Lovebirth

 "Regardless of our age, every woman deserves to experience the empowerment birth gives with the right support."  -Melinda Lugo

“Regardless of our age, every woman deserves to experience the empowerment birth gives with the right support.” -Melinda Lugo

By Melinda Lugo of Lovebirth.     

I am a butterfly.

Sixteen years of age and midway through my junior year in high school, the store-bought pregnancy test read positive. Recently kicked out of my dad’s home, I had just moved in with my mom. There were many emotions, excitement the predominant one. I wasn’t afraid, probably because of a dysfunctional childhood that had numbed me from believing fear even existed to begin with. Maybe, I just wanted to love the baby in the way I had wished I had been loved as a child. The thought of not continuing the pregnancy did not even cross my mind despite my mother’s determination in persuading me to have the abortion, too young, too inexperienced, too early in my life. However, I knew I was going to give birth; I believed in birth. I believed my body was created to do it perfectly and I trusted the process. Despite everything else around me being unstable, giving birth was the one thing I knew I could do right.

I moved out of my mom’s home and in with my boyfriend. We searched for prenatal care through a midwife that offered homebirth though unfortunately our search was unsuccessful. It was as though the very thought of a 16 year old seeking out untraditional prenatal care was so unsettling that nobody appeared to be very eager to come to the aid of a foolish, ignorant young girl. We were not able to find a homebirth midwife due to not having a permanent address which forced me to accept prenatal care through a nurse midwife at a local hospital. The hospital rejected my birth plan. I had to be confined to a bed with monitoring straps and unable to walk around. I made it clear to them I did not want any of the pain medication they offered but they felt the need to remind me there was still time for an epidural. Nurses literally yelling at me, telling me to shut up was the hospital staff’s idea of “kind” support. I was being too loud, they said. But next to me, my son’s father gave me power with soft words of encouragement. He believed that I could do it. He, too, believed in the process of birth. On December 20th, 1995 at 3:25pm, I gave birth to our son naturally.

Four years later, at the age of 21, I was pregnant again with our second son. This time I refused to give birth in a hospital, ensuring I would get the natural birth I desired. I also refused to let my voice go unheard.   After many attempts, I was able to find a homebirth midwife that treated me with respect, in spite of the circumstance of having a second pregnancy at such a young age. I attended childbirth classes and learned about a doula, someone, usually a woman, who supports an expecting mother emotionally, educationally, and physically during her pregnancy and labor. I thought to myself, my son’s father had been my doula. I knew I was more ready to give birth with all the new knowledge of pregnancy and birth that I had gained this time around and, on August 19th, 1999 at 3:15am, surrounded by family and friends, I gave birth to our second son in the peace of our home. I walked around, ate, laughed, and most importantly, listened to my body, allowing it to guide me through the process. What a difference this birth experience was compared to my first!

The contrasting experiences made me question the foundation of prenatal care; why was it difficult as a teen mom to have my ideal birth? Why did I have to look so hard for options in having holistic prenatal care and not have alternatives to routine procedures? Why didn’t MY voice matter for MY birth? Why should any woman feel so alone at such a profoundly powerful moment such as birth? I reflected on my births and remembered the role of my son’s father, and the term doula. I thought of how wonderful women could feel during labor with a supportive birth team.

If all women, regardless of age, could have that one advocate at their side to trust them, believe in them and say something positive like “You’re doing awesome!” … can you imagine how empowered women would feel, knowing they have a voice, a choice, and, perhaps most importantly, the capability to give birth the way they want? Educating and supporting women in giving birth became my passion and is how I began my journey as a doula and childbirth advocate.

This was the beginning of lovebirth. Through lovebirth, I am able to help teen moms have the strength and knowledge to give birth their way, to trust birth, to know that they are not broken because they are pregnant and that all of their dreams are still attainable. Regardless of our age, every woman deserves to experience the empowerment birth gives with the right support. That they, too, are butterflies, unique and able to fly!

 

Melinda Lugo is a doula, childbirth educator, mother to 2 boys, and childbirth advocate in Tampa, Florida. She has been supporting women of all ages since 2005, specializing with teen moms and young parents. She is the founder of lovebirth, LLC. Through her doula practice, she empowers young women to build trust within themselves so they may experience the art of birth that has been given to them. You can follow lovebirth on Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/lovebirthllc, Instagram; @lovebirth, and on Twitter; @lovebirthllc. You can also find and connect with Melinda using #teenbirth. lovebirth…women are made to do it.

      

Appreciation, Depreciation, & All the Moments in Between

Average salary for a California teacher who holds an M.A. degree: $75,000

$550: Amount I spent out of my own pocketbook, on classroom supplies, parent meeting snacks, student incentive rewards, etc…

185: The days I was required to work, per our human resources calendar.

200: Approximate days I ACTUALLY worked.

2.5: Number of months I am officially off duty, though a good percentage of this time is spent gearing up for the upcoming school year, through classroom & material prep, etc…

2: Number of days I was furloughed this year without pay.

Numerous: The roles I played (including, but not limited to, resource provider, parent education facilitator, social worker, home visitor, community liaison, nurse, custodian, secretary, coach, confidant, and student).

Countless: The number of times I felt frustrated with the profession

Endless: The rewards of my career

         Last week (May 5-9th) was teacher appreciation week. At my school in particular, it was business as usual, save for the modest  potluck provided to us in the staff lounge on Thursday afternoon. Other than that, the week was uneventful. And I’m not complaining. May is an extremely busy month for teachers anyway, what with parent-teacher conference prep, the mad rush to acquire all required common planning time hours, and the usual end-of-the-year matters to attend to. Overall, it was nice to hop onto social media and see pictures of all the cute little pinterest-inspired teacher appreciation crafts, along with the occasional inspirational teacher related quote. But what continually caught my attention last week was the news surrounding a federal judge’s upholding of Florida’s teacher merit pay law, and rumors within our own school district regarding the possible restructuring of early childhood education employees pay scales.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Teachers are constantly under attack. Talks of de-unionization, threats of pink slips & layoffs, and the ever-changing climate of curriculum and content standards keep us constantly on our toes. It seriously feels like a circus sometimes. But aside from all the politics and bureaucracy, the thing that keeps me grounded on a day-to-day basis are the relationships I have with my students and their families. It’s really as simple as that. It seems that each time I get frustrated with the steady stream of bad news regarding education funding and threats to our programs, I receive word from a parent who wants to update me on the progress of a former student. Just this evening, I was at my son’s baseball game– with a lap full of conference forms to prepare–and a women stopped me to say hello. Her daughter had been in my Kinder Readiness Academy class several years ago and (according to mom) is now doing marvelously well in the 3rd grade, thanks in part to her participation in our program. These interactions keep me going, and remind me of the reasons I chose this field to begin with.

But even coming off of that pleasant reminder, there is something  that came up last week that continues to nag at my thoughts.  This past Monday night, my 12-year-old son Isaac mentioned to me that he is thinking of becoming a teacher when he grows up. Granted, he’s young, with many years of career exploration ahead of him. That, and I’m quite sure he’s also been influenced by his older brother’s increasing interest in becoming a high school history teacher, but the fact remains that he is at least considering the field of education as an area of interest. And naturally I’m inclined to encourage this interest. But, as both my boys have found out as they express their future plans with others, not everyone shares in this enthusiasm.

For various different reasons, my sons have heard plenty of justifications as to why they shouldn’t consider teaching. From the tenuous state of public education, to the notoriously low wages, there are many aspects of the profession that prompt people to advise my sons to reach for higher goals. Perhaps law, or investment banking, or engineering, or medicine…anything that would provide more prestige. Because, let’s face it, teaching is clearly on the second tier, as far as professions go. There is little glamour in it. Except of course when you run into a student at the grocery store and they chase after you, calling out your name as if you were some type of celebrity. (That really happens y’know).

But aside from all that, I remain an idealist. I cannot help it, it’s in my blood. I understand that my working conditions can be extremely difficult, the hours long,  and the pay minimal in comparison to other careers. But damnit, I love what I do. And if my boys decide they want to take part in this experience, I’m behind them 100%.

In the last few weeks, I’ve counseled a mother who lost her home. I’ve comforted a child who is fearfully anticipating the transition to kindergarten. I’ve calmed a father who felt that his child was being treated unfairly by another student. And this is all outside of my formal job description. This, is the human aspect of teaching. The part of our profession that cannot be measured using standardized methods, or evaluated through tests. On the first day of school, I open my doors to 44 learners and their families: I am expected to prepare them for kindergarten by fostering the growth of social skills, encouraging language and critical thinking, and instilling the basic skills needed for academic success. Throughout the year, we almost always encounter many setbacks…but we also accomplish countless triumphs. Some days I come home tired beyond belief…okay, this happens most nights. But in all honestly, I always rest easy knowing that in my profession I have found both my livelihood and my life’s passion. How many people are blessed enough to say that about their line of work? Why would I want any less for my own children?

For me, teacher appreciation extends far beyond a week in the year. I experience it whenever I run into a former student and see the way they smile in recognition. I ponder it when I recall the teachers I’ve had who inspired greatness in me. But the ultimate form of teacher appreciation manifests itself in my sons & the fact that they have considered emulating my role as an educator. Whether they were inspired by their grandparents, who were both in the field as well, by me, or perhaps by their own teachers along the way matters not to me. What matters is that I know that they have recognized the honor in the profession. And that is all the appreciation I need.

 

The poster that hangs in my classroom. One of my favorite reminders...

The poster that hangs in my classroom. One of my favorite reminders…

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day! xoxo

From a dear friend ❤

Love, Life & Lemonade

Happiest of happy mother’s day to all the amazing mothers in my life, including my mother, and to the many mothers who follow my blog. To the new moms, the veteran moms, step-moms, single moms, and everything in between… We have by far the most challenging and rewarding job in the world. One that pays in love, hugs, and endless kisses.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUTS

To my beautiful, sweet, sweet son, Elijah: I love you to the moon and back (times infinity).  I dreamed of you before you were born, imagining what you would be like, what your cute lil’ personality would be like.  And then one day, there you were. I remember growing you inside of me and knowing this love would be endless, boundless, a big, big kind of love.  There isn’t one thing mama wouldn’t do or sacrifice mama wouldn’t make to ensure you are happy, healthy, and…

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