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Transnational Mothers Crossing the Border and Bringing Their Health Care Needs


Dr. Rosa Maria Sternberg, University of California—San Francisco, 181 Rudgear Dr., Walnut Creek, CA 94596. E-mail:


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of transnational Latina mothers who immigrated to the United States without legal documentation or their children.

Design: The study used a qualitative approach to collect data from eight transnational Latina mothers from South Florida during the summer of 2009.

Methods: Data were collected using open-ended questions in one-on-one, in-depth interviews that lasted 1 to 2 hr.

Findings: A hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of the data yielded seven essential themes from the participants’ stories: living in extreme poverty, having hope, choosing to walk away from poverty, suffering through the trip to and across the border, mothering from afar, valuing family, and changing personally.

Conclusions: The results indicate that transnational Latina mothers find meaning in mothering from afar through embodied sacrifice, suffering, hoping for a better life for their children, and family reunification. These results have implications for healthcare providers, social workers, policy makers, and educators whose professional responsibility is to advocate for, and to enhance the health and social well-being of, transnational mothers.

Clinical Relevance: Although this study focused on transnational Latina mothers in the United States, transnational motherhood is a worldwide phenomenon. Healthcare professionals play an instrumental role in providing culturally specific and evidence-based care to women who migrate without their children.