Born a Mother || #Every2

When I first became pregnant, seven years ago, I was immersed in public health work – examining the intersection of poverty, HIV and gender identity as a street based researcher.  My evenings were spent in the classroom finishing up my Masters Degree.  As I dreamed of motherhood and my baby to be, I felt a natural pull towards global maternal health.  And now, as a mother of two, approaching Mother’s Day, I share my birth stories because every woman should have the fundamental right to life and health.

When I went into labor, my baby was in a posterior position resulting in an arduously long back labor.  Along with my doula, my birthing preferences were met with resistance as I was under the care of the Obstetrician that my provider hoped wouldn’t be on call that day.  Whatever discord I felt between the Dr. and his team dissipated from my mind as soon as I heard my doula say, “It’s a girl” – and I experienced that glorious moment when time seemed to stand still.  The minute that I became a mother for the first time. The moment that I met my darling Lucia Paloma.

born a mother every mother counts #Every2

Twenty Seven months later, I had a chance to experience that sacred moment again.  My Dr. had since left her former practice to form a minimally invasive partnership and aligned herself with a hospital known as a proponent of minimally invasive obstetrics.  St. Vincent’s hospital closed its doors the week that my son was due – and when I slid into a fast and furious labor, I waited for that call to tell me where to go.  My experiences at that lower Manhattan hospital were extremely positive.  It was my husband’s solid hip-squeezing technique and ability to coheres the nurses into letting me remain upright that severed as my saving grace.  And sharing in the birth of our son brought us even closer.  As the hospital walls echoed “DON”T PUSH”  I screamed “I’M PUSHING!!!!”, and my Dr. finally arrived to catch my sweet baby boy. Adrian Alessandro arrived ten days after his due date and birthing him was the hardest and by far the most empowering moment of my life.

photo 2(8)

When I think back on the births of my babies, years later, my greatest concern at the time was unnecessary medical intervention.  I also think about the care and support that carried me through my pregnancies and postpartum; An endocrinologist to closely monitor my thyroid disease, a doula to support my first birth, a skilled and supportive Obstetrician, and a long term lactation consultant to support my breastfeeding goals despite being told it wasn’t possible due to breast reduction surgery nearly 10 years prior.


I share these stories on the cusp of Mother’s Day because around the world, a mother dies every two minutes from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.  The majority of these deaths are preventable and that is unacceptable.  As we celebrate Mother’s this Sunday there are actions that we can do to help make pregnancy and childbirth safe for everyone by getting involved with Every Mother Counts, #every2 campaign:

  • UPLOAD 2 photos of the day you were “born” a mother on Facebook,  or  share your photos with the hashtag #Every2 on social media.
  • RUN 2 miles for Every Mother Counts and log them in the Charity Miles App. Every mile will generate $.25 for EMC.
  • SHARE 2 facts about maternal health on 2 of your social media networks with the hashtag #every2
  • INVITE 2 friends to Take 2 actions of their own.

Please join me in taking 2 minutes this Mother’s Day for mothers everywhere.


Child Hunger Ends Here

Last month, I introduced my partnership with the Child Hunger Ends Here program.  The statistics are truly eye-opening:

Nearly 16 million children in the U.S. live in food insecure households and do have enough food to fuel the promise of an active and healthy childhood. 

As a mother, it’s unbearable to fathom children going hungry and not have their basic needs met.  This ambassadorship is one that I’m honored to be a part of as Con Agra Foods and P&G continue to build a community of individuals helping to make a significant difference by donating up to 7 million meals to the Child Hunger Ends Here program this year.

child hunger ends here

In full disclosure, I’m not a fan of country music, but I am a massive fan of musicians lending their powerful voice to do great good.  Grammy nominated country musician Hunter Hayes is using his platform to spread awareness of the prevalence of food insecurity among children, and dedicated his song “invisible” to the child hunger movement.

To help, simply look for the red push-pin on specially marked Con Agra Foods and P&G products and enter each 8 digit code at up until August – to have the monetary equivalent of one meal donated to feeding America, and have a chance to ask Hunter a question. Every month Hunter will answer one question (including the person’s name) on video, on the Child Hunger Ends Here facebook page.

Remember to look for the signature red push pin and join the Child Hunger Ends Here Facebook community.  Also follow their mission of ending child hunger on Twitter, Instagram, and under the hashtag #childhunger. Additionally, please fill out this quick reader survey to help ConAgra Foods and The Child Hunger Ends Here campaign gauge awareness.

Thank you for your support!

As a child Huger Ends Here ambassador, I was compensated for this post.  I’m honored to be a small part of this important campaign.


A Call To Action: Child Hunger Ends Here

Just a few weeks ago during the Polar Vortex single-digit freeze, I gratefully schlepped my kiddos to school in inclement weather upon learning about the disproportionate amount of NYC students that would go without a meal if the school systems were closed.  On a national level, more than one in five children (and more than one in four Latino children), may not know where their next meal is coming from.  The prevalence of food insecurity among U.S. children is profound and the numbers are truly eye-opening.  Nearly 16 million children do not have enough food to fuel the promise of an active, healthy childhood. 

That’s equivalent to 8,000 playgrounds full of food insecure children.

I couldn’t be more honored to be a Child Hunger Ends Here Ambassador and lend a voice to sharing simple ways to help end child hunger.  Through a partnership with ConAgra Foods and P&G up to seven million meals will be donated via the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign.


How To Help:

  • It’s easy to make a difference! Simply look for the red pushpin and locate the code found on specially indicated ConAgra Foods and P&G Products.  Enter the 8-digit code at (through August 2014) and ConAgra Foods or P&G, respectively, will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to the nation’s leading hunger-relief charity, Feeding America.
  • Through a partnership with Grammy-nominated Country Artist Hunter Hayes, Child Hunger Ends Here will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America (up to 1 million meals), for every download of Hunter’s new single “Invisible” on iTunes.
  • Share a favorite family photo on Instagram with the hashtag #HunterGramPromo, and Child Hunger Ends here will donate one meal towards eradicating child hunger. In addition, the instagram photo will give you a chance to win entry into an exclusive Hutger Hayes event, courtesy of Child Hunger Ends here.

One of the easiest ways to help spread the word and get involved is by joining the Child Hunger Ends Here Facebook community.  Also follow their mission of ending child hunger on Twitter, Instagram, and under the hashtag #childhunger.

Additionally, please take a moment to fill out this quick reader survey to help ConAgra Foods and The Child Hunger Ends Here campaign gauge awareness.

As a child Huger Ends Here ambassador, I was compensated for this post.  I’m honored to be a small part of this important campaign.


We Are Empowered – Women and HIV

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric Community®.  This shop has been compensated as a part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertisers.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the end of 2010, one in four people living with HIV in the United States were women, and women of color are at disproportionate risk for infection. Over the past few years, however, data has been promising, showing a decrease (21%) in HIV incidence among black/African American women in the U.S. (CDC).  For this downward trend to continue, efforts to change the course of the disease must be amplified and supported.  The Greater Than AIDS campaign in collaboration with Walgreens is responding to the U.S. HIV epidemic through public information campaigns to increase awareness and knowledge, reduce stigma and ultimately prevent the spread of HIV.  Their message is one of hope and empowerment – inspiring communities to come together to create dialog, get tested, correct misinformation, use protection and support treatment.

#We Are Empowered #shop #cbias

With over a decade of  personal experience in the HIV arena (including work in street-based harm reduction, advocacy, testing and counseling, federally-funded research, and co-authoring several publications in peer reviewed journals) – sharing this campaign is of importance to me.  However small my role was in impacting the course of the disease, I come from a place of  understanding some of the complexities of risk.  For women, these unique risks include biological susceptibility, relationship power imbalances and knowing a partner’s risk factors (to name a few).  Socioeconomic stresses, a history of trauma, substance use and many other overlapping risk factors have shown to be predictors of HIV risk.  I also come from a place of compassion, because I know what it’s like to walk someone through a positive diagnosis for the first time, be an advocate in a hospital emergency room, and confront stigma in unexpected places.  I have also had the privilege of seeing many individuals thrive with early treatment and medication adherence.

#WeAreEmpowered #shop #cbias

But this story isn’t about my previous work life. It’s about woman like Cristina, Eva, Jen, Kym and Stephanie – who share their incredibly empowering stories of living with HIV in the We Are Empowered documentary moderated by HIV-advocate/artist Alica Keys. It’s also about individuals like Om and Jonathan, from Walgreens pharmacy in Elmhurst, NY, working collectivity with local community based organizations to facilitate treatment and promote treatment adherence for community members living with HIV/AIDS.  And it’s about what we can all do to impact the HIV epidemic. With over 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. (CDC) – HIV/AIDS is indeed about all of us – regardless of HIV status. For more information, visit Greater Than AIDS, to see how education about HIV risk and transmission, regular testing, dialog, protection and treatment can help to change the course of the disease.

 #We Are Empowered #shop #cbias

Greater Than AIDS has joined forces with Walgreens for a national watch party on January 19 from 8-9 pm EST to view and promote discussion of the We Are Empowered documentary.  I also hope that you’ll be joining me at the Walgreens Empowered Twitter party (#WeAreEmpowered) on January 15 from 8-9pm EST to continue the discussion.

#WeAreEmpowered #shop #cbias

Please see top disclosure.  Images 2-4 via Greater Than AIDS.


Straight Talk: a Simple Way to Help Make-A-Wish {Sponsored}

As many of you know, an extraordinary organization, Make-A-Wish, is making childhood wishes come true (every 38 minutes) for children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions.  This amazing work is guided by the belief that wish experiences have profound lasting effects for sick children and their families.  Medical teams have reported that wish experiences work concurrently with medicine to make children feel emotionally stronger and better able to deal with their life-threatening medical conditions.  Make-A-Wish’s work is truly inspirational and even includes the construction of a baseball field for an 11 year old boy (in his own backyard).  Truly Miraculous.

When I was first contacted to work on this campaign, I read story after story of wishes being granted.  I felt my heart pounding for parents in my facebook and instagram feeds whom one day woke up to a living hell.  I remembered reading stories in the hospital to our family friend Constantine, and imagined little boys like him that had the chance to have a wish fulfilled before passing.  I wept.  A lot.  But mostly, I felt a tremendous sense of hope in Make-a-Wish stories, and wanted to learn more about how to get involved.

help make a wish

This month, it is incredibly easy to get involved through the Give A Minute, Help Make-A-Wish campaign.  Every single Saturday in September, Straight Talk Wireless (a no contract wireless phone service) will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish for each person that takes one minute to learn about Straight Talk while visiting Walmart.  Straight Talk has vowed to donate a minimum of $500,000 and up to $1,000,000 (last year’s program reached the $1,000,000 donation mark) to Make-A-Wish.

For those who can’t visit a Walmart store Straight Talk will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish (up to $100,000 towards their one million dollar goal) when their video is shared on social media by September 28th, 2013 (one donation per viewer, per day).

Wishes matter. Incredibly.  And like Straight Talk, I believe that there is nothing greater than granting a sick child’s wish.

I’m joining in and hope that you will too.

Although I was compensated monetarily in this campaign for One2One Network, I’m thrilled to amplify this cause and other work rooted in social good.  As always, all opinions are my own.


Where To Donate Stuffed Animals – Loving Hugs Inc.

As a mother, I understand the comfort that a stuffed animal can bring.  Adrian and Lucia seek solace in my arms, or they reach for  a special stuffed animal to soothe themselves.  We started donating stuffed animals to Loving Hugs, Inc. last summer and have since been following their heart-warming work on social media.

Loving Hugs, Inc. distributes donations of stuffed animals (new and gently used) to children in war zones, orphanages, refugee and IDP camps, natural disaster zones and hospitals around the world.  The organization began in 2007 when its founder Wendy Clark received a letter from a US soldier, detailing the horrific consequence for Iraqi children caused by insurgent bombing attacks.  Wendy was inspired to help the innocent children who were injured, alone in hospitals and placed in orphanages after learning that their parents were killed.   Her determination led her to help children all over the world, facing crises, with the emotional comfort of a loving “hug” to cuddle.

loving hugs

To get involved, please visit the Loving Hugs website, review their donation guidelines and remember that the recipients are living in the most difficult situations imaginable.  Donations must be in excellent condition.  Getting young children involved is a fantastic first “giving” project, and a Hugs Drive is a perfect service learning project for a school or community to take part in.  Support can also be given by following their inspiring work on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is not sponsored in any way. I am happy to share this amazing organization.  The image of the little girl in Guatemala is via Loving Hugs, Inc.