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

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“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.”

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*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!

Monica Franco and Lianna

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“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.”

 

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*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

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“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!”

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*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

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“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.

A Letter to the Women of Juárez

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

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“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

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“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!

I Wrote This For You – My Dear Unborn Children

My loves,

I have met you so many times in my dreams, in visions and in the eyes of those who wanted to be your father. I know what your voices sound like: the way a rainbow would if it giggled. You are loved beyond belief. You are deeply desired. I often stand in front of a mirror and puff out my lower abdomen to what it would be like at 20 weeks gestation. The fundus of my uterus would be reaching my umbilicus, becoming visible to everyone that I am with child. At this point, I could cup you in the palm of my hand. I’m pretty sure I will have to fight not to midwife myself and just enjoy being pregnant. I’m even more sure that the joy will exude out of me. I think about you every single day. I use the time you have granted me to get everything ready for your arrival as much as I can. I can hardly wait to see you.

I hope I remember all the things I tell pregnant women to do: breathe, enjoy this time in life, hold you often, love and pamper myself. I look forward to seeing your footprint kick me from the inside. I will revel in the fact that you are the only human being that knows what my heart sounds like from the inside. I pray that the fear that is quite natural for pregnant women will not overshadow my birthing experience. I can already imagine putting my hands at my yoni and feeling your crowning. I want to catch you myself and bring you up and on my bare chest. I hope your father’s hands are there supporting your entry into the world. I know my midwife will be there watching that all goes well and having a trusted professional with me will allow me to be fully present for you. I imagine that I will cry. I think I will sob for hours and probably for the rest of my life. To be with child has been a dream since I was a little girl. I desire being a mother more than the long list of dreams I want to achieve in this lifetime. Because of your anticipated arrival, I push myself even more to continue to grow and transform.

I will write this letter in the walls of my uterus so that by the time we meet, you will know how much I loved you, eternities before I breathed you into my womb. You are my long awaited precious children. I’ve waited so many years to meet you. I will fill your life with music, hold your hand and teach you the rhythm etched into your hips as the drums play from the radio I placed by your bed…teach you how to salsa your way across dance floors and live in the moment of 16 bars as you bop your head to the last of the realest emcees.

There are books I have written, stories I have told that I will recite for you countless times; with your head on my lap, I will weave my hopes with my fingers into the curls on your head so your dreams are blessed with all I pray for you to aspire. I love you like this heart that races with excitement every time the thought of your presence crosses my mind. I hold my womb and close my eyes, keeping your home sacred until you are conceived…

…Because I have conceived you years before your anticipated arrival and I get butterflies with just the thought of the possibilities.

I wonder what you will look like…if your eyes have stars embedded in them, and if they are deep chocolate brown laughing eyes. And what kind of melody your laugh imitates when you run around my legs, your laughter the joy of my ears as you throw your head back and scream with delight in the reckless abandon only a child and souls that never age know well.

Everything I will ever do and have done from the day I decided I wanted to be your mother is for you. I metamorphosized time and time again, continuing to extract the remaining impurities my shortcomings have left on me, working my alchemy until I am golden…just to make my self worthy to cradle your life in these hands…these hands I hope are strong enough to keep you safe. I waited this long so that the man worthy of being your father was selected with time and care. I think of my own parents and take the lessons they taught me in what love is and what love is not. I will try just as hard as they did to get it right. I know your father will be doing the same because we promised before you came that we would cultivate you and break cycles that we no longer need to pass on.

I will never ask you for anything but the smile that creeps on your face when you watch shooting stars with me on full moon nights. I am aware one day you will turn and run from me but I will always wait for you. Consider all offenses you’ll commit forgiven in exchange for your understanding of why sometimes I will have to raise my voice; I only want you to be the best human being you can possibly be. I will tattoo the first time you called me “Mami”, your first step and first finger-paint into the crevices of my wrinkles so that when I sing you to sleep and you reach up for my face, the pride I will always feel for you is evident in the lines around my tired eyes. And as you become the man, the woman you will be after growing out of dolls and trucks into training bras and newly grown Adam’s apples, the tears streaming down my face will only be gratitude that I was allowed to be blessed with the gift of your life in mine.

You will quickly notice that your momma is a mover and shaker. I am praying to give birth to you sooner than later so I can keep the promise I made you a long time ago: I fully intend on leaving this earth better than I found it. As you grow up, I will take more time speaking out against the injustices in the world and tirelessly working towards solutions that you can inherit. I am aware I am simply borrowing this world from you. As gently as I handle the newborns I receive is how I hope to handle your future. I look forward to you watching me speak at conferences and have you strapped to me as I move in the world assisting women and families.

And then I will read you this letter, the one I imprinted into your skin the moment you became my most precious children and never ask you for anything except the promise to live every single moment of your life beautifully.

Love,

Mami