We had the good fortune of speaking with Isabel Alvarez, Brand Marketing Manager at Walgreens. Isabel is a first generation Mexican-American, and is proud to come from a large immigrant family of hard-working people. She has one son, Sergio Alberto Rivera, born June 2021 during the pandemic by c-section. She is planning her second pregnancy, trying for vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC).
Isabel’s grandma, “Mama Cuca”, who recently passed, was a great influence in her life. In this post, Isabel shares her story. She has inspired Isabel to participate, and motivate other pregnant women from different backgrounds to take part in PowerMom.
“Mama Poderosa”: Powerful Mom
Mama Cuca instilled in me the importance of family, togetherness, unity, love and strength. To me she was the definition of a PowerMom, or, “Mama Poderosa.” She gave birth 17 times… talk about a #PowerMom! Despite living in poverty, she worked hard every day alongside her husband, “Papa Chuy”, to provide a better life for her children. Having a large family was her biggest pride and joy. “Creating life and bringing a healthy child into this world was the most rewarding experience and gift that life can ever give you”, she said.
Mama Cuca always emphasized how unimaginably powerful a woman’s body is. Giving birth 17 times is not an easy thing to do. But, the one thing she said she wished she had was access to quality medical care. Having 17 kids was not easy on her body, especially when having little to no medical attention. She had many complications and near-death experiences throughout multiple pregnancies. She suffered from high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Luckily, she was able to survive all 17 births. But, sadly, 5 children did not survive.
She felt relief knowing that her kids emigrated to the U.S. for a better quality of life. When I told her I was pregnant she was so happy for me. I remember her telling me “me llena de alegria mija y lo bueno es que aqui hay buenos doctores y atencion medica para que tu y tu bebe esten bien cuidados” [translation: “It fills me with joy and the good thing is that here there are good doctors and medical attention so that you and your baby are well cared for.”]
A Present Day PowerMom
She was right, to a certain degree. There are great hospitals and doctors here, but not everyone has equal access to quality care or care at all. I consider myself lucky and privileged to have good medical insurance and access to top quality providers and hospitals. I owe this to my parents for working hard to provide me with a good education and foundation for my future. But, as I began to do some online research and join different support groups during my pregnancy, I came to learn about the unfortunate reality of the disparities in maternal and infant health.
I am very fortunate to be working for a company like Walgreens that supports important research studies like PowerMom, as well as DETECT, and the All of Us Research Program. Health equity is something Walgreens has been focused on for years. Working for Walgreens for the past 15 years has enabled me to take part in meaningful and impactful work that aims to help our vulnerable communities live healthier lives. Through my own pregnancy journey, I look forward to sharing information about my attempt for VBAC.
What I love about PowerMom is that it empowers pregnant women to share their medical journey throughout their pregnancy and postpartum. We create communities on social platforms to share our experiences and provide advice to help one another, so why not do it here where it can be put to good use?
Being represented in health research is extremely important. It helps build trust between the medical community and historically underrepresented populations, improve medical treatments and identify areas where we can improve health outcomes. However, we can only achieve representation when there is participation. To learn more about PowerMom, visit powermom.scripps.edu.
I want to say Happy Mother’s Day “Feliz dia de las Madres” to all the PowerMoms (Mamas Poderosas), especially my mom and my grandma “Mama Cuca.”
We would like to extend these Mother’s Day wishes to Isabel. We appreciate your involvement and advocacy for PowerMom, and feel honored to highlight the loving memory of your Mama Cuca.
If you would like to nominate a PowerMom to be featured on our blog, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org