Global Connect! Gender Justice Writing Project

Part: 3

Limitations of Language: A Barrier for mothers to overcome

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Many immigrant mothers who do not speak English find it difficult to find assistance for their children in the U.S. health and education systems.

NEW YORK--Search for assistance in the U.S. health and educational systems can be a daunting task for non-English speaking immigrant mothers of children with special needs The problem is twofold: the battle to overcome the language barriers and not losing hope.

At age 19, Idalia Lozano, gave birth to her first daughter and was confronted with this dilemma. "After giving birth, I passed the first day without being able to hold my baby. I couldn't have her at my side in spite of my many requests and my wish of rocking her in my arms. A voice from deep in my heart whispered that something was not right, but I could not imagine what it could be," said Lozano.

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Her daughter Johana was born with serious respiratory and cardiovascular defects. She was in an incubator for two months and was fed through a tube.

Idalia recalls the specialists explaining to her that there was a possibility that her daughter Johana may never walk or feed herself.

With her hands over her empty womb and clothed in the white sheets of the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, Lozano attentively listened to the doctors diagnoses. "They told me that my little girl had Down's syndrome," she sadly recalled.

"Since I did not understand the instructions of the doctors I requested a translator. I felt I was not being heard," said Lozano.

Months later, Johana's father abandoned the family. Alone, Lozano decided to tackle the language barriers and took full charge of taking care of her daughter.

"My daughter received medical attention, but it was through my insistence and tireless efforts," said Lozano.

During the day Lozano fed her little girl through her mouth and at night she was fed through the tube. At the age of one, little Johana was capable of feeding herself. Her heart began to beat normally at the age of five.

"The doctors were amazed at Johana's progress. We both learned that under these types of situations, we need to be strong. I have been a loving mother but strict. At 10, my daughter is independent and that makes me proud," she said.

Lozano, despite the language limitations, searched for educational opportunities for her daughter. Only speaking Spanish limits taking advantage of the goodness and generosity of the educational and health systems of this great country.

Lozano feels fortunate having given birth to Johana in New York City. She states the in Mexico; her daughter would have fewer possibilities for a better life.

"If I could go back in time, I would not change anything. I would embrace my pregnancy with the same happiness. However, this is something the bothers me: With my language I was able to obtain many services for my daughter. If I could speak English, I would have gotten more," she said.

Speaking Spanish may be a slight advantage for women immigrants compared to other recent arrivals to the United States. In 2007, Spanish was spoken in 12 percent of U. S. homes. Thus, many more possibilities exist of finding a translator in governmental institutions and in public services.

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Series Overview

Global Connect! Gender Justice Writing Project

Part: 9

A Woman In the Pursuit of Justice

Part: 8

Lives Cut Short: Trafficking from Mexico to New York

Part: 7

Family and Work: An Immigrant Woman's Dilemma

Part: 6

Poverty Is not Folklore for Indigenous Mexican Women

Part: 5

Bronx Playwright Creates to Engage Her Community

Part: 4

Mothers on the Move Signals Solidarity in South Bronx

Part: 3

Limitations of Language: A Barrier for mothers to overcome

Part: 2

A Mother is Murdered; Suspect Flees Again

Part: 1

Leaders Who Are Women of Color: Take a Deep Breath