In my experience teaching with Motherhood Beyond Bars, I have seen that while the women we work with face many challenges, one of their greatest strengths comes from each other. In our classes for new and expectant mothers, we encourage participants to speak up about their personal experiences and share information with the group. It’s clear that these women can learn a lot from one another.
For example, last week we discussed the process of childbirth in our Mothering from the Start childbirth education class. When one woman described her past experience with a Cesarean delivery, it helped to answer questions other women had about the procedure. First-time mothers in particular often say they are thankful to be able to learn from others’ in the class.
After the session had ended, I was talking to a woman who is facing some difficult decisions about who will care for her baby after she gives birth. I have so much respect for how clearly that she is putting her child’s interests first, and I know this baby is very much loved. I am glad that another woman from our class was able to offer a suggestion of someone working in the prison who might be helpful to talk with about is dilemma.
A couple of other women from the class had come back into the cafeteria (where class is held), and they handed me a flyer with information about breast screening. They had gotten it and thought might be useful to me. For a moment I was confused. While I have certainly learned many things from the women I teach, this was the first time they had handed me printed health information.
The women then explained that they thought the flyer might be good for me to have on hand in case someone in the class ever asked me a related question, perhaps prompted by a discussion about breastfeeding. The women expressed concern that for some of their fellow classmates, our class is “the only resource,” and they saw a continued need for more information amongst inmates. With few activities to keep them occupied, many women spend time thoroughly reading the participant workbooks that we give them. I was moved by these ladies’ concern for the other women in the prison, and I was struck both my how much Motherhood Beyond Bars is needed and the potential for growth and further impact.