Breastfeeding; Any Parent’s Proud Accomplishment

marinel breastfeeding

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Zaymarí, I couldn’t help to feel overwhelmed but excited at the same time because it meant I can set goals as a parent, for example: having a natural vaginal birth, breastfeed for at least a year, becoming more organized with the baby’s things, among many others. Having my first baby meant that my life was going to change and for the better. It was my opportunity to raise one of my own and make decisions that for the first time didn’t require MY parent’s permission. And so, I did it! I had a natural vaginal birth at age 19, giving birth to a 8 lb 10oz baby. Amazed until this day that I did it which was in no way easy but it was something my heart desired to experience and with the help of my family members in the room, my husband, my wonderful midwife, and the nurses, I was able to do so. But that was only the beginning…

I would have to say that thus far, my greatest accomplishment as a parent is having breastfed my daughter for 11 months exclusively and a year and half of weaning. The peer pressure I had to supplement was one of the biggest challenges I had to face while breastfeeding; Coming from a family that believes that a baby only cries because she/he did not have a satisfying feed. But guess what… I taught both them and myself a lesson. I helped them understand that a breastfeeding is normal, takes time, patience, and I was perfectly able to nourish my daughter without the help of formula. And taught myself to never give up and to listen to my heart and my desires as an individual and in this case, parent. I cried many times because I began to believe I couldn’t do it when my daughter wanted to nurse two times in an hour, when she had nights in which she couldn’t sleep and the only thing that comforted her was nursing or when my breast felt so empty at times and I had a crying baby to feed. I didn’t have a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) to call or someone with experience to help me and support me in that way… I had to find the courage and strength from within and I became my own CLC (no pun intended since now I am one lol).  I am grateful for those that did support and respected my decision like my husband and my mom did; they were a great part of my motivation to keep going. Now, everyone’s proud of me and they talk about it all the time how I was able to breastfeed for so long. My cousins look at me as an example of resiliencE and perseverance and now I am able to help them reach their breastfeeding goals.

Letting Go of Fear

Erika PictureMy 2 year old son, and my 11 month old daughter started school in September 2017. I got interested in taking my children to head start when someone told me about it during Steps. I decided to put my children at a head start close to where we live. I had to go through a process, and get them on a long wait list. I signed them up in July 2017. In that same month I got a phone call saying my son got into school, and was going to start school in September. I asked about my daughter, and they said there was no space for her, but a couple minutes later I got called back, and the same lady told me that my daughter was also accepted. That made my day. Although I was not working and my kids got into school, I was happy because I had goals for my children. Some that I could accomplish, some that I could not. My son needed other children his age to be with, and learn from, and they both needed a routine. I was so happy that I had no negative thoughts, and was ready for them to start school.

When September came along, we were ready for the first day of school. For first timers, parents had to attend two days of transition. The first day I went to the school two different times one for my son and one for my daughter; 2 hours each. It was hard because I had to do both while being pregnant, but I managed. I got to meet the teachers, and teacher assistants. There’s two teachers for every class. The next day which was a Thursday, it was also transition time but parents dropped off the kids stayed an hour then, went upstairs with the rest of the parents (to socialize, eat, and wait two hours until it was time to get the kids). On Friday was a full day and parents could not stay. From then on it got real.

My kids were not adjusting too well. I would drop them off, and they would both cry really bad. I learned the first day that I had to say bye, see you later, and that I was coming back to my children; I could not sneak away like I thought so they would not cry. The teacher let me know I had to let them know I was leaving, but that I would be back. My daughter’s teacher also advised me until they got use to school I should go pick them up early and that I did. Weeks went by and they still were not adjusting. They cried, no nap time, and no eating. I was really worried especially when my son told me he did not want to go to school over and over. Scary thoughts started coming to my head. I did not know what to do, and my mom’s opinions were not helping.

I was not trying to get them to attend school so that I can have the day to myself, but for a couple of reasons. I wanted them to grow, and be better. Get use to school, be able to go through a routine, socialize with kids their age, and learn different things I was not teaching them (because education does start at home but sometimes you as a parent do not know everything). As time went on my children were adjusting. My daughter adjusted faster than my son in less than a month. My son was still getting use to school, and having a routine. He was worrying me the most because during nap time he would cry really loud for hours. While crying he would yell my first name, so every adult that came around knew my name just didn’t know who I was. I was told by a couple of people “You’re the famous Erika”. That’s when I knew that the crying was bad.

So I took what I’ve been learning at a parenting class I go to called Raising with Love, and used it on my son. I decided to sit my 2 year old down, and have a conversation with him about school (my concerns and his teacher’s concerns). I took about 10 minutes to explain to him in a way he could understand. I told him that he should sleep in school, and behave because that was going to be beneficial for him. I told him he had to be a good boy because he was one. I told him that he had to sleep in school so that when I went to go pick him up he would be able to come home eat and play. I also told him that he had to behave with the other children at school, and he had to be gentle with the other kids and his little sister. I guess my little talk with him worked because he changed. Now he naps sometimes, and sometimes he does not but lays in the bed (without crying). He’s eating some things, and is being more gentle. His teacher has been telling me that the talk worked, and that he has been having excellent days. I feel so much better now, and am very happy with my children. I love that they are doing good in school, and are behaving because that was driving me crazy, and all I want is for them to do good (that is also why I’m taking parenting classes so it can help me too). Now I will be getting more involved in my children’s school because I know they can handle me being there because they are doing good in school. I do anything for them.

My English Journey and the Journey to Motherhood

Like many in the United States, I am also an immigrant. I know what it to miss where you came from, struggle to learn a new language, fit in, and be discriminated against.

marinel photo

My parents decided that the family (I came when I was 10 years old); was coming to the US in order to provide us opportunity for a better life and future; however, that’s very hard to understand when you’re being laughed at because you barely speak English and your struggles have just begun. As a parent now, I now understand that my parents only wanted the best for us and that life is about taking chances and making the decisions that at the beginning might not seem right but the end result is better than expected.

Learning English was not easy; I was in school from 6:30 am to 7:45 pm; I had six classes and a 7th period for enrichment which other kids got to use it to play,I however, had to stay in a room with a tutor learning how to pronounce my vowels and stay after school to practice my pronunciation. I would get home, eat, and begin to do homework with five translating dictionaries and both of my parents until two, three in the morning and wake up again to go to school. There was not a day I didn’t cry; I wanted to go back home and never come back. It took a year and half for me to perfect my English but I did it with the help of my parents that stayed all night long helping me do my work and to my tutors and my teachers that dedicated the time to also guide me and help me perfect my English. It wasn’t easy but today I am grateful and very proud of myself for over coming what I thought was my biggest challenge. I made friends and soon enough became known to everyone because I began to get good grades, always in honor roll and I became involved in extra curricular activities like soccer, word wizard, and the math club. However, all of that came after working very hard to get there. Life will always have challenges that you’ll have to overcome in order to gain new abilities, hone skills, and become a better you. It’s easy to get discouraged but always remember that it’s in you to work hard and reach goals, no one will do it for you and always remember to do what’s best for your child. That experience shaped me into the person, daughter, mother, and learning student I am today.

As a parent, I make decisions all of the time for the well being of my daughter. I want to offer her all that I didn’t have and more and provide her with the tools and guidance that my parents gave to me while growing up facing these challenges. They are my support system and that’s what I want to be for my daughter, her support system, her best friend, and the person she can always count on. The challenge I faced while learning English is nothing compared to that of becoming a parent and now having to look after a little human being that needs my help to survive. Making decisions for myself have always been hard, imagine making a decision for someone other than yourself. Just trust and believe that your judgment and your desire to be the best parent your child can have is the right one and no one will tell you otherwise. It’s okay to be wrong, parents not always make the right choices but acknowledgment goes a long way and your child will be appreciative of that. I am forever grateful of the education and guidance my parents gave to me and because of them and my struggles, when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, I knew I was ready to face the world with her.

*Marinel Fuentes is a 2017-2018 Stronger Generations Young Parent Ambassador. To learn more about Marinel and our Young Parent Ambassador program visit our young parent ambassador page!