This Thanksgiving, I have so many things to be thankful for. One of these is the experience I have had with Motherhood Beyond Bars over the past year-and-a-half.
When I first became involved with Motherhood Beyond Bars, I was excited by the opportunity to gain experience as a health educator and work with a small, very new non-profit. In the time since then, Motherhood Beyond Bars has grown rapidly as an organization, with new volunteers, new projects, and new roles. I have also grown personally from my experiences, and I am very grateful for this.
Prior to teaching with Motherhood Beyond Bars, I had never been inside a correctional facility. I had always had a strong belief that regardless of what crimes a person may have committed, there is good in every person. I knew our society is often quick to judge those who are or have been imprisoned. However, I didn’t really know what to expect when I first attend and helped with a Healthy New Mothers (postpartum) class.
I will never forget that class. As we began talking about anatomy and postpartum recovery, one woman began to cry. Thorough tears, she told a heart-wrenching story which truly showed how careful we should be when it comes to judging people without hearing their stories and what is going on in their lives. It was eye-opening for me. They say that teachers learn a lot form their students, and that certainly has been true for me. I constantly learn from the stories women tell me about their past experiences, their families, their lives in prison, and their worries for the future.
Teaching with Motherhood Beyond Bars has also helped me to learn more about myself and to make choices about a future career path. This experience has confirmed to me how much I enjoy helping people to understand health information. I find it particularly rewarding to help people who are going through a stressful situation, and I appreciate that our class covers both physiological and emotional aspects of pregnancy and childbirth in prison. Furthermore, teaching with Motherhood Beyond Bars has helped me to make the choice to pursue a career path in which I will work more directly with individuals. I have found that my favorite parts of teaching occur when I am talking one-on-one or in small groups, because I am able to personalize the conversation to each woman’s situation.
Naturally, my involvement with Motherhood Beyond Bars has made me increasingly aware of issues surrounding incarceration. I see how our prison system splits up families, separating infants from their devoted mothers. I see that it is often inadequate at preparing women for life after prison or addressing root causes of societal problems. Women in prison have usually faced many disadvantages in life. At Motherhood Beyond Bars, we strive to improve the situation of these women. The women in our classes are extremely appreciative that we come to teach them, and I very much appreciate how much I continue to learn from teaching them.