This blog is part of our Elevating Voices series in partnership with LL Bean.
Meet Alejandria Felipe. Ale is one of Hike it Baby’s Bring it Outside program facilitators and ran the first Turn the Blues Green program series. She’s a mama to two amazing kiddos, and works full time as an Obstetric Nurse in Portland, Oregon.
My Childhood Connection to Nature
I was born in a small town in Oaxaca. I moved to Oregon at 8 years old. My memories of Oaxaca were always very green and of clean air. At the time, my family in Oaxaca would harvest fruits, vegetables, and corn. I clearly remember picking my own oranges, mangos, and watermelon. After school, we would spend time taking care of the animals and crops. Therefore, my connection to nature was well established from birth.
When my family arrived in Oregon, we lived in farming camps, picking strawberries and blueberries. We were isolated from the city because my parents were farm workers. We spent a lot of time outdoors working. At the end of the day, we had very little time to do fun activities. But, we were all happy because we were outside, and it still felt like being in our native country.
My upbringing and early memories of Oaxaca provided me with a connection to nature that my other fellow classmates did not have. When you come to the city, and you come to the United States, a lot of families, due to economic barriers, are forced to live in crowded apartments . As a young teen, I did not see the connection of my childhood in Oaxaca to nature, but now as an adult I can see how those early exposures were fundamental. I would miss my time playing in the farm, building houses with rocks and dirt. I simply missed cooking outside and camping, it was our routine in Oaxaca. Our family was fortunate to have a close friendship with an American couple, who took us under their wing, they literally adopted us and took us on outdoor adventures. The couple had the means to take us on day trips to National Parks, to lakes, and out to enjoy walks.
I think the biggest thing that we can do as parents in building a connection to nature with our kids is to simply take them outside.
How Parents Can Nurture a Connection to Nature For Their Families
Let them be free in an open space, whether that is in our backyards, or a park. As they play freely they are building a connection to nature and learning through sensory play. As the pandemic became our new reality, I would let my 2 year old be outside and soak up the sun with me. I needed to get outdoors, my stress level was less once I got outside. I was able to clear my mind for a few minutes and just breathe. However, this might not be the case for many families. Working families have many disparities that put them at disadvantages in enjoying the outdoors. I would get intimidated to be around experienced hikers, I would start asking myself, “am I wearing the correct carrier, stroller, hiking gear?” But then I realized none of those things matter. I became confident, started walking with supportive friends, and we all learned along the way. Getting outdoors with children should not be that hard.
We need to make the outdoors more equitable and normalize what it means to be outdoorsy.
I am fortunate to have the means to access nature with my family and expose my kids to green spaces. They are nature conscientious because I took them outside from birth. My pregnancy and postpartum period were all about being outdoors as much as possible. My self-care today still involves a walk outside.
When the opportunity came to connect to Hike it Baby, and for me to lead a group of Latina moms, I was excited because this is what I want to do! We started from the basics, like kinds of strollers and carriers to use. Carriers can be scary when you don’t know how to use them, it’s one thing seeing someone using it, and it’s another thing putting it on and strapping your baby in. By getting more families of color outdoors, and normalizing what it means to be adventurous and outdoorsy, we will create a new generation of outdoor community. As parents, we need more education, we need to give families the tools that they need to explore the outdoors.
La Cuarantena: Dismantling Myths about Postpartum Health
There are many myths in our Latino community about the postpartum period and what that means for new mothers. For example, la “Cuarentena.” During this period, postpartum mothers are told to stay in bed, have minimal walking, no lifting heavy items, drink warm fluids only, don’t be exposed to cold air, and to wear an abdominal binder (la faja). Plus, our babies must be bundled with many blankets, hats, and mittens, regardless of the weather. Part of my teaching as an Obstetric Nurse is to explain and share with new moms about the importance of moving after having their babies and of decreasing layers on babies for their safety, and to talk to them about SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
I love the idea of a Cuarentana as a supportive family care package. During the postpartum period, every mom is exhausted, and benefits from outside support. However, that does not mean staying indoors with your baby for 40 days. As a new mom, getting outside is a must. Being inside the home is depressing. Postpartum depression is very common, therefore its important to have ways to cope, and sometimes getting outside is your best option. Newborns will sleep better, and mom gets some time to herself walking.
My Advice for New Moms
- Get outside, regardless of cultural beliefs. Taking care of your mind and soul is your personal decision. Whether you’re a first time mom, or it’s your second time, the stress and lack of sleep never changes. Therefore, getting outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, looking at new scenery, it all really helps with depression.
- Then, find a group of friends, family, another new mom, someone to walk with you and your baby. Spending outdoor time with friends makes it all the more valuable, and you can share the challenges motherhood brings.
- Last, do not be afraid or concerned whether or not you have the correct equipment to be outside. Your babies are excited to simply be moving and with you.
Watch’s Ale’s Story below.