Guadalupe had considered herself to be in a pretty stable, comfortable family life. She lived with her parents, and worked in the same vineyards as her dad. She was in a steady relationship, and that felt comfortable as well. Guadalupe wasn’t interested in making any big changes—she was happy as things were.
When Guadalupe discovered she was pregnant, at first she felt paralyzed by the sudden stress. She couldn’t figure out what to do, so she did nothing—told no one, kept going to work, continued her usual routine. “I was afraid to tell my boyfriend, because I thought he would get angry, and we would fight,” she says, “but actually it was worse than that. He told me he didn’t want anything to do with me or the baby, and he left.”
Suddenly the future seemed overwhelming. “Without the father of the baby, I felt like I was totally alone. I had to care for and support a child, but I had no idea how to do that, or how it was even possible,” Guadalupe explains. “I was so scared, and so sad that my life had changed. I cried a lot. My parents thought I was just upset because my boyfriend had broken up with me, and so they mostly didn’t try to talk to me about it. And I couldn’t figure out how to tell them what was really happening.”
When Guadalupe was six months pregnant, her life changed again. The physical requirements of her vineyard job had become impossible to manage, and she had to stop working. At the same time, it was clear that she was no longer going to be able to hide her pregnancy from her parents, and Guadalupe finally had to tell them. Although she had been dreading their reaction to the conversation, her mother and father were quick to offer support. “They were angry at the baby’s father for leaving. They said, ‘We will help you, and we will get through this one way or another.”
The support from her parents should have been a relief to Guadalupe, but instead she felt weighed down by guilt. “None of us were making a lot of money, but at least when I was still working, I could contribute something,” she says. “Without a job, I was just a burden. And I was adding another person to feed, too. My parents were getting to the age when they should have been able to stop working, but they wanted to make sure the baby would have what she needed. I felt so hopeless and like I had failed already at being a mother. Finally my dad said, ‘Tell your doctor at the clinic that all you do is cry! That is not healthy for the baby.”
Her doctor agreed, and sent her to the clinic’s counselor, who quickly realized that Guadalupe was dealing with depression and anxiety, and helped her find some ways to address her mental state. “One thing I figured out was that I needed to feel more prepared to be a mother,” she says. “My counselor told me about the Home Visiting program at Cope Family Center.”
Program participants each get a Home Visitor, who starts working with them when they’re still pregnant, and then continues to visit and guide them after the baby is born. Guadalupe speaks glowingly of her Home Visitor, Anahi. “She is always there to answer all my questions about motherhood and parenting. She brings me tips, inspires me, and reminds me about the things that are important. Anahi has taught me to be strong and resilient.”
Anahi works with Guadalupe on setting goals, to help the young mother continue improving life for herself and her little girl. “Guadalupe was very interested in becoming more independent, so that she could do more for her daughter, and immediately began working on getting her Driver’s License. She has had to learn that taking care of herself is just as necessary as taking care of her child,” says Anahi. “To keep her spirits high, it was important that Guadalupe also set goals to make time for interests that bring her joy and fulfillment. She loves to read and to paint, and she can do those activities for herself, and share them with her daughter as well.”
Guadalupe’s daughter Brisa is now almost two years old. Guadalupe is still occasionally sad that Brisa doesn’t have a father in her life, but happy that her little girl gets to grow up being so close to her grandparents. “My dad is her favorite,” laughs Guadalupe. “When he’s home, they’re always together. He’s even teaching her to speak Mixteco, the local language from the area where he grew up. She knows words I don’t know!”
Anahi still provides guidance for Guadalupe, showing her ways to encourage Brisa’s healthy development. Guadalupe says, “Sometimes I’m surprised at how much my little girl can do, but Anahi reminds me that all the good parenting choices I make are part of that, even reading to her and making art with her. And I’m proud, because I used the information from the program to help her learn and grow.”
With Cope’s help, Guadalupe was able to overcome the fear, depression and anxiety that plagued her early pregnancy, and is committed to being the best mother she can be. Feeling supported, healthy and confident, she returned to her job and is successfully balancing being a good mom and a good employee.
When asked what she would like to say about Cope Family Center, Guadalupe pauses for a moment. “I would like to say thank you! Thank you for the support, thank you for the opportunity to become a better mother, thank you for helping me care for my little girl AND myself. I was so sad, and now I have so much joy in my life. I wouldn’t have that without Cope.”