Maria Grzybacz

Maria Gryzbacz

EDITOR’S NOTE: Before coming to the U.S. Maria Grzybacz, of Cumberland, lived in Poland, where she gave birth to her first child. She compares the experience of giving birth there to the one she had with her other children who were born in the U.S. Maria is currently taking Advanced Reading, Writing and English classes in PPL’s Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI) English class program. Her story was first published on The Public’s Radio’s community essay series as part of its Mosaic podcast on immigration. We are pleased to be able to include a link to this essay in Maria’s own words and also her experiences attending RIFLI classes below.

Becoming a mom is a wonderful and amazing experience, but I don’t think any of us would say it is easy. After I graduated from college, I had a job, a house, and I was married. It was the perfect time to add a new member to the family. My due date was December 25 but three weeks before that my doctor said that it could be earlier.

So I started to pack my stuff: shampoo, soap, pads, diapers for the baby and milk formula. Everything I would need for me and my baby too. In Poland, the hospital does not give anything to patients. In the U.S., many of the things that you will need are included.

Two weeks before my due date, my contractions started. I met my doctor and we spoke about how my body was changing. He told me I should be ready in a minute, or in a day. I thought “alright, I’m ready!” I think this was too quickly said. I wasn’t ready! The contractions came and went. I tried to stay relaxed and calm.

On Friday afternoon my contractions became regular. That was the signal we were supposed to go to the hospital! I called my mom and she told me to not panic. She said, “Stay a little longer at home because this process sometimes takes hours.” I started to wonder why she told me this. I wanted it to be over, I didn’t want to wait, but I trusted my mom. I knew she would never ever lie to me.

I went back to bed and tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I did not feel comfortable with the pain which was constant now. I told my husband that something was not right. It was getting worse. Around 9:00 a.m. the next day, my husband and I decided we were not going to wait any longer.

When we arrived at the emergency room, no one was there. I had to wait 30 minutes until we heard a voice calling us, asking standard questions. My contractions were getting stronger and stronger, and they came quicker and quicker. I started to call for help but no one was there, everybody was busy. In Poland there is a shortage of nurses. Around 12:00 p.m a nurse came and took me to the place where women give birth. I was shocked to see three women lying in the same room, just separated by a curtain “Wow,” I thought, “this can’t be real.” I was shivering and did not know what to do. I was scared, nervous, and afraid!

The nurse asked me if I wanted my husband there or not. My answer was quick. There was no way I was staying there alone! She moved us to a single room which was not too far away from the labor room and the only one in the whole hospital.

The nurse pointed out that I was dilated 5 cm and maybe I would go into labor tomorrow. She mentioned nurses would not come soon, they had other patients before me! I was frightened. I knew I would be a mother soon but the question was when and how much more time would it take. Time went very slowly. Around 3:30 pm nurses came to my room and couldn’t believe my laboring started! In 30 minutes I would become a mom to a wonderful baby.

I had my second and third child in the U.S. When they moved me to a room, the nurse asked me if I knew how to breathe right. I said I wasn’t sure! Bad memories of my previous delivery came back to me. They explained how breathing is important during labor and there was a monitor showing me how my contractions went up and down. One of the nurses told me to watch the line on the screen, which would let me know how far apart my contractions were. “Nature sends lots of signals, just listen, observe your body,” she pointed out. And this was awesome advice!

All the instructions, suggestions, and recommendations from the nurse helped me a lot. I knew I was in good hands. We did some practice on how to breathe correctly. She said following my instincts would help my labor be faster and easier.

I am pleased that I had this great group of people while giving birth. The nurses in America were more educated and prepared. They were also more helpful.

In Poland I got a master’s degree and went on to be a P.E. teacher at ZSHT Zakopane. I also coached a Middle School Handball team in Bialy Dunajec.

In the beginning of this year, I found the RIFLI classes and now I attend Advanced Reading and Writing-Pawtucket and also attend Auburn Advanced English classes. I chose these programs because I wanted to advance.

In the classes I feel focused because it is a step in my journey to learn the language. The teacher is very communitive because he gives the main idea clearly. The teacher also encourages my class to do something extra that will help us learn. The environment in class is very lively because the students always have questions to ask and are very curious.

This program helps me improve at understanding English words and how they are pronounced. This also helps me build confidence when speaking to other people. This all built up to me writing and communication in English. This is memorable to me because it stands out as a big part of learning and also continues the legacy of my writing many years ago.

The experience of in the library adds to the learning of English because everyone writes stories that are shared. This keeps us busy, but also improves the way we learn English and how we will succeed in the future.

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