I’m from Venezuela. Having a family–it’s what you expect to do.

My name is Carolina. I am 39 and have two boys: Ignacio, who is ten, and Alejandro, who is five. I would describe myself as very independent, proactive, and ambitious, and also very passionate about my career.

Having a family was very intentional. I guess it’s because of our culture. I am from Venezuela. Having a family–it’s what you expect to do. Plus my husband comes from a family of nine brothers and sisters. We’re very family-oriented.

I really wasn’t sure how my life would change. I was working fulltime. I enjoyed my pregnancy. I was reading about having children all the time, but I don’t think anything really prepared me for the moment when I first held my child. I had a c-section. I remember hearing him cry. It must have been a minute or two before I got to see him, but for me it was like eternity. When I saw his face, I remember being overwhelmed … I remember thinking, “This tiny baby is my responsibility. His success or his failure, and the basis of his personality, are on my shoulders.”

What are the differences between having a child here versus in Venezuela? My doctor in Venezuela, I have known him since I was 21. He knows my name. He knows my child’s name. I trust him fully. When I started going to a practice here, I don’t think I ever saw the same doctor or nurse once during the nine months of my pregnancy. When they were scheduling my c-section, they asked me, “who do you want to perform the C-section?” I said, “I don’t know. It’s all the same. I can’t tell you I trust one over another. I have the same fears with all of them.”

One of the things I’d say is very positive about the United States that you don’t get in Venezuela is a lot of information. And programs for mothers and children… here there are things like safe child and welcome baby, and la leche, breastfeeding support. You can’t find anything like that in Venezuela, even if you’re going to a high-class private practice.

In terms of work, it’s much more demanding here. In Venezuela, for maternity leave, you’re getting your full income for at least 12 weeks and you don’t have to worry about money and insurance or any of those things.

Having my first child taught me that I am a very determined person and that I am capable of doing a lot of things that I would not have thought I was capable of doing. Has it changed my priorities? I used to always want to be a successful professional person. I have worked in marketing and commercial sales and have had the opportunity to work in many countries doing that. Now what I want from life is stability, security and a way to guarantee the means to provide my children the tools they need to be successful in this society.

How have I changed? I always think about them first. I’m more determined. Even though I’ve always been a proactive and determined person, right now I truly believe that anything I set my mind to doing, I am capable of doing because it is always related to the benefits or how it is going to affect my family. I remember before being good at my job, but not taking on some challenges that I would take on now, and be successful at.

My advice is to be informed, especially if you’re relocating — like ourselves.  I want my children to be close to what their heritage is, but also understand the culture they’re living in now. It can be hard if you go out there clinging only to your culture. You need to put yourself out there.

I think it’s very important that different voices are heard about motherhood. Women are a very important part of a child’s life. Of the basis of their personality. The day I saw my older son for the first time, I kept thinking that the failure and success of this child is on my shoulders. Today, now that he is ten, I can’t say it’s all on my shoulders. A lot of it is up to him, up to his choices. But I can tell you that the basis for those choices, for that personality, for those values, that is my responsibility. It is important that every mother understand that.  Those beginning years, the values you set, is very important to what your kids are going to be able to do in an every day more demanding society. 

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