Why I March

march-1For those of you who have been hiding under a rock or simply turned off the news this past Saturday there was a movement in this country. A call to action, a unification of people from all walks of life to come together for Equality, for human rights for social justice and for change. It was amazing. It was empowering and eye opening. I turn on the news and hear people say that we were dumb, that marching didn’t solve anything, that we were a bunch of whiny people upset over the election.  That women who were born here in the US had nothing to complain about compared to third world countries. And so, to the people not understanding why “privileged women born in the USA would protest” I offer my story.

I was 25 years old when I gave birth to my son. It was a Monday in September and I six days past my due date went to the hospital to be induced. I had a pretty easy pregnancy, only complaint was I couldn’t fit my shoes and my legs were literally trunkles. No lie. I ended up laboring for 24 hours, pushing for two and a half and when my son and I were in distress, labor was not progressing and we were prepared for an emergency Cesarean Section. He was born on the most beautiful Tuesday in the history of the world, weighing in at 9 lbs 10 oz and 22 inches long. Yes, apparently I make demi-gods.

Up until his birth I  worked hard at my hotel and tried to save every penny. I had saved up my vacation to supplement the lost wages during my recovery and hoped for the best. I planned on pumping my breast milk to save on money. Of course as all mothers will tell you, sometimes our birth-plan doesn’t go the way we imagined.

Having an emergency c-section meant that it would take up to 12 weeks for my body to heal from having my abdomen sliced open and a human body pulled from it. I soon learned that my vacation that I had saved up was swallowed up to pay for my insurance premiums and that I did not have the little cushion that I thought I had saved for.  At around 5 1/2 weeks I had to convince my OBGYN to allow me to return to work and beg my managers to put me on the schedule because we just couldn’t afford it. At 5 1/2 weeks I resumed my hotel desk job-a  half a week before a vaginal birth is allowed and several weeks before a Cesarean is cleared. But I had to put food on the table and bills to pay and  doctors visits and co-pays to pay for, I had applied for WIC to help and also for government assistance and I made 10 cents more than I was allowed to make at the time to qualify for any additional temporary welfare assistance. So off to work I went with an open wound. And Guess what happened? My stomach opened up. Literally opened up. Blood, liquids, stuff that should have never come out did (and I had a desk job so it’s not like I was doing strenuous work) being that it opened up I also had an infection that could have killed me. My sons father had to learn in the doctor’s office how to pack the gaping 2 inch hole and change my dressings so it would not get worse, but even through that I would wake up get dressed , partially take my pain medications (If it wasn’t higher than an 8 on a 10 point scale I would go without because I found out that it made me loopy and thus unsafe to drive)  and I went to work, occasionally going home on my lunch break so I could change the dressing and re-pack the wounds.

It would have been nice to have paid maternity leave. It would have been a great help, it would have allowed me time to not only heal but bond with my newborn son. As a first time mother it would have allowed me time to learn the things I needed to learn, to just keep a child alive.  I sadly had to stop breast-feeding/pumping because of the infection and medication and it was all so overwhelming. Looking back I know now that I wasn’t educated or confident or coherent  enough to ask for help and  support for myself a breastfeeding mom, so I had to put him on formula Which you guessed it cost a lot of money and additional stress. However I was lucky to have a job, I am well aware of that.

I do remember something that will stay with me forever, I was asked to help train a gentleman (who to this day is a near and dear friend). He was an older man who had no hotel experience and I was the one who was lucky enough to get to show him the ropes. One day, I had to go talk to our accounting department and happened to see the pay sheets pulled up on the computer and noticed it listed everyone’s wages. To add insult to injury, literally, I realized was training a co-worker, a man,  and guess who was getting paid $1 more an hour with no experience? Yep the man. My guts were falling out, I was a great employee (I am now a Director with the same company, so no, I’m not just saying that) and I was training him with 5 years of experience and I was still getting paid a dollar less. So this friends is why I marched. And even though my baby factory is most likely to be closed forever, I did it for my sisters out there who may or may not have it worse than I did. I do it in solidarity for women’s rights, for equality, for human rights. For dignity. I marched for my Black brothers and sisters, for my LGTBQ friends, for the disabled for the voiceless. I wanted the world to know that until my dying breath, in me you will always have an ally. And I won’t stop here, you will see me in letter writing campaigns signing petitions, calling my local representatives and standing in line in November and every election my body will allow me to attend after that. Because you matter to me and together we are stronger than alone.

For a fun video of the Atlanta March please click here :

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdenisejruiz%2Fvideos%2F10207902167049206%2F&show_text=1&width=560

EDITED TO ADD: *For the record I believe in paid parental leave for the birth of a child. I feel that a father’s place in the home is just as important and that it is not fair for men in the USA to be punished for wanting to be fathers. I believe both roles are important in the upbringing of a child.

Go out and be awesome, not matter where your walk in life leads you! ❤

Shatter the Glass Ceiling

suff 1.jpgThis isn’t another political post. This is a love letter to all the amazing women out here who are doing their part to make the world a better place everyday. To the women who raise their babies at home, i salute you. The the women who work to support their families, I salute you. To the women who wake up everyday and go into an office full of men and kill it on a daily basis, this is for you. To the future daughters and dreamers and leaders you are stronger than you know.

Our time is now. I remember being in the 4th grade. I was an Air Force Brat living in Clovis, New Mexico and we had to stand up in the front of the class and tell each other what we wanted to be when I grew up. I remember at the time i wanted to be two things, an actress or the first female president of the United States. I had told my mother this and she would tell me that I indeed was going to be the president. When Mrs. Norfolk called my name i stood up, proud and held my head high and proclaimed that I, Denise was going to be the first Puerto Rican president of the United States. After all, this was the land of hopes and dreams and anything was possible. It was only a few seconds after i declared this, that I heard Mrs. Norfolk say “You can’t be president if your from Puerto Rico or a woman” And i instantly deflated. I had never heard before that my dream was impossible. I had never heard that because of where i was born or because I was a woman, something was out of reach. I couldn’t understand that. My parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be and here a teacher, a smart person just told me that my possible dream was IMPOSSIBLE.

jenny.jpg I remember going home and telling my mother. She was 26 years old and a mother of 3 children. She was born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico. A woman who didn’t have the best education but was hands over fist smarter than most. A true survivor. A woman who didn’t understand taking “No” for an answer, who would make small miracles out of a sewing needle, thread and a vision. This woman who didn’t speak English very well, would sit next to me as I learned and would learn the language with me watching Sesame Street. She also enhanced it with Police Academy, Coming To America movies and her favorite show The Price is Right. Her vocabulary was very interesting! I saw this woman, raise 3 kids on her own when my father was out serving our country. She learned how to drive a stick shift in one night while we sat in a pizza parlor so she could get a job. She operated an in-home daycare. She handmade our costumes, she made curtains and decorated our home. She worked outside the home. She learned and everyday she got better. She went to community college, she worked for herself, everyday this woman pushes herself towards greatness so you have to understand, to be told I couldn’t do something was foreign because I was raised to know that i could do the impossible and i had a living, breathing person living in my home, walking the walk and talking the talk. When i told my mother what Mrs. Norfolk said, she was enraged. Shes a fiery soul and I know that she went to the school. I don’t know what she said, but I know when she came back she was pissed and cursed and said that I wasnt going to listen to her and that i could still be President.

However that mustard seed of doubt had been planted and little did I know that from time to time I would hear Mrs. Norfolk’s voice and the self-doubt would creep in. All it took was that one moment to alter my beliefs and thinking. I’m sure she wasnt malicious and maybe she was a product of that small-minded thinking. Who knows.

suff2.jpgWhat I have become is a champion for women. I am the girl who fights for women’s rights. Who befriends the drunk girl in the bathroom and tells her shes beautiful. I’m the one who will let a stranger borrow my phone and wait with her until her friends show up. Im the one who will come over and talk to a woman if she looks scared or is being harassed by men at a party. I am the one who will be your designated driver and make sure you are safe if you want to let loose. I am a believe of the Sister code. I am the one who will train you to take my job someday. I am the one to support you in whatever dream you have because i believe in the sisterhood and it is something i do not take lightly.

votemeSo you have to understand that today, for me is an emotional day. Regardless of your political views, this is monumental. This is HISTORY, or rather HERSTORY. The fact that in my 37 years I got to vote for the first black president and now for the hopeful future Madame President is beyond words. This is the impossible becoming possible. Today when i woke up, i put on a white dress with a purple cardigan and gold jewelry. It was my nod to the Suffragettes who fought for my right to vote, who catapulted us to this very moment. A moment, just 30 years ago i thought would never come.

So now, sisters, its our turn. We get to shatter this glass ceiling. We do not have to offer apologies for existing or simply being born this gender. We are mighty and strong and an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. This is our time.

To the sisterhood, I salute you. ❤