I came to the U.S. more than 11 years ago. I had a career, a house that was paid for and a nice car at my country. But when I was told that my son was coming with Down syndrome, I realized I didn’t have the most important thing: I didn’t have the security of knowing that he would be accepted and respected. I got scared by my own ignorance.
It wasn’t easy to me to let behind the effort of all those years, for coming to a country where I suddenly turned into another anonymous soul. Moving to the United States is considered a bold move for many. I didn’t feel so much bold as I did desperately to change the future of my child. A few years after we arrived here, life surprised me a second time when my daughter was born with the same condition.
I have worked tirelessly to get where I am today. After many years I’m finally where I belong. I have been a maid, a waitress and I even sold donuts for a while. And something that I learned to admire and respect about this country is that it doesn’t matter what you do when you do it right, you keep moving up.
Many times, while scrubbing someone else’s toilettes or marble floors, I dreamed of being a writer, of speaking up for my kids, of changing the world a little bit. I vacuumed Persian rugs while listening to English language tapes to improve my accent. I was determined to be ready for that big day when I would stand at a podium and people would hear my voice, that of a Latina mom raising two kids with special needs.
I never gave up on my dream and eventually, the day came. I work as program Co-Director for the Parent Education Network with Family Network on Disabilities. I not only give advice to new parents of kids with special needs, but I travel around the country to share my story and bringing hope to others. I’ll be always grateful to my community for giving me the chance to be where I’m today, and will always treasure the day when Latism made another of my dreams come true. The day when I stood at a podium at the White House, talking about the things that I always wanted to say. And people were listening.
Since that day, many people who seemed unreachable to me have become part of my journey. I pitched Her Bad Mother in an elevator that day. And to my surprise, that busy and well-known businesswoman heard my voice (that tape never really helped me get rid of my Latina accent) and gave me the chance to become a Babble voice. To start writing in English (my second language) seemed as an impossible task to achieve years ago, but when someone you love and admire tells you that you can do it, and you have to do it.. you end doing it.
And after working hard and tireless, one day you wake up to the realization that people is listening at you.. really listening at you!
My kids have taught me through their challenges to overcome mine and never to give up. Through them, I found the life’s mission that leads my existence: To open doors for those who are born with special needs.
Many times those doors are not as big as I would like them to be. Many times they seem too big, and I get tired of trying to push them open. Many times I get lost in the number of page views and retweets…and then I go back to the days when I didn’t have anything but my voice, and the only person listening to my dreamed-up speech was my reflection in the mirror.
People can think or tell you whatever they want about the immigrant experience in America. For me, being here today while raising my two kids has a deeper and greater meaning. I have found a reason to live and help others through my circumstances, and I know I’m in the perfect place. I can only be grateful to this country for all that it has given to us. America taught me to give by example, and since then, I started giving back to others and helping them to believe and take action for themselves and their kids, with or without special needs.
I don’t know where else I would have been able to achieve all these things. I’m a proud American Citizen since 2014. This is my country and I hope people never forget that this country is filled with grateful immigrants like me. America has always taught others to give from the heart in order to receive the best from others. Its lessons couldn’t have rung truer for me.