The first time I set foot outside of the U.S. I was 21 and, quite honestly, it had never occurred to me to visit a foreign country. A friend of mine invited my sister and I to go to Guadalajara, Mexico with a group of students who were going as part of a class. Guadalajara happened to be where my maternal abuelita is from. Since then, I have made it a point to travel every summer to a different country. In fact, traveling for an extensive amount of time every summer is just one of the ways I have improved my Spanish over the years.
I’ll never forget my mother’s reaction to the news that we were going to Mexico. Her hesitation of letting her two younger daughters, one 21 and one 19, leave the country for the first time was very obvious. What made it worse was that we were going to a country she once called home. She expressed how she always wanted to take us, but for different reasons we had not gone. I am sure she was proud of us for wanting to go, after all she had raised and encouraged us to be independent Latinas.
Now that I am having my own baby girl I can empathize even more with what my mom was feeling. She wanted to show us her country, her culture, which is also a huge part of her identity. In a way, I feel bad that I have travelled to several Spanish-speaking countries and only once to Mexico and without my mother.
It’s now just days prior to when the “princess in the belly” is scheduled to arrive. This summer we aren’t planning on travelling, but, as I reach the end of my pregnancy, I have felt as if we were preparing for another trip, especially as I have been planning how to immerse our lives with French, Spanish and English.
I am also starting to get nervous, like any first-time mami, I was asking myself, “Do we have baby lotion, enough diapers, what about blankets?” As I would glance at the empty book shelves I kept reminding myself that we only have one French book which Marcus and I bought in Paris a few years ago with the intentions of one day raising a trilingual baby. Naturally, Spanish and English books dominate our home. So as we near our due date I am beginning to feel less and less prepared for our trilingual journey. I wonder if I will consistently speak Spanish to our baby and if I don’t, will I be able to adjust? It seems like no matter how much research I do or how many people I speak to what it really comes down to is how I identify as a bilingual speaker.
Like any other trip I have taken, you never really know how you will react in a foreign country until you are completely immersed!
Sabrina Marie Mateus was born on June 8th, 2010 at 5:59 am. She weighed 7lbs 8 ounces and was 20 inches long. The first few words she heard from her parents were in Spanish.