“Who wants some cake?” My friend, Adelyn Ruiz-Lopez, asked.
“I am so full,” I said with a laugh.
“But it’s Tres Leches cake!” she quipped with a smile.
“Tres Leches cake!” Our heads turned and gazed longingly at the delicious light and fluffy cake.
“Well, maybe one slice,” I replied.
Now in our thirties, my college friends and I gathered together for a brunch reunion at my friend Adelyn’s house in the east coast of the USA. My three-year-old daughter Lily was laughing and playing with Adelyn’s one-year-old daughter Evie. The two youths were covered in bubbles, laughing and sprawled out on the floor playing with Elmo toys. It gave me a momentary reprise to enjoy a mimosa and reminisce and chat with my friends. Despite the darkness happening in our country, this brunch was a unique perspective, about love, friendship and family.
I am a second-generation immigrant who grew up with the brave and courageous stories of my grandparents who immigrated to this country from Europe to start a better life for themselves and their families. I am the lucky one, being born, here, in the USA in Long Island, NY I didn’t have to go through the hardships my ancestors faced getting here. However, I have been horrified and heartbroken about the new Trump administration policy that has been separating children from their parents at the Texas border in order to curb the influx of immigrants migrating to this country illegally.
Many families being detained are seeking asylum due to gang related violence and political unrest in their home countries in Central America. After having gone through hell of escaping persecution in their home countries, they encountered a new and never imagined hell – the fear and utter despair of being separated from their children with little or no hope of being reunited.
As a mother, I am appalled that these young children, including babies, are being detained in cages and tent cities. Even with a Federal Judge ruling against the Trump administration’s separation policy at the border and 17 states suing the Federal Government, the Trump administration continues to fight to continue with these inhumane practices, with approximately 2,300 children still separated from their families since May.
Despite the happy reunion at our college brunch, there was also that sad reality of what was happening in our country. I was fortunate enough to have amazing friends to help open my eyes about what it’s like to immigrate to this country at a young age. My friend Adelyn emigrated from the Dominican Republic with her family when she was 10 years old. In 1991, her dad lost his job as a production manager at one of the biggest oil refineries in the country.
They took their life savings and decided to come to America. Adelyn’s parents, along with their four daughters, came to NY on a Visitor Visa. Adelyn said that her family was one of the fortunate ones to be in a position where they could obtain a visa which is often hard to obtain and often unavailable to poorer families in many third world countries. Fortunately, Adelyn and her family had a path to citizenship through her grandfather who became a US citizen and petitioned for the family to get permanent residency once they were here.
Adelyn’s father, who had been an executive in the Dominican Republic, now worked at a factory and sometimes held three jobs at one time to make ends meet. One of the things he is most proud of is that despite all the hardships that he had to endure, he never asked for help from the US government to support his family. That is a big source of pride for him. He, along with his wife, worked hard, paid their taxes and saved enough money from their jobs to send all their children to Catholic School and their hard work helped create a better life for their children.
In this current political climate, it is easy to misunderstand the plight of the majority of immigrant families trying to come to the United States. Adelyn’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Lopez, came to this country for very different reasons than Adelyn and her family. Mrs. Lopez fled from a country, Nicaragua, where people were being persecuted, starved and killed due to the change in regimes at the time. The majority of immigrants being held at the US border right now are primarily families escaping situations as hostile as those that Mrs. Lopez described. Families seeking asylum need help!
Adelyn took a deep breath and said, “America was a beacon of hope for all people looking to create a better tomorrow for their families. We once were a country that gave asylum to people who were oppressed and in need of protection. Now we are a country that would rather turn a blind eye to the plight of the suffering.”
As I sat and listened to these stories, I realized that it is through listening to these stories that these mothers and children and families are not just another statistic, another “Immigrant” or attempt by this administration to de-humanize the term. It is through these stories that we realize these people are human and not so different than you and me. They are our friends. They are our family. They are women and mothers I share a Tres Leches cake with during brunch in Corona Queens. They are people I share my American dream with.
I looked down to see my daughter Lily crying and holding out her arms to me. I picked her up and, after a hug and a kiss, she continued playing with Evie. For that moment, she just needed her mother. I looked down at the two beautiful, innocent children- two innocent children that could now be in a cage in Texas waiting for judgement, waiting for their mother to hold them. Waiting for their mother to hold them and tell them everything was going to be alright.
I realize that it is not through hate, but through LOVE that we will persevere as a country. Together we can work with this administration to help find a more humane and just immigration policy. May we hold out our hands and our hearts to these mothers, fathers and children and help fight to stop this inhumane separation of families at our borders. I think about these mothers and realize in another life, I could be the mother praying for someone to fight for me when all hope is lost. I could be the one on the other side, my child ripped from my arms, praying for a new and better life.
I put myself in their shoes, and they are the reason why my daughter and I marched this weekend.
On Saturday, June 30th, people joined to march throughout the United States and around the world to demand an end to the separation of families at the U.S. border. For more information on the march and what can be done next, go to the Families Belong Together website.
Melissa Kuch is a World Mom from New York, USA and author of the young adult fantasy and adventure series, The Hypothesis of Giants.
Photo credit of “Keep Families Together Sign” to Jill Ion. This post has a creative commons attribution license.
Photo credit of the author’s daughter at the Families Belong Together March in Huntington, NY to Melissa Kuch.
In my home country of Brazil, the Zika virus has been on the minds of pregnant mothers. As a matter of fact, I’ve even had the virus myself. Zika is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, and more recently, there has been evidence that it can be transmitted sexually or from mother to child during pregnancy. Authorities believe the virus entered Brazil during the FIFA World Cup soccer games in 2014, setting off the outbreak in Latin America. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, almost 200,000 probable cases occurred from January to mid-August in 2016. 51,7% of these cases were confirmed.
At a first glance, the symptoms are not all that frightening: rashes, fever, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headaches that go away after a few days without hospitalization. When I had the fever (I wasn’t pregnant at the time) it was uncomfortable, and I had painful headaches. However, it was over in just three days, without any special treatment. 80% of people infected with Zika don’t develop any symptoms at all, thus a large number of cases go unreported. Pregnant women are at the greatest risk from Zika due to the effects it can have on their unborn babies, such as microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than normal.
Danielle Paes Leme, a lawyer from the state of Pernambuco, discovered that she was pregnant in the midst of the Zika crisis.
“When I first found out I was pregnant it was tough. Several of my friends were getting sick and I felt the disease getting closer and closer. For a while I felt quite tense thinking that I might catch Zika and that my baby would suffer the consequences for the rest of his life. I couldn’t sleep, I cried all the time, I had nightmares and I even thought of moving to another state”.
Nevertheless, Danielle reports that after the first trimester she began to feel calmer. “I tried not to let fear affect me as much. I did what I could to protect myself and I no longer thought of moving. For those who are pregnant I would say to be optimistic and believe that everything will turn out fine – and to try to enjoy pregnancy overall”.
According to a recent publication of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, thirteen lines of action are being carried out to combat Zika and other diseases spread by the Aedes mosquito, including the distribution of diagnosis kits, meetings with specialists and government officials, improvements to diagnosis and case reporting, and increased funds for research. There has also been a massive effort to educate the population and eliminate the mosquito, which breeds in still or stagnant water. For example, 220,000 troops and 270,000 health workers are visiting homes throughout my country in search of possible breeding grounds.
Additionally, pregnant women in Brazil have been instructed to wear long clothes, use safe insect repellent, and seek out proper pre-natal care. It has also been recommended that pregnant women planning to travel to Latin America reconsider their trip.
“My sincere hope”, says Danielle, “is that this disease does not spread to other places. However, if it does, people must be educated on how fighting the Aedes mosquito is everyone’s responsibility”.
The increased risk of microcephaly from a possible link to the rampant Zika virus has brought new concerns to Brazilian mothers-to-be, but we are hoping the actions put into place to control the virus will put a stop to the spreading of the disease and protect more babies from birth defects.
Have you done anything differently after first hearing about the Zika virus, such as delaying pregnancy or cancelling travel plans?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Hamza Butt. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
I want to start out by saying that this is not some sort of fat shaming post – much to the contrary.
Not many years ago I weighed 67 kg (about 147 lbs.) – what is considered to be the “ideal” weight for my height. Now I weigh 105 kg (231 lbs.). Yes, my weight fluctuated back and forth over the years, but I had never weighed so much, not even during my pregnancies.
In fact, people often ask whether my weight gain had anything to do with my pregnancies. “No”, I answer, “I began gaining more weight after my youngest child turned one”. “So what happened?” is often the next question.
Having been the slave of an eating disorder for a long 26 years, I have a lot of answers for that one. Analyzing the motives behind my overeating and binging episodes took up a great portion of my life when I was trying to cure myself, but that is the theme of a sequel to this post.
The fact is, my gaining weight, now that I look back, was actually an important step in rethinking my relationship with food and with my own body.
What I wanted to share today was a handful of things I learned after gaining close to 40 kg (over 80 lbs).
It did take a while for people to notice and start to comment. After all, I am a very tall, big boned woman who likes to wear loose, comfy clothing. But after a certain point people started to comment. A lot.
“What is happening? Have you been to a doctor?”
“You have to work on your self-esteem!”
“Are you pregnant again?”
“Are you absolutely sure you’re not pregnant?”
“You need to try this recipe/diet/exercise program.”
“You need to take care of yourself!”
“Be careful, your husband might start cheating on you if you don’t get your act together!”
And on and on and on…
Most people meant well, especially close friends and family. However, I would stare at the mirror and think I didn’t look that bad. No, I didn’t like having a protuberant tummy for the first non-pregnant time in my life (nothing against tummies, but I have always been more pear shaped). But other than that I thought I looked quite good. Medically I am fine too – after looking at the results of a whopping 26 tests, my doctor said my blood work could have been that of a 15-year-old.
However, other stuff does bother me a lot, the first being the assumptions people started to make, well-meaning or not. Many assume that being fat means you have health issues or very low self-esteem.
Another annoyance is trying to find clothes. For most of my life – even when I was skinny – I have had trouble finding clothes (and shoes!) that fit me, as I am a tall and big boned woman in a region where most ladies are not this large. Now it is so much worse and soooooooo much more expensive, which always feels like I am being punished for some reason.
At some point I began to read about the different movements that have been sparking up around the globe to celebrate women of any size and shape (men too, but there is just so much more pressure on women). I discovered that among all of the studies linking body fat to health issues, there are several that have not found such a clear link. But these are not given nearly as much attention by the media.
All in all, health and body size is a very personal issue that is linked to a huge number of variables. There are also studies that have linked dieting patterns to eating disorders, and teenage girls are at the greatest risk.
So, in the midst of all this, what are the dangers of being a fat mother?
To me the greatest dangers of being a fat mother are forgetting to love my body no matter what, trying to change it to conform to the world’s standards, and obsessing over weight-related issues instead of truly enjoying my life.
I want my children, and my daughter especially, to know that they are worthy of love regardless of what their bodies might look like, and I must model that example as best as possible.
I said this would not be a fat shaming post, but it is not advocating fat either. It is advocating joy, self-love and happiness, no matter what size, shape or state your body is. People (me included, for a long time) tend to think that if you love your body as it is you won’t have the motivation to change. Now I see that not loving my body regardless of anything else only makes things worse, and for a long time only made me want to eat more. Also, for a long time I thought avoiding my body (as in avoiding the mirror) was a good enough substitute for loving it.
There is so much more to say, but for now that is a small piece of my story with my body.
And you? How do you relate to your body? Tell us your story in the comments!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Alan Levine. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
A part of me wants a fun, carefree life
A part of me says, not possible anymore
A part of me says it’s because of the kids
A part of me says there were excuses before
A part of me wants my body of so many years ago
A part of me says it’s possible no more
A part of me says I didn’t like it anyway
A part of me says, time to start loving it evermore
A part of me wants a successful career
A part of me says it matters no more
A part of me says it’s just my livelihood
A part of me says, I’ll soon miss the toys on the floor
A part of me wants to follow my dreams
A part of me says, I remember no more
A part of me wants to throw everything up in the air
A part of me says it’s all an inner war
What inner conflicts do you face as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Ian Burt. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Many women nowadays have to split their time between a full time job and their kids (and their husband, and taking care of their home, and and and…). Another group of women is able to work from home, at least part of the time, or to work some at home and some in the office. If you, like me, are in this second group, some days it might seem like there are two women chatting in your head, the Professional working mom and the Homemaker. For me, a typical work day outside of the home goes more or less like this…
Professional – Oh my gosh it is so great to be able to get some work done in peace! I love to work!
Homemaker – The kids are growing up so fast… soon they will be teens and won’t even want to look at you!
Professional – The kids need to see their mother working and doing something she likes.
Homemaker – Come on, don’t be cynical, you don’t even like your job that much! It’s just a way to escape the kids a bit!
Professional (ignoring the Homemaker) – If only I could work outside of home for more days I could get sooooo much done!! My career would skyrocket! Maybe I should put the three-year old in play school next semester. Imagine, working in peace five mornings a week!?
Homemaker – Oh yeah? And where would you find the extra money? What about the car pool? You can barely find rides for two to come home from school, three would be worse! And he is so little…
Professional – Oh no! I can’t believe it’s time to go home already!! I didn’t do ten percent of what I needed to!! Ahhhhh! Another sleepless night awaits me!! I am so tired! I need chocolate… Sob…
On other days, a typical day at home goes like this…
Homemaker (at the park) – Oh, look at them. They are so cute and cuddly. I love being a mom. I can’t believe the youngest is already three. I will miss having little kids around. Should I have another baby?
Professional – Are you out of your mind?????
Homemaker (ignoring the Professional working mom) – If only I could afford to stay at home all the time… And then, when they started to grow older, I could work in what I really like. I would also have time to take better care of the house and to exercise and get in shape again.
Professional – My job is stable. I can’t earn enough money to raise kids doing only what you like. That’s so naïve.
Homemaker – It’s so peaceful here with them. If only I could stay at home in peace and not need to hear you worry about work and deadlines and…
Professional – Oh no! That deadline! You need to drop them off at grandma’s now!!
Homemaker – You know they only stay at grandma’s once a week max. Otherwise they get stressed out. You can work tonight.
Professional – I need to sleep!! I already worked last night! You know I can’t work all night two days in a row! I am not twenty anymore!
Homemaker – On that we agree! We get so crabby when we don’t sleep enough. It’s not good for the kids. Maybe you should stop working nights and work only during the weekend when they can stay with their father.
Professional – No!!!!! I have so much to do!!!!! Weekends are not enough.
And so it goes….
And you… Do you work from home, from an office or both? How do you find balance? Please share your story below.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil. Photo credit to the author.
In an interview, a renowned academic in my field once said that when he was young he was certain about two things: 1) he didn’t want to teach, and 2) he didn’t want to write too much. He went on to teach in several famous universities and ended up writing 20 books. I found this very funny because although I have always loved to write, I always knew I didn’t want to teach, but I have been doing it for several years now.
This is something that comes to mind when I try to respond to some questions my husband and I often ask ourselves, as I listed in Part I of this post. Are we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Or are we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Have we left our ideals aside in exchange for modern, middle class comforts? Are we still being true to our dreams? Above all, how can we be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing a decent life for our children? And what is a “decent life”? Can’t we live a simpler life? The list goes on. (more…)