MTP Poems Applauded by Town Hall Audience

Albuquerque, March 28—Mother Tongue Project Mentor pairs inspired understanding laughter, genuine tears, and a standing ovation from an audience of more than 200 educators, service providers, and young families from around New Mexico. Honored as the "Featured Presentation" at a NM Public Education Department Town Hall event supporting young families, MTP students and mentors performed co-written poems about their shared experiences. You can read their work here:

 

WE PERSEVERE
A poem for two voices by Guadalupe Avalos Yescas and Maaite deRooij Girdner

I was six years old when I immigrated
to the United States.
I learned a new language,
I had dreams,
And I made plans:

I wanted to be a nurse.

I wanted to be a teacher.

I got pregnant

at  14

at 18                        

People judged me
with horrible comments.
They said we wouldn't make it.

Friends,

Strangers,

Family.
They insisted:

 “You’re ruining your life!”

“You’re too young!”

“Are you out of your mind?”

“How stupid can you be?”

My father was violent.
We didn't talk for months.

My father wanted to know how
I could do that to my mother

I was a complete stranger for him.

They shouted and cried
and threw stuff around.

They suggested abortion,

adoption.

And friends?

Friends and siblings made it seem
as if I had an infection
that could contaminate them.

Friends partied
and I changed diapers.

They didn’t understand.

But I understood
my baby was my only significant true love,
and the one
who kept me going!

But I understood
my life was no longer
mine alone.

Others couldn’t see

that my child would be my motivation;

that my two children would be
my proudest achievement.

I wasn’t losing anything.
And, instead,
I gained

what I knew to be true!

what kept me going every day.

 The gift of
unconditional love.

I used to be mom of one,  
but now
I’m the mom of a pair
that I created.

Two is definitely harder than one.

But we persevere.

I was a single mother
with no help:
No one was really around—

I worked late into the night,
jobs and college classes

and it's a 24/7 job
once you sign
the contract of motherhood!

And still,
we persevere

My son was a premie
and I lost my mom
at the same time.

And I am in total and complete
awe of you

She had been battling against
the illness of cancer.

It makes me proud

to see how far I've come
on my unexpected journey.

I know you will get
where you are going.

I even learned
to forgive those who hurt me.

You give me hope.

 

___________________________________________________________________

SUPERWOMAN
A poem for two voices by Stephanie Solis Mendoza and Janelle Etheridge Dry

I am super woman.

I am not super woman.

I am the bringer of life,

A student determined to succeed.

A nurturer,
a complex creature.

I am super woman—
I have to be.

I am not super woman,
and I don’t want to be.

Kisser of booboos.

Child on hip, in belly;
Queen of fingerpaint;
Kitchen confidential.

Time doesn’t matter anymore:
Homework at midnight;
Get good grades;
Bathe the baby, feed the baby—
What about me?

SUPER WOMAN

I am not super woman.
But I do leap tall buildings.
A mediator, an empath.
Laundry does NOT do itself.

DAMNED if I do,
DAMNED if I don’t.

Please don’t call me superwoman.
It’s NOT a compliment.

I am NOT invincible.

My family is disappointed.

My family is elated.

Society says I won’t succeed.
I am a statistic now.
BUT they don’t know ME!
I took on the responsibility.

SUPER WOMAN

I am not superwoman,
but sometimes I feel stronger
than a locomotive,
FASTER than a speeding bullet.

I became a superhero
for my son and no one else.
I set the example,
and he will follow the steps I now take.

I am my own superhero,
But I am not invincible.
Society does not define me . . .
I define who I am!

 

___________________________________________________________________

THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT
A poem for two voices by Jennifer Gonzales and Jaime Holladay

I got pregnant during my junior year.

My mom was happy.

My mom was angry.

I found out who my friends were,
and who I was becoming.
I felt
alone                                and                              supported
at the same time.
When he said,
“That baby isn’t mine”—

That day changed upon my eyes:
I realized that he wasn’t worth shit.

I knew I was better off
without him.

I had my baby

in December

in October

of my senior year.
When I first looked into my baby’s eyes

I felt supported and happy.

I felt I had a new purpose.

As a young single mom,
I realized

I can and will succeed.

I had a wealth of inner strength.

I work full-time and am a student.

In May I will graduate high school.

In July I will finish my admin program.

Being a young single mother
is challenging
but rewarding.

I get tired of doing the same thing.

I get tired of being tired.

But when I see

Daisy, I know it’s worth it.

my children, I am motivated.

Being a young single mom
is empowering.

Daisy changed my life
for the better.

Mario helped me change
the path I was on.

Being a young single mother
is a blessing.

 

___________________________________________________________________

PARALLEL JOURNEYS
A poem for two voices by Laura Dominguez Torres and Audrey Herrera-Castillo

I got pregnant in

November.

July.

They confirmed the pregnancy

On January 13th.

In December.

I couldn't believe I was pregnant!

But we had only done it twice!

My stomach dropped.

(both put hands on bellies)

Yup, it's real.

He was born

August 23rd.

April 12th.

I was 17.

I was 15.

Our lives were changed forever.

I've always been friendly to people
but I never really had close friends.
People were nosey.
They asked things like...

Are you still with the dad?

What are you going to do?

Did you tell your mom?

Oh, no.

What did she say?

Whispers behind my back:
"Is she prego?"

How far are you?

Is that you little brother?

Are you keeping it?

Oh, wow!

Now,

we are not really alone, anymore.

We had little ones who would be with us

forever!

I know having him was
the right decision for me
because

He's my motivation,
the reason why I don’t give up.

He loves me unconditionally.

The best feeling in the world is
knowing that he smiles BECAUSE of me.

The best feeling in the world is
when he calls just to see
how I am doing.

He makes me want to
become a better person.

He calls me for guidance.

He makes me happy.
I make him happy.
BUT
I do feel like I've missed out on

him being really little.

being a classic teenager.
being a classic college student.

Because

I have to finish school;

I had to be responsible;

I need to work;

I needed to be
a good role model;

I have to do my homework;

His development
meant more than my youth;

I feel like I'm always
just trying to catch up.

I made a choice and these
were my consequences.

I have learned so much
because of my son . . .

I am capable of doing so much more
than I ever imagined.

I'm stronger than
I thought I could be.

I actually matter.

I wouldn't be who I am today
without him.

He is the reason why my life has changed,
for the better.

It's okay to be a grandmother

Thank you, son.

My son's father

has supported me since day one;

was involved;

wants me to graduate high school;

wanted me to drop out;

wants me to go to college;

wanted me to get on welfare;

wants to make our parents proud;

wanted to wait for his parents to die
so we could have their house.

sees our future as a family.

I ended our relationship when
my son was 6 months old.

I wouldn't know what to do
without him.

I was better off without him.

My Family:

My mom says things without thinking.

My parents always supported me.

She doesn't realize
that what she says impacts me.

They allowed me to be a kid,
but I knew I had to be an adult.

My family has helped me to realize
what kind of parent I want to be.

Being a parent

is special.

is a big responsibility.

is scary.

is a gift.

One wrong move

will stick with them forever.

and you will be forgiven.

It makes me realize that…

Quality time is important.

Money isn't everything.

Sleeping is precious.

Alone time is precious.

It will always be My Baby
before me, and that's perfectly ok.

When I reflect, I realize
that being forgiving is necessary.

Patience is a gift.

You have to have faith
that it will work out in the end.

People still say dumb things, like…

You don’t know what you are doing.

Getting pregnant so young
must have been horrible.

You should've never had him.

You must have been twelve
when you had him!

It's a baby with a baby!
No, I'm a mother!

You are too young to be
a grandmother.

I will show them:
I will continue to succeed!
My son will also succeed.
Soon,

He will start walking.

He will be a college graduate

He will say his first word.

He will be a chemical engineer

He will start communicating with me.

He will be a good dad

Today

I am 17.

I am 44.

I have one son.

I have three sons.

My son is 7 months.

My sons are 28, 22 and 20.

I am a student, girlfriend, and mother.

I am student of life, a wife,
a mother, and a grandmother.

In April,

we will move into our own place.

my oldest son will be 29.

On May 25th at 9 am,

I will graduate from high school;
it's a Thursday, by the way.

I will be in Europe bringing my
youngest son home from his
study abroad year in Spain.

This summer,

I plan on working at a bank.

I will have completed 25 years
of working at my job.

Being a parent is hard . . . in addition to

school,

continuing my education,

work,

getting ahead in my job,

having a boyfriend

having a husband,

cleaning the house,

cooking dinner,

doing laundry,

eating well.

This mentor program has

Made me think about me, when I've really
been thinking about my son since he was born.

Brought back emotions
that I haven't felt
for more than two decades.

Showed me that other teen moms
have actually been successful.

Reminded me of the successes
I have had.

That I'm stronger than I think I am some days.

Shown me that my strength has
been in me, all along.

Taught me to use my calendar to keep track
of my homework, work, and appointments.

Reinforced the need
for more programs like this.

Reminded me
that the struggle is real.

I know that
I am going to succeed

because I am determined.

because I believe in myself.

because I don’t have another choice.

because the Universe is on my side.

because this is how I HAVE to look at it.

because I HAVE to believe this.

I am going to succeed.

Our futures matter.

and will only get brighter.

We are only beginning.

We are living similar lives.

We share the same successes.

Yeah, we might have

different stories,

different dreams.

We are:

Teen moms who will do
whatever it takes to be successful.

Good mothers who are
good role models for our sons.

We are:
Empowered Women!
(high five!)

 

___________________________________________________________________

 

HOLDING IT CLOSE
A poem for two voices by Lluliana Campos and Lauren Whitehurst

The hardest part
about being a mom
is staying strong

even when I’m tired

even when I’m overwhelmed

  sick

sad

  lonely.

even when I have help.

I understand nothing.
I don’t know what to do.

I got pregnant when I was 16.

I was 33 when I had my son;
36 when I had my daughter.

I dropped out of school when I was 14;
but I went back when I got pregnant.

I approach the world
differently as a parent.
My children are

My son is                  

my motivation.

Being a single teen mother
Is twice the work,
twice the stress.
But he gives me strength

to keep on going
when I feel like giving up.

It is also twice the hugs,
twice the love,
twice the pride.

These now-long bodies
that came from my body—
I can no longer wrap my body around theirs.
I can hardly wrap
my head around it, my heart.

I am filled up by them.
Still, I sometimes feel like giving up.     
It’s both.

I cry less now that I’m a mom
because I don’t want
my child to see me as weak.

I cry more now that I’m a mom
because my emotions feel
closer to the surface.

When I try not to cry,
I feel it here— (hand under chin):
- below my chin;
- where my mouth
meets my neck;
- where my tongue
meets my spine;
—as if they are connected—

As if I might fall apart...

...if I could even say what I am really feeling.

I want to look strong for him,

I want to be able to do it all,

Like:
I got this.
Everything is okay.

When Adrian cries,

I stop,

I hold him,

get down on his level,

talk to him,

say, “I love you”

calm him down.

Comforting my child
comforts me, too.

We break and heal
each other—
over and over again.

I love being with my son.

It makes me feel
comfortable,
stronger,
secure.
But, sometimes, it’s really hard.

You have to learn
how to multitask.
You have to learn
how to do life.

Learning and teaching,
teaching and learning.

It is all the time.
It is both.

I have learned that,
as a single mother,
I grow stronger from pain.

Every night when
I kiss them sweet dreams,
every morning when
I kiss them awake,

The best thing about me is my son.

I am a mother.
I am a teacher.

I hold this right here,  (hand on heart)
close,
inside:
It makes me strong.

 

___________________________________________________________________

 

Other Mothers' Voices

The culminating assignment of the Mother Tongue English class is a personal synthesis essay to be published on the Santa Fe Reporter's “Mother Tongue” blog. Click here to read the work of 2015/2016’s class of seven young mothers and students, whose insights are relevant to parents of all ages.  http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html

 

The voices of these young women are important to their children, to themselves and their peers, and to our communities. Click on each of the links below to be directed to individual essays.

 

"Bonding without Breastfeeding" - Destiny Vigil http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html#vigil

 

"Teen Parents and Obesity" - Cynthia Alvarez http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html#alvarez

 

"Surviving Difficult Stages as a Single Teen Mom" - Marisol Chavez Miramontes http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html#miramontes

 

"Time-less Parenting" - Anna Iris Bustillos http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html#bustillos

 

"When Being a Parent Changes Your Plan" - Brenda Enriquez http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html#enriquez

 

"My Birth, My Goal, My Achievement" - Odalys Garcia http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html#garcia

 

"Teen Mom Milestones" - Jazmin Ordonez http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-12213-mother-tongue-other-mothers-voices.html#ordonez

 

Ain't I A Mother?

[Cynthia, a current Mother Tongue English IV student at Capital High School, wrote the following for a persuasive-essay assignment modeled on Sojourner Truth’s 1851 “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech.]

Well, there are so many people staring and people talking about how young I am. The guys at school are talking about how dumb I was to get pregnant. But what is this they're talking about?

That girl over there says that I’m too young to be in high school with a three-year-old, and that if it wasn't for my boyfriend I'd be hopeless. And ain't I a mother? Look at me! All these sleepless nights are giving me eye bags. My back is killing me from carrying my child to bed when he falls asleep in my arms. And ain't I a mother? I have to cook, clean, go to school, and work everyday. And ain't I a mother? I had my child at 15, and I saw him hurting that day he burned his feet, crying of worry and anger and not being able to do anything but wait. Ain't I a mother?

Then they talk about how I am never with my child, how I am always working and going to school but don't have enough time for him. What's that they call it? Irresponsibility, that's it, honey. But if I don't work, who will feed my child? If I don't go to school, who will be there to support him through his life and give him a bright future? Wouldn't you be mean not to let me have credit for being such a hard working mother?

Then that teacher over there is saying we take advantage of being mothers in school by getting here late or by using our phones in class because other people do it. Well, we are all teen mothers, but we are not the same. If all these teenage moms wouldn't go out and party or leave their babies at the daycare to go ditching, then people would have different thoughts about teenage mothers and what we can do.