Knowledge is Power

My name is Grace Garcia and I’ve been a young parent ambassador for the past 16 months. As my time is up I have had a chance to reflect on my journey.

When I first started the program I believed that I knew exactly what all young parents were like and what they needed because I was a young parent. I believed I knew everything there was to know about the young parent community but over time I realized I was wrong. Not all parents were on food stamps and not all single parents were mothers and not everyone needed to go to college to be successful.

I also went into the program believing that I had made a mistake by becoming a mom and I thought my story would prevent teens from having babies. But my whole view on teen pregnancy was wrong. I associated unplanned and unwanted pregnancy to teen pregnancy and there is a difference that I have come to know.

Being part of the ambassadors program helped me to become aware of the issues my community faced and how these issues directly affect me. For example, racism was something I believed didn’t exist  anymore but now I know how greatly it has impacted me and how racism still exist not just between people but also in the schools systems and in government institutions. This has changed my perception of life and it is a constant reminder when I step outside my home in a “bad” neighborhood.

When I started this program I thought I had made a mistake when I had my child at 19 and even though he made my life better I felt a lot of pressure to say the opposite. I almost felt lucky because I wasn’t like the other teens that were made to think and say that having a child ruined their life. Before I associated unplanned and unwanted pregnancy to teen pregnancy and this was not necessarily true. I love being a mom and I learned that it’s ok!

I have to thank every person who I have come across on this program especially the ones who made me smile. Thank you to the people who supported me during my toughest times. And I have to thank the program for teaching me so much that school and my community failed to teach me after all “Knowledge is power” and I look forward to whatever great things life has next for me.

 

Breastfeeding Helped Me Too

IMG_9850 (1)Since the moment I decided to continue with my pregnancy with my son, Christian I knew that I wanted to breast feed. I liked the idea of being able to transfer my immunity to my small baby who would otherwise be exposed to so many illnesses. I also was very worried that if I didn’t breastfeed, I would have to spend a lot of money on formula and I just didn’t want to deal with the extra  headache of struggling to buy formula.

Around my third trimester I was 100% sure that I wanted to breastfeed until my son was 6 months even though I heard that breastfeeding would make my “boobs sag.” To me that wasn’t an issue. After I gave birth I told my nurse that I wanted to breastfeed and if she could teach me. The first time was really painful because my nipples hurt a lot  all while my uterus was contracting. I had a really hard time getting my son to latch on but every time it was feeding time I would attempt to latch him on first and if I couldn’t I would call the nurse and tell her to help me out. Thanks to her I learned a lot tricks that helped me out when I was struggling to get him to latch on.

Because I had some complications after giving birth I stayed in the hospital for 4 days and by the third day I was breastfeeding without any help! When I went home I rented a pump for $75 per month and it came in handy every time my breasts were full. It took about 2 weeks for my nipples to get use to breastfeeding and eventually the pain went away. After those 2 weeks I found breastfeeding to be a breeze. It felt really natural and it was an awesome way for me to bound with my son. I also didn’t have to get up at 4 am and make bottles which I loved!!

I was able to get a pump from the WIC office and I ended up returning  the other pump that I was renting. All though it was a  cheaper version and made a lot of noise when I used it, it got the job done. I breastfed exactly until my son was one year old and I saved so much money because I didn’t have to buy formula.

My son only got sick once during his first year and I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with ear infections or colds when he was very little. Breastfeeding  also helped me shed all the extra baby weight I gained and I was a lot lighter then before I was pregnant.

I enjoyed eating everything and I was still able to loose weight .  It was also a really great way for my son and I to bound and I honestly wish I was still breastfeeding my almost 2 year old! Now that my son has been of the breast for 7 months my breasts still are in good shape! I think a lot of people think their boobs  will change dramatically if they breastfeed but mine didn’t change too much. They are a little different but the benefits outweigh  the small change my breast went through. I’m glad I was able to protect my son for a lot of illnesses his first year and that I was able to benefit from it and loose so much weight!

The Support I Needed to Help My Son

My son was born 9.14 oz when he was born! He was a giant baby and because of his weight I believe it made it so much easier for him to sit up and crawl and stand up at an earlier age. He was a really strong baby and because of that he even took his first steps at 9 months!

He was also was very good at exploring the world around him. He never really found interest in his toys but rather in simple things like a shoe box or a remote control. I loved watching him be so curious because I knew that in that little head there were many many new connections being made in that tiny little brain. But around the time he was 15 months I really began to worry about him.

My son was at the age where he should have had at least 4 words in his vocabulary and he didn’t . He didn’t say mama or papa. He would also still cry like a 9 month old baby who couldn’t express his wants. When I mentioned this to his doctor she recommended that he get tested to see if he would qualify for early intervention and it turned out that he actually did need early intervention for his speech delay.

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Although it’s normal for kids to have a delay in speech it made me a little sad. Would my son not speak until he was 3? Would he have the same learning disabilities as I did when I was a child? These were all questions that I had. After finding out that my son had a delay I worked a lot harder to make sure he was getting the stimulation he needed to speak. I would repeat words to him over and over making sure I said it slow enough for him to hear the pronunciation.

He started getting speech therapy and even then he said nothing. I became frustrated because after weeks of trying to get to speak he still didn’t say anything. But one day, I went to pick him up  day care and his teacher said that he had been calling me all day, “mommy” . I felt my heart warm up a little bit and I thought it was the cutest thing and he has not stopped repeating ” mommy” over 30 times.

Today at 18 months he knows how to say mas (more), car, chu chu (train), leche (milk), and of course mommy. Even though I’m still waiting in him to say more words I’m glad he has progressed. I believe that reading books to him and having conversations with him has really helped him to start speaking. I also turned everything into a pointing game where I point to something and then name it with a high pitch voice. I have no doubt in my mind that he will one day be able to speak just fine. Until then I will continue to work with his speech therapist to make sure I am doing all the right things.

Having Young Mom Support

About a couple of months ago I met young mothers from the YPA program who were my age and who loved and cared for their children but who  also struggled just like me. I never thought I would get to know and love them as much as I do now. We have all seen each other at  our highs and at our lows. Being able to share with them the good and the bad has allowed me to be more comfortable with them. At the beginning of the program I had just broken up with my sons father and I was feeling  crappy. I was  known to go back to him many times but these ladies indirectly made me feel worthy and they taught me to  have self respect and to walk away from the very man who was still upset at the fact I had his child. Being part of this group helped me to love my decision of becoming a mother even if that meant no one else did. It took a couple of months for me to stand up to everyone and let them know that i loved my child regardless of our  situation. I no longer felt bad for having a child or being a single mother.I learned to embrace and love the life i am living.

I have a group of powerful strong minded women who encourage me to stand up for my son and I. These women have also made me realize the meaning of true friends.  Most of my friends dumped me after having a child but these ladies have shown so much love that I stopped caring for my old friends.  I have enjoyed laughing with them and  I’m glad i have people I can talk to all day about baby poop and little baby attitudes. I especially love when our kids get together because it reminds me that our kids are what brought us together in the first place. I will admit that I push all of them away at times but deep down I care so much for these women who have given me so much hope that I never got from everyone. They are my support system and I honestly don’t know where I would be mentally and emotionally if it wasn’t for them.

College: Excitement and Fear

Two weeks before I started my college semester I was a very excited yet afraid. I knew exactly what to expect… long nights, hundreds of vocabulary words to memorize, and stressful days. Despite all that I was excited and ready for it all. Each semester got me closer to my dreams of becoming a nurse.

Just when I had thought I had everything ready to begin my semester, the day care my son would attend still did not have the daycare voucher. After calling Boston Child Care Choices and after showing up many times to their office I finally had the voucher. A couple of days later  i realized i only had 11 credits. I needed 12 credits to keep the day care voucher.

As the semester went on I found myself going crazy looking for some community service work so I could make up for that one credit I was missing. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse my son got really sick. He was hospitalized and I spent most of my days staying at home and taking care of him. I missed a lot of classes and I fell behind on my school work. At that moment I questioned if going back to college was the right decision. I felt overwhelmed and felt guilty for my son being sick. I cried many many times because I wanted to do great in all my classes but every time I thought nothing more could go wrong, it did. I felt like I wasn’t emotionally ready to deal with everything that was being thrown at me and do excellent in school.

Even though I wanted to drop out I told myself to just finish the semester on a good note. If I still did not want to continue my college education after this semester, it was ok with me. As I attempted to catch up on all my work I found myself sleeping only 4 hrs each night and very stressed. I gave up a lot of my personal time so that I could study. I was really busy from then on and after 2 months of searching for community service I found an organization that allowed me to volunteer with them.

Thanks to them I was able to continue getting the child care voucher. Currently my days are usually stressful as I am studying for my last final and finishing a couple of projects. I was able to catch up and get excellent grades. As the end of the semester is approaching I am amazed at the strength I have to fight for my dreams even when there were so many obstacles I had to overcome. Despite the tears and all the stress I have decided to continue to further my education and I’m ready for whatever is left to come my way.

What Being Healthy Means To Me

To me, being healthy means that every part of your body is functioning  the way it is supposed to be. In order to do your part in keeping your body as healthy as it can be, you need to treat your body right and give it the nourishment it needs to function. Following your doctors orders can help you to do your best at maintaining your body’s good health so that in the future you wont suffer from any diseases that could have been prevented.

Being healthy also includes having a good and stable mental state. If a person suffers from any psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression, it can cause a person to not enjoy or live life the way others do. Some times psychological conditions can effect your body in many negative ways. My definition of being healthy has not changed but instead the knowledge that I have acquired has enhanced my understanding of what it means to be healthy.

Before, I thought being healthy only referred to the body being in good condition but I never considered the minds health. Now I know that being healthy takes a lot of work and that there is more to being healthy and its not just eating all your vegetables. I’ve learned that your lifestyle, the environment you live in, and the way you your mind functions has a major impact on your health. Some health conditions are out of your control but living a healthy life style and having a healthy mind set can enable you to deal with any conditions you may face.

I Thought My Life Was Over

I just recently found a quote that I fell in love with. If you follow me on twitter then you probably already know what quote I’m talking about because I always tweet it or use it for a photo caption. The  quote is ” Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” I initially thought about myself when I heard this quote and I’m pretty sure many young moms can relate to it.

I can personally relate to this quote because when I announced my pregnancy, I was told my life would be over if i decided to go through with it. I was constantly reminded of all the negative things that were associated with being a teen parent. I literally thought my world was ending until I meet my little Christian.

After months of caring for him I couldn’t comprehend how I lived all my life without him! He brings so much happiness to me and my family’s life! I was just like the caterpillar who thought my world was going to end when I had him but it turned out that my world did not end! Instead I became like the butterfly, a whole new beautiful being! I want teen parents and young parents out there to know that having a child doesn’t ruin your life. If I could choose a quote that represents young parents to the world I would choose this one.

I Didn’t Make a Mistake

Grace - ChristianMy name is Grace. I’m a 20 year old mother to the world’s most beautiful, energetic, grey-eyed baby boy named Christian. He will be 10 months on May 3rd! Yay Christian! He is the reason why I smile every day because he reminds me how beautiful life can be! I have learned to see the beauty in every one and everything. He inspires me to be the best I can be in every way.

Because of him I hold my head high and do everything I say I want to accomplish.  Having him at 19 made me grow up very fast but because of him I have a dream, which is to become a nurse. I love being a mom even in the most difficult times.

I hope to one day be an inspiration to other young mothers like me. I want to prove to the world that I didn’t make a mistake and I especially want to prove to the world that I didn’t ruin my life! Yes, it’s a daily struggle but I honestly think that my son changed my life in a positive way. One day every one  will understand my decision to have a child but right now I’m still working on getting my life together while enjoying every moment of it!

Grace is a participant of the Young Parent Ambassador Program at the Center for Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.