The significance of the La Mama Sana program at Centro de Ayuda proved to be beyond my imagination.
The center was a bright room filled with culture and best of all, smiling faces. Patricia, the director, was one of the first to welcome us. She greeted us with a smile as bright as the atmosphere around us. Hillebi Flores is a case worker. The pink scarf wrapped around her stood out to me; her personality and kindness drew my attention even more.
Flores explained to us the details of La Mama Sana. The program was set up for Hispanic mothers-to-be or new mothers. The program originally consisted of five to seven women; that seven soon became a group of twelve. La Mama Sana was a nine-month class spanning during pregnancy and after delivery.
“Pregnancy is about the baby,” Flores told us. Through videos and photos the women learned about the development of the baby in the womb.
La Mama Sana provided knowledge to the women so that they could decide what is best for themselves and their children. Some women decided to breastfeed because of the information they gained from La Mama Sana: it’s more natural and healthier. The program allowed people like Flores to be able to “feed the women support… because they needed someone to comfort them,” Flores explained.
To Flores, this program was important because her experience with having a child in the United States was “very scary.” When Flores first arrived in the U.S., she did not speak any English. During her pregnancy there was a language barrier between her and the medical staff. This lack of communication meant more fear for Flores. Her experience led to her conclusion that other non-English speaking Hispanic women should not have to go through the same thing. When not explained and understood properly, things such as C-sections and anesthesia can be extremely terrifyingundefinedespecially for new mothers with their first pregnancies.
“Some women had babies before coming to the United States; so having the second child in a new country was different,” said participant Belky Posas. She said that in some of the countries the women came from, going to doctors regularly during pregnancy was not common. So being able to have someone to help them and guide them through the experience in a new country was helpful.
Unfortunately because of funding cuts, the program no longer runs.
Meeting the mothers and seeing how they interacted with their children was an experience that showed to me how important La Mama Sana was to them. Being from a different country and living around relatives that have not fully learned the English language, I understand what it’s like to have a communication barrier. Seeing the friendship between the mothers and the volunteers, I was able to see the special bond they all had. In my opinion, La Mama Sana was a program that not only educated women, but gave them a home away from home.
Text by Sawdatou Drame
Photos by Sawdatou Drame, Juan Serrano & Dmitry Maximov