, explaining Celia’s illness and their subsequent challenges with feeding, over and over again. She was getting mixed, often contradictory recommendations, and meanwhile, her infant daughter was losing weight. Seeing the distress of his wife and daughter, and desperate to help, Mustapha was also feeling strained.

“You have to go through everything day after day after day. Whenever [Marwa] remembers those days, she starts crying again. Imagine the pain she is going through,” describes Mustapha. The experience was impersonal and counterproductive. Adds Marwa, “Everyone is giving me advice—you must give formula, you must just express, no, you must just breastfeed—Celia, in the meantime, she is losing weight.”

Mustapha sent a plea for help to their Cleo Guide—they had enrolled during Marwa’s pregnancy and benefitted from some classes while preparing for baby—and Aubrey’s empathetic and attentive support proved a turning point. They eventually requested an early end to the home visitations. The personalized support from Cleo proved more beneficial to their specific caregiving needs.

“She understands my feelings and my situation. She spoke about me, not about guidelines. Not about what I must do. Just what works with me and Celia and Mustapha. What works for my family.”

Marwa, Cleo member

Marwa goes on to describe how transformative it was to receive such personalized care and support: “Aubrey was the only person who asked about me. All the people, they ask ‘oh how is Celia?’ They forget I am the mom, she is the baby. I have stitches, I am struggling, I can not sleep. All the time [Aubrey] asks about my feelings, ‘Let’s speak about you and then we can talk about Celia.’”

Having access to Cleo through Mustapha’s employer hasn’t just provided needed support for Marwa and guidance with Celia, it’s benefitted the entire family’s well-being. While those first few weeks were acutely difficult on Marwa, it was also difficult for Mustapha to see his partner hurting and feel unable to help. He was able to help, however, by tapping into his Cleo benefit. “Whenever I feel that Marwa is good, I am feeling good as well,” he says. Mustapha goes on to describe the peace of mind that the relationship with their Guide has provided, “During the day, at work, at night, [Marwa] can speak to Aubrey. That’s what makes me really comfortable.”

And indeed, Aubrey has been with them every step of the way, anticipating, responding to, and guiding Marwa and Mustapha through each new challenge and milestone. Aubrey walked them through a complete plan for traveling with Celia for the first time, she’s guided them through the introduction of solids—Celia loves food!—and gave the family the gift of sleep by connecting them with a Cleo sleep specialist. Mustapha and Marwa recalled laughing at the idea of a sleep specialist prior to becoming parents themselves, and now enthusiastically describe it as “the best decision.”

The value of peace of mind

Adding to their challenges, Marwa had been let go from her job during, and because of her pregnancy. Finding support on their own—that is, outside of what was provided via their national health service—would have been much too costly, adding yet another layer of stress on the family.

Support from Cleo, made available through Mustapha’s employer, has and continues to be invaluable for the whole family. A self-described workaholic, Mustapha was strained and sleep-deprived in those early weeks, but clear-headed enough to remember to reach out to Cleo.

Mustapha emphasizes the value above all else of taking comfort in knowing his family is doing well, and he credits Cleo, and in turn his employer with helping provide that for him. “Since Cleo, my mind has just freed up. Marwa is feeling much better. Celia is doing really well. I’m comfortable. I can focus back at work.”