At 32 weeks pregnant with twins, Natalie Boyle left her acting career to move to Dallas for more stability. Four weeks later, she delivered Emma and Kate, now 7 ½, by C-section. Something wasn’t right, though, and Boyle wasn’t able to recover from the surgery.
After infections, a cancer diagnosis, multiple surgeries and remission, she was finally able to feel healthy again. Meanwhile, a mom friend named Annie received her own cancer diagnosis, and Boyle’s desire to help led to the “accidental” creation of Mommies In Need—a nonprofit that provides child care for parents who are in a health crisis or temporarily disabled.
We chatted with Boyle about the journey from fledgling organization to flourishing nonprofit that’s about to expand in a major way.
Your own health crisis spanned more than two years. What happened? I really just couldn’t recover from the C-section. I kept getting these infections, and it was really painful, more so than it should have been. My doctor thought I just had some leftover placenta tissue. So he went in to do a D&C [dilation and curettage], and then I just started hemorrhaging uncontrollably. I almost hemorrhaged to death.
Throughout when [the twins] were babies and young toddlers, I had something called ulcerative colitis, and eventually my doctor told me I had to have my colon removed. I knew I was looking at a hard year of pretty much being disabled. Then, three days before my colon removal surgery, they did a body scan. My doctor said they thought [a nodule on my thyroid] was cancer. So I went ahead, I had the colon surgery, recovered just enough to do a biopsy. It was thyroid cancer, and I had to have my entire thyroid removed and have treatment for that, and then go back in and have [another colon] surgery.
How did that experience influence your future nonprofit work? As I was going through that, I kind of started thinking about What happens if you don’t have family? If you don’t have the money to be able to pay someone if you need them? That was in the back of my mind as I was on my recovery.
I was in a moms group, and a friend of mine who had sat at my table when I was going through all my illnesses, she found out she had colon cancer. When she found out she was having six months of chemo, she said, “Well, I guess I’ll just get a friend to watch the kids on chemo days, and I’ll deal with it myself the other days.” I just remember being like, I can’t let her do that. That’s horrible, and I don’t want anyone to have to do that.
So, I said, “Well, I’m not using my nanny anymore. I know that she needs work, so why don’t you start using her?” She’s like, “We really can’t afford that.” I said, “That’s OK—we’ll just start an Indiegogo campaign and try to pay for it.”
Once we started publicizing this Indiegogo campaign, we discovered there were people willing to fund this care. I started researching and discovered there really aren’t any nonprofits that have that specific area that they help in. We got our 501(c) on Nov. 11 of 2014, so our five-year anniversary [was last year], which is so exciting.
That’s incredible. How much has the nonprofit grown? Now we can help six or seven families at a time. We just broke 20,000 hours of child care we’ve provided in the five years. The way that we serve in-home care is we have nannies that are employees of the company and we send them into client family homes, and they’re there up to 48 hours a week for up to six months, and it’s totally free of cost to the family.
We do that all through fundraising. We institute kind of a pay-it-forward system, where families who [receive assistance] ask their friends and family to donate in their honor for the next family. I think we’re at like 55 families now that we’ve helped.
My dream is to have a drop-in child care center where we could take care of kids and help so many more, but I was thinking this was another five to 10 years out. We started working with a team at Parkland, and everybody got on board and wanted to do it. We expect it to open [by this fall]. Unfortunately, the mom that was the very first mom I helped, she passed away. We decided to name it in her honor. It’s going to be called Annie’s Place. We’re going to be able to serve 50–60 kids a day.
That’s amazing. How do you vet the nannies and child care workers? The first, like, five nannies were people that had taken care of my kids when I was sick. So, that was the early vetting process. We’ve really, over the last few years, really refined our hiring process. We do extensive background checks, and then we do a bunch of in-house training. We do CPR and first aid. Then we have quarterly nanny in-service days. We have about seven nannies.
Who can benefit from Mommies In Need? We take anything that we call a “health crisis.” It’s something that temporarily disables you. For our in-home program, about 60% of that is cancer cases. The next highest is actually somebody that has a pregnancy complication and has to go on full bed rest. We also get a lot of postpartum complications, like someone’s ripped stitches or something’s happened post-birth. We’ve done transplants. We’ve done when mom was in a really bad car accident and lost her leg, and we helped her while she learned to use a prosthetic because that’s obviously a big change.
We’ve helped people with strokes. We do consider both mental health and addiction recovery to be a health crisis. We serve all of Dallas and Collin counties right now and like a teeny sliver of Denton County. Our goal is to start moving into Fort Worth in 2020.
To donate to Mommies In Need, visit mommiesinneed.org. The organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year—a circus-themed auction party—is coming up on Feb. 28; tickets start at $100 for dinner, drinks and carnival games.
If you aren’t able to attend the auction or give monetarily but would like to be involved in MIN’s work, email email@example.com and share how you can help in other ways. To apply to be a nanny, look for postings on job boards. Natalie Boyle is also available for motivational speaking opportunities.
Photo courtesy of Natalie Boyle.