Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Which Way Home

I stumbled upon another really good documentary through netflix. Which Way Home is about children from Central America who travel as migrants with hopes of crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. So what does that have to do with abortion? Not much directly. I watched the documentary and it was a very emotional subject and it was really hard to watch children take on such a long and painful journey. At the end I cried, only for a moment, but I cried. I cried for the women I have met who have taken a similar journey as the children in this film. I also cried for the women who have left children in their countries of origin in hopes of providing for those children through work in the United States.

At work we serve many women who have reached the United States as undocumented people. I have listened to women tell their stories of walking for days, bus rides, and train rides. I have spoken to women who have been raped by coyotes and are pregnant and it could be the result of a couple different rapes. One of the children who is followed in the documentary tells his story of hiding in the boxcar of a train and watching a mother and daughter get raped by 15 men. These stories are horrifying and real.

My spanish is mas o menos at best and often times I can only pick up on a few words or a sentence. I have brought clothes to women who have showed up in the clinic in need of an abortion and often I've wondered how they are surviving the United States. Sometimes my coworker who is a native spanish speaker fills me in on a woman's story, I am a peripheral support person for spanish speaking women in the clinic where I work.

I have spoken to Latina women who are pregnant as a result of consensual sex and would rather have a baby then an abortion, but often times she cannot imagine supporting a child in the United States on her meager pay because she is sending money home to take care of the children she had to leave with family in her country of origin. Most recently I had to help a spanish speaking woman fill out here chart. I don't claim to be fluent but I have learned to ask most of the questions in spanish involved in filling out the first part of a patient's chart. I recently had a conversation that really changed my perspective. It went like this:

Me: Tiene hijos? (Do you have children?)
Patient: Si
Me: Cuantos? (How many?)
Patient: Tres
Me: Cuando nacimiento? (When birth?)- for lack of better words
Patient: *look of confusion*
Me: El cumpleanos de sus hijos? (Birthdays of your children?)
Patient: no recuerdo.

At this point I had to get some help from my coworker, the native Spanish speaker. I personally did not comprehend that some woman's experience is not conducive to remembering dates like when they gave birth. This conversation was an eye opener for me. I never considered the emotional distance some women must have to maintain when they have left children they love because it seems like the best way to care for them.

Every one in this country, with the exception of Native Americans, is the descendant an immigrant in some form or fashion. I don't understand the need to criminalize Latino people who want to come here. I don't understand who gets to decide which immigrants have a right to be here and which don't. The United States of America is a land of immigrants.

You can go here to watch clips of the documentary if you don't have netflix.


  1. Wow, your post almost made ME cry! Thank you for writing this. In my abortioneering jobs I have worked with a lot of Latina immigrants -- some had papers, some didn't, but many had stories of kids they hadn't seen in way too long because they're trying to be the best mothers they can in a hard situation. I think this is the story of so many women, US-born or not, and one that most people could hear a piece of themselves in, if they stopped to listen.

  2. Wow wow wow wow wow. That is really tough. I've heard "No recuerdo" a lot when it comes to someone's last period, but never this. Very sad.


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