A Filipino immigrant on being a new mom in the US

Written by Anna Archibald

Image by Max Flatow

Being a mother is never an easy job. Being an immigrant mother, however, can be especially tough. Whether navigating a language barrier, being separated from family or trying to assimilate into American culture, there are a number of challenges made immensely more difficult and trying while raising a child.

Edil Cuepo, a Filipino immigrant who came to the US with her family in 2008, is just discovering how rewarding — and challenging — life as a parent in this country can be. After going through a years-long process to get her green card (read about her experience here) and enduring years of feeling unwelcome and alienated in the US, she was eventually able to find stability. She started a career and then, in December 2015, she got married. Motherhood came soon after: On October 1, she and her husband Ben welcomed June, a baby girl with a head full of hair and a contagious smile who’s now four months and three weeks old.

Here, Cuepo talks about what it’s like to be a new mom in New York City and the anxiety she feels as an immigrant mother, as well as how she plans to raise her daughter as bilingual and the Filipino traditions she’s excited to share.

What is your favorite thing to do with June?
We love taking long walks — our “adventures.” June is at a phase where she is so curious and takes in everything new she sees. Fresh air helps her be in her best mood too, just like her mommy.

How has motherhood changed you?
June is all I think and talk about nowadays! I never saw myself as the obsessive type until I was in our delivery room and had June on my chest for the first time. From that point on, she became my first priority.

Being a mother is the most selfless I have ever been. Motherhood has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. Suddenly, there is this tiny human being who is completely dependent on me — even with the simplest of things, like wiping drool off her sweet cheeks or pulling her hat up so it doesn’t cover her eyes. She chews on my nipple and poops and pees on me all day, yet I cannot get enough of her and miss her terribly when she is right there sleeping next to me.

Although I try to not be that mom who only talks about her child, it’s really, really hard — June has taken over my social media too.

What has been the most difficult part of being a mom in the US?
Childcare. You know the saying “It takes a village to raise a child….” Well, the whole village here in the US is hard at work. You are left to either entrust your child in the safety of an outsider’s hands (and pay the luxury price of childcare) or take a break from work. In my case, I decided to take a break from work so I can focus on caring for June in her first year of life.

You’re bilingual — are you teaching June Tagalog as well as English?
I speak both English and Tagalog with June, depending on who’s around or what we are talking about. When daddy and his side of the family are around, we speak in English. When my side of the family is around, we all speak in Tagalog to June.

Are there any Filipino traditions and culture you’re excited to share with June (and Ben) as she gets older?
I am excited for June to meet and spend time with her countless Filipino relatives — cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The Filipino definition of family extends to the most distant relative you rarely talk to or see, and beyond blood relations. There is no fine line when it comes to “family.” My aunts and uncles are considered June’s grandparents. Close friends are considered aunts and uncles.

Also, Filipinos celebrate Christmas like no other. Pretty much everyone is tuned in to Christmas during the last two weeks of December. Christmas shopping, never-ending Christmas parties, waking up super early for a week of dawn masses, etc. I am excited for June to experience it firsthand. She will need sunglasses in December to shield her eyes from brightly lit Christmas trees and street decor in the Philippines.

What has it been like for you to see what’s happening politically as both a new mom and an immigrant woman?
I was deeply disturbed when Trump took office. Although I try to be understanding of others who voted for him, I cannot help but be offended — and worried — about his words and attitude about and against women, especially since I have a daughter now. I want my daughter to grow up around people who encourage, support and see power and ability in women. I want her to become whoever and whatever she wants to be, without having to answer to society.

Even when I am aware that not all who put Trump in office approve of his prior and current misogynistic ways and condescending approach to women, I am still in disbelief how America was able to ignore and tolerate his actions enough to make him President of the United States.

If you could explain one thing to people about being an immigrant mother in this country, what would it be?
As an immigrant mother, you worry about the future of your child in a country where not everyone recognizes your worth and contribution. Immigrants are hard-workers and as much a part of this society as non-immigrants are. They pay the same taxes that American-born citizens do — if not more.

Do you have any advice for immigrant women who are expecting or who have just had a baby?
Let your voice be heard. Do not stand down.

You may also like...