"I Got It From My Momma" honors mothers and mother figures of every stripe, with one new essay appearing each day until Mother's Day.  

Credit: cturlington/instagram; Photo by Kurt Markus

As a maternal health advocate and founder of Every Mother Counts, a non-profit dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere, I think about moms and motherhood a lot, especially the important roles we play in our homes and in society. As I think of all the things I learned from my mother, I hope I can pass those same lessons on to my kids.

I got so many good things from my momma that I don’t know where to begin! Let’s start with my genes. My mom is from El Salvador, which I am certain enhanced my dad’s less exotic DNA and gave me a bit of an edge as a young model. She is also the reason I feel as at home outside of the United States as I do inside the United States. As a young girl, I traveled with my mom to Central America during my summers to connect with our extended family. This helped me gain perspective outside the familiarity and comforts of small town America.

My mom immigrated to the United States when she was just eight years old. Her experience coming to the United States was ingrained in me; I often heard her tell the story about being separated from her father for years before my mom, her younger brother, and my grandmother would join him in Los Angeles. My mom learned English as a second language and, like many immigrants, she was a very committed student. She is still close with many of her friends from middle school. In fact, she gets together with them at least once a year.

My mom has an adventurous spirit. She became a flight attendant so she could travel the world and brought each of her parents around the world with her. I inherited her wanderlust and in my career have taken every opportunity to see the world and to share it with my family as often as possible. My mom stopped flying when she was pregnant with my sister because you could not be pregnant and work as a flight attendant in those days. She was a stay-at-home mom for all of my childhood but she kept her relationships going and made new ones with others along the way. She always volunteered in our community and pursued her many interests as well.

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While I have always admired my mom’s dedication to our family, I was committed to continuing to work when I became a mom. I could see that while she was content, she sometimes missed her independence too. So, when my sisters and I were all out of the house, she went back to school and thrived again as an adult student. Many years later I would go back to school as an adult, too, once again following in her footsteps. I even pursued the same liberal arts education as she had done. My mom lost her father the same way I lost mine. She never wallowed in despair and instead threw herself into self-preservation and care. My mom started her yoga practice at age 57. I would like to think my own exploration and practice had something to do with that.

My mom’s life has taught me so much about patience, resilience, and perseverance. I apply these lessons every day in my life as a mother AND as a maternal health advocate, as I work to support improved maternity care and access to the people who ensure safer birth outcomes around the world. After all, without our health, how can we mothers thrive and ensure the well-being of our children? Thanks, momma, for giving me the healthy start in life and for every inspiration that followed.

I Got It From My Momma Is a partnership with Every Mother Counts. Click here to read more about their work.