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Mother’s Day: A Young Asylum-Seeker Needing Prenatal Care, Health Network, and #LaborsOfLove

mothers at the border

This Mother’s Day, support asylum-seeking mothers to get the care they need for themselves and for their babies. Donate to #LaborsOfLove here.

Courage comes in many forms. Often, American holidays zero in on depictions of such strength, celebrating ordinary human beings performing extraordinary acts. Catapulted into cultural concepts of bravery, these individuals are held up as iconic models for the rest of society to emulate in turn. This is true even for motherhood, a role defined by nurturing, emotional validation, and strength beyond measure, where the embracing of these concepts serves as a reminder of the power in self-sacrifice.

Sacrifice is something mothers at the US-Mexico border know all too well; whether accompanying their children to cross into the United States, or sending them on ahead, these are acts of love.

Choosing to bring children into the world is always a gamble. Despite considerable gains in technology and medicine, pregnancy and childbirth are precarious activities. When grappling with extreme stressors like those that face women migrating across Central America, it can be—and often is--incredibly dangerous. Many of these women are fleeing brutal street violence, devastating natural disasters, and crushing poverty, but crossing the land border isn’t without danger of its own. First, the journey itself is rife with peril; the terrain of the borderland deserts exposes migrants to weather-related threats. Migrants risk heat exhaustion in the mornings, and frostbite in the evenings. The dependence on coyotes, human traffickers who specialize in smuggling migrants across the border, presents an ongoing dilemma; few migrants can get by without them, but coyotes are equally likely to rob and sexually assault the women they extort thousands of dollars to “help.” The vulnerability, both before and after, is almost unparalleled. Then there is the arrival in an unfamiliar country without a guarantee of access to housing, employment, or family.

In the years that Health Network, Migrant Clinician Network’s virtual bridge case management service, has been operational, hundreds of expectant mothers have undertaken the journey anyway, driven by the conviction of something better on the other side.

One such mother came to Health Network’s attention last year. At just 21 years of age, Leticia Garcia* knew what it meant to face terror. Like many of her relatives and neighbors , Leticia fled the dangers of home and crossed the Rio Grande, seeking asylum on American soil. In the months she spent traversing the treacherous path, she barely paid attention to her growing abdominal pain, far too fixated on the hope of what could await her. 

When she arrived at the border, exhausted from her perilous exodus, US Customs and Border Patrol took her into custody to begin processing her asylum claim. She barely had time to revel in her relief; the abdominal pain continued. After a time in detention, she finally sought medical attention through the detention clinic— much to her surprise, she learned she was expecting a child. Though Leticia had not known she conceived, the pregnancy was confirmation of her decision to migrate in search of a better life. Her sacrifice meant new opportunities for her forthcoming child.

Authorities opted to release Leticia pending the outcome of her asylum case. A respite center near the detention center welcomed her with warm food and a place to stay while she contacted family members in another part of the Southwest , and she was provided with an initial exam to make sure her pregnancy was going well.

“This was the quickest case I’ve ever had,” recounted Alma Colmenero, Prenatal Coordinator for Health Network, who was assigned Leticia’s case after she had been enrolled in Health Network at the respite center.

Alma, who has worked with MCN’s Health Network since 2015, rarely has cases that run so smoothly. After a Health Network Associate at the respite center enrolled Leticia into Health Network, Alma called Leticia's anchor contact – a relative or good friend who keeps contact with the patient, who is not migrating – to verify information. Then, she spoke to Leticia to determine where Leticia planned to go next, to a large metropolitan area where some of Leticia’s close relatives live, and quickly found a health center near Leticia’s family. Alma managed to schedule a prenatal appointment and forward Leticia’s medical records to the health center within 24 hours of enrollment, while Leticia was traveling to her new city. The following day, Leticia had her first prenatal appointment at her new health center, where she would continue care through birth.  

Leticia’s new health center “provides many services – WIC, vaccines, dental, women’s health, pediatric – so everything is set for her and her baby,” Alma noted. As part of Leticia’s care, Alma will regularly check up on Leticia until her baby is born, after which Alma will close Leticia’s case. 

Long after the file has been closed, however, Leticia’s story will linger.

While most mothers need never decide to leave their home country behind, the theme of what mothers can accomplish through their labors of love is universal. This is the heart of our next fundraising campaign -- #LaborsOfLove (#TrabajosDeAmor), designed to recognize and praise what mothers make possible. Mother’s Day is May 9 this year, and this campaign will exclusively benefit the work we perform at the border with migrating mothers, and their babies. 

Every donor will have the ability to select a digital greeting card to be sent to a mother of their choice. As an added incentive, we have gathered an incredible gift basket of items to embrace the treasure that moms are—including a new Fitbit Flex 2, gift certificates for virtual painting lessons, hand-painted greeting cards, and a beautiful heart frame, to name just a few—that will reward one generous donor just in time to celebrate mom. To enter, simply navigate to our website and make your donation. Every $10 increment will earn givers a ticket for our raffle. The winning donor will be selected on Mother’s Day.

* The names have been changed.

 

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