Date: August 1st, 2012
I want to tell you the story of a friend, of a mother, of a dreamer. Lisa* is the mother of a beautiful two- year old girl, Angela. Lisa’s husband selected the name. As if in the name, their lives would be blessed with the happiness, hope, and love they were looking for. Lisa was just a few weeks shy of her high school graduation when she learned she was pregnant. She received the news with a mixture of happiness and anxiety. She and her boyfriend, Pablo, a US-born Latino, had been talking about starting a family soon. He promised to provide for her, to treat her and their children right, and to never abandon them as his dad did to him and his brother. She was having problems with her mother. Her mother just could not understand her, she said. So starting a new family—her own family—sounded like a very good proposition. She loved him, she told me, and she believed in him and their future together.
She was afraid, however, of telling her family she was pregnant. She confided in her younger uncle who gave her his support and offered to be present when she told her parents. But her mother already knew something was not right. Lisa, an otherwise very active soccer player, was tired, sleepy, and with little appetite. It did not take long for her mother to realize Lisa was pregnant. Lisa recalls her mother being angry and upset, crying and shouting, and looking for answers. A few weeks later, Lisa and Pablo got married and started to search for their own little space where to grow their family.
Searching for housing in an expensive and crowded urban area is no easy task. Pablo was still finishing his last year of high school. They both worked in the evenings cleaning offices with her mom and dad. Lisa recalls wearing very large sweaters to hide her belly so that the manager would not ban her from cleaning bathrooms, carrying out the trash, and using harsh detergents. She desperately needed the money to pay for one bedroom in the two-bedroom apartment they shared with another family of three.
The baby was born in February, healthy and happy. But her relationship with Pablo was far from being either healthy or happy. He graduated from high school and found a job as a bouncer in a night club. He was working late evenings, in a sketchy environment and was paid in cash—money Lisa barely saw. She got a job as a store clerk while her aunt looked after the baby. She was happy in her job, surrounded by young people, working in the mall and earning money to support her daughter. She sadly realized she couldn’t count on Pablo to pay rent, or buy diapers or food. Because her daughter was born in the U.S., she got WIC and food stamps benefits only for her daughter, but nothing for her. Her mother offered to bring food over, Lisa refused saying she was fine, but she was hungry. She courageously assumed her role of mother and sole provider to her family, and carried on with the gargantuan task of making things better for little Angela. She is resolute to provide her daughter the future she is still trying to carve out for herself.
Check back next week for Part II of Lisa’s Story.
*“Lisa”, “Angela” and “Pablo” are real people but their names are made up to protect their privacy. “Lisa” is a good friend of Genevieve and agreed to share her story in Under the Currents.
About the Author
Dr. Genevieve Martínez-García, Director of Innovation and Research at Healthy Teen Network, is a health educator committed to bringing innovation to the field of sexual and reproductive health. She has over 14 years of experience researching adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues such as mHealth, fertility, social determinants of health, cultural and economic barriers to health care access among minority populations, health media literacy, characteristics of programs for pregnant and parenting teens, and Latino youth pregnancy intentions.