by Richard Spregel & Barbara Fisher

Enabling the Family

(The Waterways Project)

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h~ Diehard Spi.egel

& Barbara Fisher

(1?he Waterways PrQje.ct)

@ 1991, The Waterways Project





Looking at your present attitudes

page 5

Your attitude toward others pageS8

Inspecting your attitude toward your child

page 23

Coping with, and overcoming, society's prejudices page 50


Dan page 60

Big Harold and Tiny Enid

page 74

Jolly Molly Molar

page 99




Enabling the Family is a companion volume to the Parenting Teens Common Sense Survival Skills Manual, which helps you to cope with the system and begin to advocate for yourself. Enabling the Family offers you a series of lessons for you to do at your own rate.

The lessons may be done in class, but there's no need to do them in a rush. Hold onto the book, because someday you might return to reread some writings and redo some exercises. Share some of these lessons with the people around you. Their support will help you to learn and grow.

The first section of Enabling the Family, Dealing with Attitudes, contains poems, diaries and writings where other young adults and older adults share their parenting experiences. This section deals with your own attitude toward yourself, your attitude toward your child, and the attitudes of society (including adults, hospitals, and other young adults without children) toward teen age parents and parenting. Use the questions to help you understand the writings.

These lessons should encourage you to feel comfortable with the written word. They are based on the premise that if you enjoy reading you will want to read more.

Some of the lessons in this section encourage you to write a poem or story in this book. You might begin by writing on a separate piece of paper. First, put your ideas into words, then choose the best words to express your ideas. And then, put your writing in this book so that you may share it with others.

The second section of Enabling the Family, Taking Care of Business, is composed of stories for you to read to your child. As you read aloud, be sensitive to your child's feelings. The first story, Dan, is about the young pup's feelings. Reading a story can be a very positive way to interact with your child. The last story, Jolly Molly Molar, helps your child to understand the importance of good nutrition. Reading a story aloud toyour child is a way of feeding and nourishing; and encourages your child to want to read as he or she grows.











How do your feelings determine your attitudes?


In this lesson you will speak and/or write about how you are now feeling and describe your present outlook on life.


How can you best describe your present feelings in words?

Reading poetry helps you to put words to, and better understand, your feelings.


The womb of God

walks icy Harlem streets with holes in her shoes

Her own mother is no solace

for she is sickly, bent over and carries shopping bags full of rags They are swaddling clothes for the messiah even though there are no mangers on city streets.

What's to become of this woman child? Wedded to welfare

she spends long hours in waiting

and the only love she knows has left knowing she'll be better off without him.



I tell you

her blues is so thick it could keep the sun from rising

Her dues ain't like dues at all

more like chunks ripped out from her soul Yet there is so much strength here

even the trees rooted in the planet shiver when she walks by

Still one wonders

what's to become of this woman child?





1. Check your immediate response to the first reading of this poem. Describe how you feel at this moment. Not how you always feel, but how you feel now, in the present, after first experiencing the poem:

- I didn't understand the poem, and feel confused.

- I didn't understand the poem, but would like to hear it again.

- I feel sad, depressed and hopeless.

- I feel sad and depressed but not


- I feel confident this woman child will make it in the world.

- I feel confident this woman child will


- I feel angry, because the world is such a hard place.

- I feel a deep sense of religion.

- I feel the trees shiver

2. Come together in a small group. Ask one member of the group to read the poem aloud.


List any words you do not understand. Discuss those words in your group. Look them up in a dictionary.


In a small group, suggest an answer to the question posed in the poem's title:

What's to Become of this Woman Child?




3. Describe your feelings after the second reading and discussion of the poem:

- I feel the same way I felt after the first reading.

- I understand the poem a little more after the discussion.

- I feel more confused after the discussion, because

- I feel sad, depressed and hopeless.

- I feel sad and depressed but not


- I feel confident this woman child will make it in the world.

- I feel confident this woman child will


- I feel angry, because the world is such a hard place.

- I feel a deep sense of religion.

- I feel the trees shiver.



Review your responses to the poem.

Did your second response remain the same as your first? Or did you change your opinion after the second reading of the poem?

If your response remained the same, what does that say about your attitude? If your response changed, what caused you to change your attitude?

_ I was right and didn't care to change my mind.

- I convinced other people in the group my response was right.

- I gave the poem careful thought and changed my response.

- Someone in the group convinced me to change my response.



Do your responses to the poem represent your attitude (at the present moment) toward being a parent or raising a child?

In four (4) paragraphs write a review of the poem and what it means to you.

Use the first paragraph as an introduction (include the title and author of the poem).


The second paragraph should contain your paraphrasing of the poem (describe in your own words what thepoet is saying),

"Yet there is so much strength here

even the trees rooted in the planet shiver when she walks by"


The third paragraph should tell how the poem affected you. (What were your responses to the poem and why did you feel that way?)


In the fourth paragraph conclude your essay by stating your reasons to recommend, or not recommend, the poem to other readers.




Begin reading in "My Diary"

by Brenda Fernandez, Streams III:

Dear Diary,

Hi! I guess I'll start by telling you about how my life has been until now. Well, I've lived a normal life with my parents and my sisters. I went to Catholic schools all my life Until now. The last school I attended was at Cardinal Spellman H.S. in the Bronx. I had second honors my first year there and did fairly well my second year. I am very talented in Math, always had straight A's.

Then one day it all changed. I met my present boyfriend, fell in love and everything else followed. N ow I'm six months pregnant at the age of seventeen. I can't say I regret it, because I don't. I'm very happy with my husband-to-be. We get along just fine, always trying to work out our differences.

We'll be married after I graduate, hoping to last together forever. He takes care of me and he loves me very much.

I can happily say that I am going to be a mother. A very anxious woman, who just wants to have her baby in her arms. I am hoping it'll be a boy, but then again I'll be happy with whatever it is.

At night I always dream of when the time comes to have my baby. I think it's the most beautiful experience any woman can ever have: being able to bring another human being into the world. Someone you can watch grow into a beautiful person.


Dear Diary,

Today is September 23, 1988. Yesterday I felt the baby kicking. Helshe usually starts kicking while I'm eating, and when I'm trying to sleep (and always keeps me awake). I really don't mind the baby kicking; in fact, it feels good to know I have a living person growing inside me.

But I spent the day with a terrible headache and felt very tired. The doctor had told me that if I had any headaches to go to the hospital because it might be my blood pressure going up. I have an appointment on Monday the 26th, so I decided to wait until then to tell the doctor about my headache.

Dear Diary,

Today is September 25, 1988. I can tell you one thing, I haven't done much today. I cleanedmy house, washed clothes and then cooked dinner. But one interesting thing was this dream I had. It was actually a nightmare, because I woke up screaming and crying. I can't really explain what the dream was about, but I can tell you one thing --- it was real scary!

The strongest image in my dream was of a baby. It seemed to be a boy, and he was lying on his back in the bathroom. It looked like someone was about to change his pampers, because they were unfastened. I moved towards him and as I reached for him he grabbed my hand, and his face turned into a demon's face.


Dear Diary,

Today is September 26, 1988. Today I did not attend school because I didn't feel too good. I had been throwing up the night before, and I had a terrible headache. I remained in bed most of the time, and at 4 o'clock I went to the hospital. I had an appointment with the nutritionist. She put me on a restricted diet, because she said that I was gaining too much weight too quickly. I can't eat a lot of stuff that has sugar, and I have to drink a lot of milk. Being pregnant has its ups and downs, but you just have to get used to it.

Dear Diary,

Today is September 27, 1988. Today we were supposed to take LD. pictures, but it was postponed until Thursday. I still don't feel too good, because I'm very tired and I have a headache. It's fifth period and I feel so weak, because I haven't eaten anything.

Last night I noticed something different about the shape of my stomach. Usually my stomach is sort of sticking out in front of me. But this time the baby was pushing out of my left side. It seemed like it was the baby's head, because it had a rounded shape. I went to sleep and when I woke up the next morning my stomach was its usual shape.


Dear Diary,

Today is September 29, 1988. Today everything went well. One incident that happened to me was that I was leaning on a desk when the chair fell, and I fell on my back. I was okay, except that the fall shocked me. I went to the hospital, because I had another appointment with the doctor.

I told her about my fall, but she said my baby was fine. Another funny thing happened while the doctor was examining me. She put a rubber instrument on my stomach and put her forehead on the other end, and while she did this the baby kicked real hard. It was funny because it kicked so hard that the doctor's head went back.

Dear Diary,

Today is September 30, 1988. I feel pretty good today except that my back hurts from yesterday's fall. Like always, I'm exhausted from going up and down the stairs in school. Nothing happened today that's different from every other day. The baby was kicking as usual and I felt great feeling himlher move, because that tells me that helshe is still alive and well.



Dear Diary;

Today is October It 1988. Today is my baby cousin's birthday; so I went out and bought her a gift for her birthday party. I went to the party; which was really for kids, and though I still don't believe it, I ate through everything there was. In fact, everyone who saw my boyfriend---who was working across the street-s-told him that I was eating everything in sight. I had lots of fun and enjoyed myself very much. Saturday night I spent with my boyfriend and went to bed late.

Dear Diary,

Today is October 2, 1988. Today a lot of things happened to me. First, I got hit on my arm with a stick and got a bruise. Then as I was walking home some kids were playing baseball on the block and they hit me on my back with the ball. It was a real crazy day and I was tired of everybody hitting me.

Later on that day, my sisters had planned a surprise birthday party for our friend, Mario. I went with my boyfriend to it, and I enjoyed myself very much.

Dear Diary,

October 7, 1988. Today I had a quiz and received a perfect score. At first, I was a little confused with the questions on the test. But Nancy explained it to me, and she made everything more clear.


Dear Diary,

October 13, 1988. Yesterday I went to the hospital for a sonogram. I wasn't really nervous about it because my friends who have already gone through this procedure had told me about it.

To he able to take the sonogram I had to drink five cups of water and couldn't go to the bathroom. I was called to go into the examining room and was asked to lay on my back. The doctor put a very cold cream on my belly and then rubbed a strange object against my stomach. Through this object which was connected to the computer they were able to get inside to get an image of my baby. As the images appeared on the screen, I was very excited to actually see my baby for the first time.


What does Brenda tell about her family in the first entry?

What happened to her on September 26?

What were her complaints?

Whenand how was she able. to see her baby for the first time?



Keep a personal journal.

Write about what you are feeling and happens to you. Include what is happening to you as you write.




13 mSp.E€IDING¥0lJ1R~IP;FIl1I1DE TOWARD y;e11RemLD

How do your memories determine your attitudes?


In this lesson you will write a letter to your child describing what happened on the day you gave birth.


Can you describe the experience of giving birth?

"Bnrra SONG"

by Mary Ann Larkin


Dark-rooted word-seeds

full moon tides sucking darkness all things turning inward hatching fire

revolving beneath midnight storm etching light-words bearing light waves of light

ripped from black seas

flesh-words pulled screaming into light

Day light

light of day

giving of day softness night-forgotten darkness

leaves bending in silver coolness birth having given

having given in thankful stillness birth




clear in new born wetness light words written in bone in flesh shining bone-words of light



The poet is using a metaphor.

She compares the act of creating a poem to the act of giving birth.


Can you recall what your feelings were immediately after giving birth? In the following story the author describes the events occurring around the time of the birth of her daughter.

''My FmST LITTLE GmL" by Lisa C.

S is for the sweet little girl you are. T is for the tender skin you have.

E is for everything that you do.

P is for the pleasure that you give me. H is for the happiness that I have.

A is for all the love I have for you.

N is for new things that you do.

I is for the imagination that you have.

E is for the experiences that you put me through.

J is for the joy you give to me.

E is for the beautiful eyes you have. A is for the apple of my eye.

N is for the cute little nose you have. I is for the ice cream you like to eat. N is for the nice smiles that you give.

E is for every new day that comes for us.

I love you so much, Stephanie Jeanine. You are my first little girl, and I will Always love you.

Mommy misses you very much. Soon we can be Together forever.


It was on June 8, 1986, a Sunday morning. I remember having pains all weekend. I couldn't think what it could be, because I was only six and a half months pregnant. I couldn't sleep that night and I remember the little sleep that I did get was not good. I woke up that morning about 4:30 a.m., tossing and turning. I tried to wake up your father, but he said that I always complained about every little pain that I got. So about 5:00 a.m., I called up Grandma Joan and told her that I wanted to go to the hospital because I still had the same pain since Friday morning. She told me to come over, and that she would meet me in front of her house.

I started over, just letting your father know where I was going. I met Grandma, and she helped get me to Wyckoff Heights Hospital. When I got there, the nurse looked me over and said that I was in labor and that whenever I was ready I could go ahead and push. So they hooked me up to a machine to monitor your heart beat and your pulse as well as the contractions that I was having. At about 6:20 a.m. the nurse said that I could start pushing. The nurse then got on the phone to call your father. She said that he was all nervous. She said that the phone had to ring about 20 times before he got up to answer it (he always was a heavy sleeper). Anyway, Grandma Louise said that Daddy was crying and was really nervous that you were coming in to the world so early.



When he reached the hospital, I was still in labor. Grandma-I oan and Daddy went to get some coffee and rolls. When they returned the nurses greeted him with the happy news that he had a little girl. As soon as he couId, he came in to see you; and to see how I was doing. He was a very proud Daddy. He said that you were too small, but the nurses and doctors all said that you were a good size. You were born at exactly 7:20 a.m. I asked the nurse if you had everything --- ten toes, ten fingers, etc. She told me you did.

At about 9 a.m., the ambulance came to transport you and me. You went to Brooklyn Hospital, and I went to Woodhull Hospital. I was upset about that because we would be separated,

but I got well real fast and was able to come see you by Tuesday. You were in an incubator and you looked I real tiny. I went in and washed up with your father, and we got to touch and hold you. Daddy was afraid to, because he thought that you were still too fragile, but it didn't stop me. You were mine, and I needed to touch you. I couldn't take you out of the incubator yet. But I still felt good to be able to see you.

As time went on, you got fed by a real tiny bottle. You only took so much of the formula, because you couldn't suck on the nipple yet. But as soon as you got a little bigger you wouldn't stop.



When you were about two weeks old, the nurse asked me if I got to hold you yet. I told her, "No." So she said that I could now, because you were able to come out of the incubator at times throughout the day. I got real nervous and at the same time overwhelmed. The nurse wrapped you all up in blankets and handed you to me. God, I got such a good feeling of joy allover my body. I felt really happy.

About a week later, Daddy and I were coming to see you, as we usually did every day. We washed up and put our aprons on. Then we headed for your regular room.The nurse stopped me and said that you were now in the room with the babies who were not in incubators. I couldn't believe it. I then knew that you would be coming home real soon. Then about two weeks later, you were moved down to the well baby nursery. And finally; about three days later, I called up the hospital to let them know that I was coming to feed you at 6 p.m. It was July 19th. The nurse said for me to hold on a minute. She then came back on and said that you could come home. I hung up the phone, ran upstairs and started jumping up and down; screaming that you were coming hornet and that Daddy and I could go and get you.We got everything together, got into the car and drove over to the hospital to bring you home. You spent a whole 6 weeks in the hospital, and I was glad to get you home with us, finally, I put you into your own bed, and you went right on back to sleep.

from Streams II


Answer the following questions.

How long had Lisa been pregnant?

What machine was she hooked up to in the hospital?

When did Lisa start going into labor and how long did it take for her to deliver her baby?

What happened to the baby after she was born?

What was the father's attitude toward the baby?

How did Lisa have to prepare herself before she visited the baby in the hospital?

How long did the baby stay in the hospital?



~ Lisa's story was written as a
gift to her daughter.
~ Would you like to know
f: what your parents were doing
~' on the day you were born?
>: Would knowing your parents
attitude toward you as a baby
better help you to understand Ii
your relationship with your I:
parents? II
-.- iMII-~~-·"-"'·> II


Write a short story or poem for your child describing what happened to you on the day you gave birth.






Continue reading in "My Diary," by Brenda Fernandez, Streams III.

Dear Diary,

October 19, 1988. Suddenly I get this feeling that I'm going to give birth before my time! I've had pains I never felt before. Lately the baby has been kicking much harder than before. Maybe it's because the baby is getting bigger, and I guess the bigger helshe gets· the more it hurts. There are times that, as I'm going up the stairs, my legs feel like I've been exercising them. During lunch, the sharp pain I was feeling got worse than before. I got to the point where I couldn't even walk. It was real scary because everybody thought I was going into labor because the pain felt like contractions. It hurt too much to sit down so one of my friends, Jasmin, walked around with me until the pain calmed down. I went upstairs to look for the nurse but she was out to lunch. Then I went downstairs to make a phone call, but there was no phone available. Finally I went upstairs again, made the phone call, but couldn't get in touch with the doctor. After the pain calmed down I took the train home and lay down to rest.



Dear Diary,

October 22, 1988. Today nothing has really happened that might be of interest to you. One thing that kept me quite busy was my boyfriend. He was real sick because he had caught a virus. He spent almost three days with a fever and a sore throat.

One thing that might be of interest to you would be my feeling towards pregnancy. Sometimes I get upset about being pregnant. I just can't take it anymore. I want my baby to be born and I can't take the way I look.

I've gained so much weight that nothing looks right on me. I feel fat and that really gets me upset. Sometimes I worry about after I give birth. How am I going to lose all that weight?

It's going to take a lot of will power, but I think I'll be able to do it. Maybe just for the fact that I'm not happy with myself unless I feel good with m~ weight. I'm probably stupid for thinking this, but I always think that my boyfriend is not going to love me any more because of my weight. I know I'm pregnant and I can handle that for now.

Dear Diary,

October 23, 1988. Tonight after my boyfriend got out of work, he took me to the movies. We went with a group of friends and two of my sisters. We had so much fun! We got to the theater and the movie was not supposed to start for another half an hour. So we went to eat at MacDonald's, and afterwards we watched the movie. We were watching "Halloween 4". It was real scary. I jumped every time something bad happened. The theater was packed with people who were making a lot of noise. I hadn't gone to the movies in a long time, so I enjoyed every minute of it.

Dear Diary,

October 24, 1988. Today I woke up exhausted so I didn't go to school. I slept until almost one o'clock. Later that day I went with my boyfriend to the hospital because I had an appointment. Everything went perfectly fine with the baby.

I told the doctor about all the trouble I had been having and she told me it was normal. I used to eat maybe one full meal a day and now I have to eat at least three times a day because I'm eating for two. She reminded me once again that I was gaining weight too rapidly. But she told me that I was very healthy and the baby was too.


Dear Diary;

October .26, 1988. Today is my birthday. I am 17 years old and almost a mother. This morning before I left for school my boyfriend gave me the most beautiful engagement ring. Now we are formally engaged and going to get married later on.

Dear Diary,

November 2, 1988. This is one of the busiest weeks of the year. The school cycle is almost over and I have a lot of work to do. I know for a fact that I got full credit in all my classes and in some of therr I even got extra credit. This cycle was pretty easy, but the second one is going to be a little harder since I am about to give birth.



Why did Brenda feel upset about being pregnant?

What did the doctor at the hospital tell Brenda?

What is Brenda doing about school while she is pregnant?


..• 0:'.-" ..... ,.-~ ... ,.,,,.~,-,,,, . . .,
Make a point to include
I in your journal how you
feel about your child.
! Try to describe your
~ attitude at the present I'
! moment, and how you
may have felt differently
-1 I"
earlier in the day.
, "

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yj@;(JR. AT!FJrl1mIlE_W~ OW-BERS

How does your attitude toward others affect your ability to get help?


In this lesson you will discuss how you feel about people helping other people.

You will also discuss the people and agencies who have helped you in the past and you will make a list of the people and agencies who may help you in the months ahead.



What is beautiful to you? Where can you find beauty?

Can you find it in a leaf? In a flower? In a child trying to walk?


by Joanne Seltzer

In a leaf there is beauty in a flower, in a child

who tries to walk but fails, cries & picks herself up & tries again. She falls & cries & fails & tries. Humanity is walking again after crying & trying & falling because humanity is strong.

After a song I named my daughter, the lame girl who couldn't walk

but lightly carried others when able to handle the weight of their pain because humanity calls out

to carry is better than asking a ride.

from WATERWAYS Poetry In The Mainstream (September, 1983)



Answer the following question.

The child falls, cries and tries again. What is she trying to do?

The poet says that humanity is strong. Do you agree? What are the reasons for your opinion?


Who is the poet describing in the following line?

the lame girl who couldn't walk

Read the following lines, then put the poet's idea into your own words.

but lightly carried others when able to handle the weight of their pain

What does the last line mean to you?

to carry is better than asking a ride.



We know that a baby does not happen without other people helping. This includes the doctors involved in prenatal care and the people you meet on the way to delivery.

"DEVONN' by Sharon

Devonn is my first son. He was born March 9, 1985. He is my pride and joy. Devonn was born 3 weeks early. When I had Devonn we were both in danger. I had to have a caesarean section and that is no joke.

It was on a Saturday - late afternoon. I went to the store to buy some potato chips and then I came back home and received a phone call. I talked on the phone for a while. When I got off the phone I went to throw the bag in the garbage and I felt something funny was going OD.

I went to the bathroom and found myself bleeding. So I told my sister to call my mother and told her that I was bleeding and that I think I have to go to the hospital. When we went downstairs to catch a cab we got one and we told him to take us to Harlem Hospital. He took the route on 125th Street during rush hour when traffic is terrible. So when my mother saw a police car she told the cops what was going on and asked them to please take me to the hospital. That is what they did.



When I reached the hospital I went upstairs to the maternity floor and went through the screening. I told the lady that I was bleeding and she said that it was okay. But when she told me take off my clothes and get on the table she found out that I was bleeding a lot and not just a little bit. She called the doctors and they took me to the back and did a sonogram to find out where I was bleeding from.

The first one gave them a hint, but they were not sure. So they put me in another room, but did not leave me.

They hooked me up to two sonograms. About 7:15 p.m. I started getting labor pains in my back and they were one minute apart. When that started happening they knew what was going on and that's when they told me I had to sign the paper to have the caesarean section. I signed the paper and they took me to the operating room about 7:25 p.m. They took Devonn from me at 7:33 p.m.

When I woke up Sunday morning I called my mother to let her know that I was alright and my sister said, "Do you know that you have a son?" I said, "No." Then my mother came to the phone and told me to ask the nurses to show me where he was. The nurse showed me where he was in the intensive care unit. He was five pounds and five ounces and had lost a lot of blood during the time that I was in the room waiting for the doctors to decide what to do forme,


Devonn is now living with my mother while I am getting my life together. I know that he is well taken care of. He is only 18 months, but we are going to have a very good relationship with each other when he gets older. I am glad that I went to get help when I did.

I really love my son and I am proud to have him, no matter what I had to go through to have him. In the beginning it felt strange having a child because I was not used to having a big responsibility. No matter if I have any other children, Devonn will always he special to me, and have a special place in my heart, because I almost lost him, and almost lost my life too.


from Streams'


Paul. Mod ...... )m.n.W:r

Who were the people who helped Sharon to deliver her baby?

Who would you tum to for help if you were in a similar situation?

If you needed helping during pregnancy or at the time of delivery who would you turn to? Who would you turn to in your family? To which friends would you turn? To which professionals or people at agencies?



Continue reading "My Diary," by Brenda Fernandez, Streams III.

Dear Diary,

The day is getting closer and closer for me to give birth. A lot of people have asked me if I'm scared because I'm due pretty soon. I always say that I just don't think about it. Many tell me how painful it is to have a baby and I know it is, but the less I think about it the easier it'll be.

The second cycle has started and it has gotten so hard for me to go to classes. I know my grades will not be very good this cycle, but I am trying my best to do well in class.

Christmas is coming soon and I have a lot of shopping to do. I'm still hoping I'll have my baby by Christmas and it is possible. Everyone is very anxious and desperate for me to have the baby, but no one is as anxious as me.

On Thursday, December 8, I'll be 35 weeks (8 months, 3 weeks) along on my pregnancy, and the closer it gets it seems like time slows down. I'm actually due January 12, 1989, but I can have the baby any time from December 15 on.

It seems like an eternity for me and to tell you the truth I wish I wasn't pregnant. Don't get me wrong. I just wish I had my baby with me to care for, love and caress with all my heart. I'll also feel better about the way I look because afterwards I'll lose all the weight I gained.


Dear Diary,

Today is Friday, December 16, 1988. I was home alone sleeping when suddenly I felt a lot of water just gushing out of me. At first I felt as if I was urinating on my bed, but then when I continued to discharge water I knew that my water had broken. I was so nervous because the time had come and I was all alone.

Right away I washed up, got dressed and went to my mother's house, I told my mother what happened, and my father took me to the hospital. At the same time many other women were going into labor, and all the labor rooms were full. As I waited for a room, I became more anxious to give birth.

Afterwards, I was examined and I spent the day in the labor room. When they saw I was not getting any contractions they sent me up to my room.

Dear Diary,

Saturday, December 17, 1988. I was lying impatient in my room on the 7th floor. Suddenly, I started getting pains. I called the nurse and I was transferred to the labor room. I was once again examined and at that time the doctor decided that my labor had to be induced. From this time on the waiting began.



Dear Diary,

December 18, 1988. My contractions were at a steady pace and they were so painful that the doctor had to give me a drug. This drug numbed me from the waist down. This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Andrew Anibal Rivera weighed 7 lbs. 5 ozs. and was twenty inches in length.

Dear Diary,

Tuesday, December 20, 1988. As I am sitting home I am thinking about something which I forgot to mention. My boyfriend had planned my baby shower for the same day that I went into the hospital. I was really sad because I wanted to have one.

Dear Diary,

December 25,1988. Christmas came and I took the baby to my parents' house. This was my greatest Christmas ever because I had the two people I love the most in the world, my baby and my boyfriend. We received many presents both for the baby and for us.

Dear Diary,

December 31, 1988. We're back at my parents' house to join the family for dinner. We are all waiting anxiously for the New Year to come. Everyone is happy to have Andrew with us to see the New Year.



To whom did Brenda first turn when she knew she was ready to deliver?

To whom did Brenda turn when she began to get pains, on Saturday, December 17?

What are Brenda's concluding thoughts?

Include in your personal journal statements about the people to whom you offer help and those people to whom you turn for help.

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In this lesson you will discuss society's attitudes toward the disabled.


How do you maintain a good self image in the face of other people's prejudices?



What are your expectations for yourself and for your child?


by Cheryl Cohen

I'm only half a man, my Uncle Neil said and clumsily rose from the table

and knocked over the chair and shuffled

down the steps.

My mother sat and watched. Her little brother.

I wish I could build him a different world,

my mother said.

He knows he can never marry, never have children,

never go to school,

never read.



He knows he will never understand most of

w ha t is said.

I went to the basement to offer some comfort, Uncle Neil stood

over the table,

he was snapping LEGO blocks together.

What are you doing? Building chairs. Chairs?

Here's a couch

like in the living room,

and rows like in the movies, kitchen chairs,

and here's a throne

for a king or a president.


When I sit I'm like everyone else ~ just sitting.

When I stand things go wrong and people are better than me. But I can sit just like you,

just like a president.

I sat by his side,

and watched him build his kingdom of chairs.

from WATERWAYS Poetry In The Mainstream (September, 1983)





Questions for discussion:

In this poem there are three characters: the speaker, the mother and Uncle Neil. What does the poem communicate about each of the characters?

The first line, "I'm only half a man," sets the mood of the poem. What does it communicate about Uncle Neil's attitude toward himself?

The mother feels protective toward her broths and says, "I wish I could build him a different world." How might her world be different?

What might the other characters in the poem do to make it a better world for Uncle Neil?

Neil says, "When I sit I'm like everyone else."

It is important for him to be like other people. How would you respond to him? (Would you tell him hoYlj he is like other people in other ways? Would you tell him it is more important for him to be himself thanl to want to be like other people? Or would you say something else")

Neil says, "When I stand things go wrong and! people are better than me." How is he judging himself? What could you tell him about standing? Should he stop trying to stand?



Read, "Our Visit to Manhattan Community College," by Beatrice Davis, Streams II.

On Tuesday, October 27, 1987, my class and I went to a Speak Out that was held in Manhattan Community College. My personal opinion is that some of the situations that were dealt with were okay and were discussed the way they should have been, but some of the situations were not dealt with properly.

The situations that were discussed properly by the students were housing, welfare, and raising the minimum wage.There were some students talking about how there, shouldn't be any help for teen parents and they criticized us. They said that there shouldn't be any housing for teen parents or any other type of help that we ask for. I think that isn't right. If we didn't get help our children would be suffering. Not giving help isn't going to stop teens from having babies; it's just going to make life a lot worse.

The Speak Out was a good place for teen parents to go to so we could hear what people think of us. Some people think there's nothing wrong with being a teen parent. Other people have a lot of opinions that criticize us as parents. I personally don't think there's anything wrong with being a teen parent.


Once you know that you can take care of your child the way the child should be taken care of, it doesn't matter whether you're a teen parent or not. I know for a fact that some teen parents take care of their children better than older people do. Your age doesn't mean that you can't-be a good parent.

I had my first son when I was 15 years old and my second one when I was 18 years old, and I know that I'm a good parent. So I wish some people today would stop criticizing teen parents, because it's not your age that matters. It's what you do for your child that really matters.



Why was the "Speak Out" a good place for teen parents to go?

Why were the teen parents criticized?

What was Beatrice's attitude toward teen parents?

What would have been your stand at the "Speak Out"?


'Gwendolyn C. Boker President

Irene f.J. lrnpelllzzeri Vice President

Carol A Gresser Westina L Mattl'lews Michael J. Petrides Luis O. Reyes Ninta SegOrfO Members

Joseph h.. Fernandez Chancellor

W Produced at The Print Center .. Inc .. 225 Varrck sr, New York. NY 10014. a non-profit facility for literary and arts-related publications. (212) 206-8465

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