Mother’s Day at Embrace Refugee Birth Support is one of our most special times of the year. While we know mothers are loved and valued everyday within their families and communities, we can’t help but be proud of the season that highlights the incomparable importance of mothers and the strength needed in the birthing process. Mothers truly are at the core of life and for us at Embrace, supporting their health and well-being throughout different phases of their lives is what moves us in everything we do.
Walking alongside New American mothers specifically is an experience like no other. We began Embrace knowing that the language and cultural barriers Refugees faced were resulting in lack of comprehensive prenatal health education, lack of patient rights and advocacy, and lack of consideration for differences in birth cultures. Embrace sought to bridge that gap in transparency for Refugee mothers by providing a curriculum mostly focused on sharing what Refugee women could expect from the birthing process in the U.S.
That access to general U.S. birthing practices was our main focus in the beginning. What we found out very quickly was that there were much greater disparities that Refugee women were facing during the birthing process that our programming wasn’t covering yet.
The biggest hurdle we faced in the early days of Embrace was connecting with the Refugee community. We can truthfully say that if it were not for the support and facilitation by Refugee women within their communities, Embrace would not have been able to be the organization we are today. Collaboration and partnership with Refugees, volunteers, and educators has always been at the root of our efforts and is truly the foundational force at Embrace.
We see the importance of this collaboration take many forms, but one of the most rewarding is witnessing our participating mothers return to Embrace well after their pregnancies and births. We are blessed to have participants consistently return to us as support volunteers, interpreters, educators, and more.
Merry is one of these dedicated New American mothers who has continued to support Embrace and Friends of Refugees for close to a decade now. Merry started her journey with Embrace during her pregnancy in 2013. During that time, Merry participated in many programs and found genuine connection with both program participants and volunteers. Those friendships lasted well beyond her pregnancy and have played a part in her returning to Embrace to serve as a trusted and beloved Interpreter. Her time with Embrace and Friends of Refugees also connected her with the Start:Me program which has supported her in her journey to starting her own business, which she says has empowered her in the greatest sense.
Muzhda shares a similar origin story with Embrace. She had first hand experience of how challenging it can be for a New American to adapt to the birthing process in the U.S. during her first pregnancy. After complications with this pregnancy, she knew she needed support and guidance during her second pregnancy. She joined Embrace for Healthy Moms Classes and found herself in the unique position of interpreting the class for other participating Afghan mothers, even though this was her first time taking the class as well.
She began building connections with these new mothers and really enjoyed the opportunity to both participate in Embrace programming, while also doing her part in helping other mothers alongside her.
Shortly after the birth of her first child, Muzhda was offered the position of Interpreter at Embrace which proved to be the perfect opportunity for her. She had truly enjoyed her role as an interpreter during her pregnancy and felt empowered by how she could ensure other expecting mothers could feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the birthing process too.
From Interpreter, Muzhda grew into the role of Community Liaison and continued forming powerful relationships rooted in trust with New Americans. Her role continued expanding throughout her years of service until recently, when we were able to integrate Muzhda as a full-time Community Engagement Manager here at Friends of Refugees. In this role Muzhda has the platform to continue her unmatched connection with New American women, while also amplifying her reach and ability to share her knowledge and experiences.
“Through Embrace, I’m able to help other moms and facilitate the way they get support and education about their new environment, healthcare systems here, and walk them through the differences between birth cultures here versus their home countries. My goal is to help educate so they can choose to be self-sufficient and have the ability to advocate for themselves and their needs. With my position at Embrace, this goal is amplified in a way that not only benefits me, but all the women I work with and will work with.”
Nothing makes our hearts sing more than knowing that our efforts at Embrace have not only supported and empowered New American mothers, but also inspired them to share their experiences and knowledge with new mothers to come in the ways Merry and Muzhda have.
The work our New American partners and staff have put into cultivating genuine relationships with new mothers, and becoming trusted figures within the community have been instrumental in molding Embrace into the flourishing organization we are proud to be today.
We are grateful to know that with the support of our community as a whole, we can continue down this path of educating, learning, and authentically connecting with thriving New American mothers with the help of our expanding culturally understanding staff!