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The Gift of Life

Every resident of Casa de Paz comes with a story of heartache and hope, and of unexpected solace emerging in the darkest of moments. The youngest member of the house, born in early December, is no exception.

Baby Luciana arrived after a labor her mother Salome describes as “muy tranquila.” Salome, a first-time mother, awoke at 5 a.m. with what she later realized were contractions. “I jumped in the shower and told one of the other moms in the house and she said, ‘I think you’re going to have the baby soon.’” Salome and Jennifer Linares, the family services coordinator at Casa de Paz, headed to the hospital midday, where the doctor advised her that her baby probably wouldn’t arrive until the next day. Just a few hours later, Luciana was born.

“It wasn’t a hard labor and I didn’t feel anything,” Salome says with an almost apologetic smile. “Before she was born, I was kind of unhappy and sad. But as soon as I saw her and they laid her on my chest, it totally changed my life. Now I don’t think only about or for myself, but I have to think about someone else’s well-being.”

If Baby Luciana’s arrival was fairly easy, the months leading up to it were not. Salome, who was born and raised in Colombia, crossed the border at Tijuana into the United States with her boyfriend. The couple came in search of a better life, but they were separated at the border, and he was sent to Texas and eventually back to Colombia. Salome made her way to the Cincinnati region, where her mother and siblings were living.

When Salome learned that she was pregnant, she was excited to share the news with her boyfriend. She later learned that he died trying to cross the border again.

“When he passed away my feelings changed and I didn’t know if I wanted to have the baby anymore,” she says.

Later in her pregnancy and in need of help due to treatment and threats she was experiencing from a new partner, she called around until someone finally gave her the number for Casa de Paz. Arriving at the home around six months into her pregnancy, she finally found the support she needed, which included pursuing a protection order. The lessons from her stay at Casa de Paz have given her a new perspective, one she plans to share with Luciana when she’s old enough to understand.

“I am going to tell her she can choose her own family and you are able to get support from people even if they’re not related to you and they don’t ask for anything in return,” Salome says.

For Jennifer, accompanying Salome throughout the birth – even cutting the umbilical cord and taking pictures of the newborn baby – was a chance to experience the miracle of birth up-close and ensure that Salome could also enjoy the wonder and awe of the moment.

“Watching her being born was definitely a perk of this job,” Jennifer says. “She’s a really calm baby, and everyone is so excited. The older kids love to come see her, and the other moms help out. She brightens up the place for sure.”

As for Salome, her sights are set on continuing her journey toward independence and strength. She has found motivation and a different outlook in her new role.

“I have a lot of hopes, but mostly I want her to be healthy,” she says. “As for me, I want to be a good mother.”

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