*Editor’s note: Andrew Leal is a journalism student in SF State’s Journalism 575 Community Media this spring. Taught by professor Jon Funabiki, the class is a collaboration with El Tecolote.

Maria Cordova is a working, pregnant mother who suffers from asthma. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Cordova was in her third trimester. Seeking help, she turned to a support group for pregnant moms called Glow!

Glow! is run by the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, a community action agency non-profit that was set up a year after Congress passed the Equal Opportunity Act of 1964. 

Cordova’s daughter mentioned the program during her third doctor visit and felt it was worth looking into.

“She had mentioned they had a program that was interested in Hispanics who would have kids who are premature,” Cordova said. “And that is one of the things I’m interested in because I have a nephew who is a preemie.”

The Glow! program doubles to help educate expectant moms like Cordova and as a research study with a focus on “maternal wellness and support for women in Fresno County,” according to its website. 

Groups consist of eight to 12 women who are expecting around the same time. The women meet once every month for 10 times. During the program, mothers are instructed by their doctors and a Glow! facilitator. 

Gabriela Leal delivers groceries while practicing social distancing guidelines to her Glow! participant during the COVID19 Pandemic. Photo: Andrew R. Leal

Cordova’s facilitator is Gabriela Leal, a mother of four boys and has been leading two groups of mothers for the past few months now. 

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Leal has had to work from home and uses only her phone to contact moms like Cordova. 

“I provide moral support,” said Leal. “I contact them, remind them of their regular OBGYN appointments. I call them to see if they need any resources that maybe I can help them with.”

Leal has plans in the works to get the moms online through Zoom video calls to resume the group sessions. Before the shelter-in-place order was put into effect in Fresno County, Cordova’s group had met only once. 

Gabriela Leal is on a zoom call with her coworkers from Glow! while working from home due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Photo: Andrew R. Leal

“Honestly I would have loved for it to continue having it,” Cordova said. “If I was able to talk to the girls, it would be easy for me to share my experience.” 

Cordova feels that in the group setting, the mothers are more comfortable asking questions about their pregnancy and could have their concerns addressed by fellow moms and Leal.

“I think it was very helpful that (Leal) was already a mom,” Cordova said.

Some of the other ways Leal helps out the moms during the shelter in place order is to buy groceries and a gas card that she expenses to Glow! Each mom gets $15 of food every two weeks from Leal, who personally delivers it to each mother’s house while practicing social distancing. 

The difficulty is to shop for at times five to six moms while also buying for her own household of five. And she has to be fair, so every mom gets the same items as the others. 

Maria Cordova is being interviewed on a zoom call while at home. Photo: Andrew R. Leal

“Honestly, it helps me a lot because how me and my husband both work, we don’t qualify for any benefits,” said Cordova. “Especially a family of three.”

Cordova was born in Culiacan, Mexico in 1993 and immigrated to the United States three years later with her parents in the mid 90’s, settling in Fresno, California. She grew up going to school in Fresno, graduating from Roosevelt High School and planned on continuing her education at a college. 

Her plans were tragically cut short after her dad passed away and had to help her mom with the bills.

“When my dad passed away I still didn’t have my work permit,” Cordova said. “So I was working in the fields for about five years.”

Cordova said she is “one of the DACA students” and had to wait to get her work permit but continued to work in the fields until she got her first job at McDonald’s.

From McDonald’s she worked at a “financial store” where they “give like loans and checks,” for five years. She now works for Molly Maid, a cleaning service company.  

It was during her time at the “financial store” that Cordova got pregnant with her first child.

“I was having a really hard time becoming pregnant for my first pregnancy,” Cordova said. 

She said that the stressful work environment in her job before the “financial store” was the reason for the difficulty getting pregnant. 

Cordova’s first pregnancy ended up being a healthy one, she said, but the second time around not so much. 

“They did see in the ultrasound that she may have teeth, or that her regular teeth might be bigger than anyone else,” Cordova remembered during her second trimester.

And now at 29 weeks pregnant, the pandemic stress has been heightened especially since Cordova has Asthma, which puts her in a high risk group for Coronavirus. 

“When the whole pandemic started I actually had gone to the emergency room,” she said. “And it was because my lungs were failing.” 

Fortunately for Cordova she did not have the virus, but the thought of catching it still worries her day by day. She tries not to over think about the pandemic and stays away from the news when it mentions COVID-19 stories. 

But Cordova is not alone during this pregnancy and pandemic, she has her husband to help her. He works at night while she works during the day so they can take turns watching over their daughter. 

Cordova is looking at the bright side of things at home during the pandemic and has a message for other expecting moms: “Just hang in there and not to be afraid.”