Nuestras Madres Jóvenes: On Teen Mommas and The Miseducation of Our Young Women

7 Jul

Women in labor are so strong. It never ceases to amaze me. The young mothers take my breath away most. They have quickly become my favorite mommas. My practice will definitely be geared towards young mommas, especially teen moms. Teen moms need such special attention and respect. They have decided to go through one of the hardest things in their young lives.

In supporting teen moms, there is so much attention needed to their nutrition and knowledge about their bodies. I know for a fact they’re not going to get what they need from school or their communities. As a midwife, I must teach too. So so much. My age group of specialty is the teens through 25ish. I often feel like this is where most of us get lost in the mix. I have had the pleasure of having two teenage continuity of care clients during my training here, three other women who I served as a doula, and have gotten to be the primary midwife for dozens of other young women who needed the careful attention to educating that I have.

One young mother who stole my heart was the one that set my heart on fire. She and I were serendipitously connected. It was amazing that I just so happened to be in the clinic when she went into labor. The midwives went to go find me to tell me she was in labor. I went to her and told her that I would help her with the pain so she didn’t suffer. It was a beautiful birth and immediately I made myself available for her postpartum care. I gave her a crash course in her reproductive system during her postpartum appointments, complete with diagrams and a handout. I stressed to her that she needed to follow her dreams and never feel ashamed for being a teen mother. I could see the hope swell in her heart and her mother nodding at my encouragement through her tears. I have had so much fun growing with them. I feel glad to have made them so comfortable to trust me with their questions. I have seen how important the close care of their pregnancy has been and know this is an integral part of my work – to work specifically with empowering young women with knowledge, care and respect.

It breaks my heart that more women than I care to count have been miseducated and neglected when it comes to their sexuality and bodies. Because I know I am not alone, the education of our young women is vitally important. Sending a woman into the world unprepared with no knowledge of her body as it relates to society is dangerous. Straight up. You are literally feeding a little girl to the wolves by remaining silent. The fatal miseducation of woman must end. we must start taking those after us under our wings. Be the big sisters we didn’t have.

Additionally, it is time to demand comprehensive sexual education and empowerment for our high school women. We must give them the opportunities to make informed choices about their sexuality, relationships and have a healthier sense of self. This world runs the risk of having the cycle of disempowered women continue if we do not become our little sister’s keepers. Though I am not here to save anyone, I certainly will not stand by and let more women fall through the cracks. I will do my part as a midwife. I hope you will join me.

********************************************************

Las mujeres en trabajo de parto son tan fuertes. Nunca dejan de sorprenderme. Las madres jóvenes son las que más me sorprenden. Rápidamente se han convertido en mis favoritas. Mi práctica como partera definitivamente será enfocada en las madres adolescentes. Las madres jóvenes necesitan una atención especial y mucho respeto. Han decidido hacer una de las cosas más difíciles en sus vidas. Necesitan apoyo.

En apoyar a las madres adolescentes, mucha atención es necesaria en lo de su nutrición y conocimiento de sus cuerpos. Sé que no van a conseguir lo que necesitan en la escuela o sus comunidades. Como partera, tengo que enseñar también.  Siento que en la adolescencia es donde la mayoría de nosotras nos perdemos. He tenido el placer de dar cuidado particular a dos adolescentes durante mis estudios aquí, otras tres jóvenes que estuve en sus partos como doula y he llegado a ser la partera primaria para otras mujeres jóvenes quien necesitaban la atención cuidadosa y educación que puede darle.

Una madre joven me robó el corazón y me lo dejo encendido.  Ella y yo estábamos casualmente conectadas. Era increíble que pasó que yo estaba en la clínica cuando ella entró en trabajo de parto. Las parteras fueron a buscarme para decirme. Fui a ella y le dije que la ayudaría con el dolor para que no sufriera. Fue un nacimiento bello e inmediatamente me hice disponible para su atención en el postparto. Le di un curso intensivo sobre su sistema reproductivo durante sus citas postparto, con diagramas y un folleto. Destaqué que necesitaba seguir sus sueños y nunca sentirse avergüenzada por ser una madre adolescente. Pude ver la esperanza en sus ojos y su madre asintió con la cabeza. Me he divertido mucho creciendo con ellas. Me siento contenta de poder inspirar confianza y que se han sentido cómodas preguntándome lo que sea. He visto que importante ha sido la atención cercana de sus embarazos y es una parte integral de mi trabajo – enfocándome específicamente con empoderar a las mujeres jóvenes con conocimiento, cuidado y respeto.

Me rompe el corazón que mucha más mujeres no han sido educadas acerca de sus cuerpos y sexualidad. Porque sé que no estoy sola, es sumamente importante la educación de nuestras jóvenes. Enviando a una mujer al mundo sin ningún conocimiento de su cuerpo es peligroso.  Literalmente estamos hechando a las niñas a los lobos por permanecer nosotros callados. Debemos terminar este silencio fatal. Debemos comenzar a tomar nuestras jóvenes de bajo de nuestras alas. Tenemos que ser las hermanas mayores que no teníamos.

Además, es hora de exigir una educación sexual integral y el empoderamiento de las mujeres jóvenes. Debemos darles la oportunidad de tomar decisiones informadas sobre su sexualidad, las relaciones y ayudar que tengan un sentido saludable de identidad. Este mundo corre el riesgo de tener más mujeres perdidas si no nos volvemos guardianes de nuestras hermanas pequeñas. Aunque no estoy aquí para salvar a nadie, ciertamente no voy a dejar que más mujeres se caigan. Yo haré mi parte como partera. Espero que me acompañen.

 

Annie and Ray Kuntz, Wesley, Olivia, Nathan & Toby

24 May

IMG_5929

“I think motherhood in and of itself is made up of both of life and of little deaths. When you become a mother the first time, the single-carefree part of yourself where you could think of yourself first dies.  Now every little decision you make, where you go and when, what you wear, who you spend time with, is influenced by that child.  When your children grow, each step of the way, a little something new is born, and a little of the old dies.  When I weaned my daughter, Olivia, on her third birthday, there died our sweet nursing relationship that we both cherished.  But there was born a new independence and stepping further into herself without the same attachment to her mother.  When my oldest son lost his first two teeth, I noticed those were the first baby teeth that appeared after feverish, crying nights.  And now they sit in a little green treasure box and my boy has two bit teeth in his smile.  My two-year-old son says the most adorable and hilarious things as he learns to speak more clearly.  Long gone are the “gagas” and “dadada” sounds that he first produced.  My two-month-old son has already lost the shakiness of a newborn’s cry, and those certain sighs and sounds that a newborn makes.  None of my children will ever be newborns again.  The relentless march of time leaves those younger versions of themselves behind.  Except in my memory.

 There is a painting of a woman giving birth at my work with the following words written on it: “I am a woman giving birth to myself.”  And that is what birth is that we often look over.  It is the birth of the child, but also the creation of this new mother.  I wish that our culture celebrated that fact a little bit more. 

I don’t think you become a mother just once with your first child. I think you become a mother over and over again, each child that is born, each major life shift for your children. It’s ever-changing, never stagnant. And once you are a mother, you can never not be a mother again.”

IMG_6663

*Words cannot describe how much I appreciate this midwife and friend. Annie has been one of my preceptors since I began school here and has quickly become a great teacher and confidant. I am so proud of her and what I have gotten to know of her journey. It is my sincerest wish that she is blessed in all her endeavors as a woman, mother, partner and midwife. I love you Annie!

Griselda Rodriguez

23 May

griselda

*This sister and I connected at a conference when we spoke on the same panel regarding African hair and its politics. One simple picture full of the light she is carrying, I am happy to share her joy on my page.

Monica Franco and Lianna

22 May

this one!

“Being a mom is everything to me. It means giving 100% to assure that my daughter feels loved and secure at all times. It means working my hardest to give her the best life possible because she’s totally worth it.”

 

monica

 

*I’m honored to have my beautiful cousin Monica and her adorable daughter Lianna as a part of my project. Aside from being a great mom, she also recently received her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration. So proud of her :)

Stephanie Sierra and AJ

21 May

stefa 2

“I’ve spoken to many women who are 100% they don’t want children and I’ve always admired them for making such a big decision in their lives, because if one thing was certain in mine was that I wanted to be a mother someday. I started my motherhood journey about three years ago. My son is two now, but I’ve felt like a mother from the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test, the mornings that I spent talking to the toilet, and the first time I heard his heart beat. Motherhood has given to me the greatest feelings of happiness and fear all at the same time. Motherhood means sacrificing anything willingly for the well being of your child. My son has made me look at the world differently. I feel excited to watch him grow and be able to show him the beauty the world has to offer and explain the pain and suffering that comes with it as well. From the moment my child was born I knew I would do anything and everything to protect him and provide him with a nurturing home. He will always be a part of me just like I always be a part him and I would live my life exactly the same way over and over again if it means I get to meet my same child. Motherhood is love. Motherhood is fear. Motherhood gives everything more meaning in my life!”

stefa

*I met Stephanie during my undergraduate career and have stayed in touch with her. She is a part of my forthcoming bellycast project and I’m so proud of her transformation and blossoming mommahood :)

Jenna Mirza and Liliana

20 May

jenna

“Motherhood is unconditional love and acceptance: of my child and me. Liliana is to my existence as oxygen to my lungs. She opened my soul and allowed me to embrace all of the imperfections that this world has to offer because with her my life cannot be any more perfect.”

*So happy for Jenna! A woman I got to share poetry and lots of moments with in college, she is well on her path to continuing her great work with her social work background.

Missy Panda

19 May

Missy Panda

Here is a pic of me and my unborn baby boy Michael

A Letter to the Women of Juárez

18 May

Dear Women of Juárez,

I don’t have the words to express the gift it is to serve you. You have touched my heart in a way that I could not have imagined. For three years, it has been my dream to come to El Paso to learn how to be a midwife. The main reason why I came to Maternidad la Luz is because of you. I know that it is important to receive medical care in your own language and I knew that this wasn’t necessarily a reality at the birth clinic. As a daughter of immigrants, I know personally what can happen when you are unable to communicate effectively. It is a danger to your health and general well-being to not be understood by your doctors and gynecologists. Moreover, I deeply understand what it means to be in constant conflict with the United States. This is my first time living on the border between this country and Mexico. I don’t know the struggle of having to cross the bridge constantly for what this country has done. I am aware that this is not Texas; this is occupied Mexico. I understand that you cross because you know another life is possible.

I imagine the time you spend waiting in line in the abrasive heat in order to come to the birth clinic. I am surprised by your strength to deal with the border patrol while you are pregnant, sometimes already in labor with back to back contractions. You have taught me during my time here what it means to be strong and beautiful. My god, you are so beautiful. Seeing you with your families and friends has shown me what I want in my own life. I am inspired by your dedication to your children and by what you do to make the best future for them.

Some of you come to us because you want to experience a natural birth. Some of you have had terrible experiences in the hospital and have sworn never to give birth there again. Some of you cannot pay the expensive hospital bills. Some of you hope to attain the opportunities that your children will have as citizens of the United States. All of your reasons are valid and real. Now I understand the privilege I have as an American. Because of this, I do everything I can every chance I get. Because of this, I stay awake for you, helping you in labor. I recognize the strength and perseverance in your eyes. Because of this, I try to do everything I can so that you don’t have to go to the hospital. In the same breath, when we have to take a women to the hospital, it is only because often our hands are tied and we want to make sure she is out of harm’s way.

If I don’t see you again, please know that I remember every baby that I have had the honor of receiving in my hands. I know that it is a gift to be here in this moment with you. It is my duty to keep this space sacred for your incredible transformations. I kiss your foreheads and wipe the sweat from your faces. I give you water to drink and everything that I can so that you don’t suffer. I know about the violence that women live with in Juárez. I want to wipe away this pain with the love I have for you and your children. When you go and see other doctors and gynecologists, demand respect. Demand that they explain everything to you. Your bodies are sacred. I want to serve you for ever, however my community needs me to come back with everything that I have learned. You will forever be in my heart. I will serve women for the rest of my life with the memories of all the births I have witnessed. I love you all so much.

* A community member on World Pulse, J. Buchanan, was gracious enough to translate my letter. Thanks!

Veronica Espinal and Olivia Rose

17 May

veronica and baby girl

“What is motherhood? It’s a reflection of me every time I look at her. Amazed by all she can do and all she has yet to conquer. Motherhood, well it’s knowing that your body created life, it was a shelter and safe heaven for one of God’s most precious gifts. Motherhood is indescribable in words. It’s the love, happiness, fears, pride, and astonishment you feel. It’s knowing that every action you take now affects both of us. Motherhood to me is like a love I have never felt before. A smile that reaches the depths of my soul and reminds me of the love that helped create Olivia Rose!”

*I met Veronica in college and we have remained connect ever since. I am a huge supporter of her journey as a mother, wife and all-around strong fierce woman. I was also able to share the “Greek” life experience with her and was her neighbor for a while in the dorms. I love her so much and hope her blessings continue to roll in!

Johanna De Los Santos, Malik and Simone

16 May

johanna

“Motherhood has taught me that we can forget that we have been designed with an infinite capacity to love, to nurture, to nourish life. Even when we thinks we can’t give anymore, it’s probably because we are using our heads. When we zone out and use our hearts – when we let go, accept, surrender, simplify, and open to a divine purpose, we can channel the infinite through our bodies and spirits.”

* I met Johanna during my time as a doula a couple of years ago. The story of how this wonderful woman came to be a sister friend is one that I replay constantly in my head. It’s one of those serendipitous meetings that would be silly to ignore its importance. I am honored to be a part of her motherhood journey and have her undying support for my midwifery journey. She is doing great things for youth in NYC and I can only hope to continue to watch her family blossom and grow!