Sunday, June 12, 2011

Birth of my half Mexican son

         My tourist visa was due to expire. I had a 180 day limit to be in the country. I wanted to do what I was used to doing, which was living by my emotions, and just live and be happy. According to the one woman who spoke somewhat English at the Mexican Immigration building, I had to “make it back to the border before my time was up, or face the fines and problems in our future visits” (which is how we refer, in our family, to what most call simple family life-‘visits’). As I am standing in front of this woman with blonde hair growing impatient behind a counter that was high enough that I had my arm propped up on it holding my head in disbelief,  I see that the other employees are glancing our way with an expression that was just enough to make me realize that it was just her and I because no one was going to give any input to this English conversation. “Ok, so you are telling me that I have to get to the border before this date and there is nothing that you can give me to extend that?” …Her expression did not change. “I am sorry but unless you can supply….,” her voice faded in my head as she started to flip a slew of papers in front of me explaining what needed to be done on each which was way out of my capabilities, all of it, so I withdrew into my own thoughts, smiled a little… “What about the baby?” She suggested I go before the birth.
          Maybe I live with too much ease in my thought process that there is always a way to make things work, which is why I usually wait until the last minute to do anything. I assumed that we could just stay and have the baby, fill out a couple forms, and everything would be just fine. That wasn’t the case. It never is anymore…Not only was it not going as planned, but I only had a few weeks to figure it out due to the fact that I went to them at the last minute to ask. My baby’s due date was in 3 weeks, and the expiration of our visas followed 2 days after that; “our visas” referring to myself and 2 of my 4 kids, the other 2 in the States.
          In the beginning of our life together in Mexico, my sister in-law, who made it a clear point to reject my presence with her little brother, wanted the baby and she could do without me. A week or so before the reality of the situation in which I had to leave, she had a friend of hers take me to the hospital to “register” me so that when I went into labor, there would not be a hold up. During this “register” they did an internal examination, and then they told me to come back later that day. I asked why. Apparently they had removed the maternal seal plug and expected the labor to start. So I look at that as an attempt to ensure the Mexican citizenship of my child, our son. I have two things that back up my thoughts that make it quite obvious. A friend asked me “What will you do if your baby is not allowed back to the USA with you,” in Spanish of course, and she was standing there listening, and blurted out, “el bebe es mia,” with a big smile. The friend looked at me as if to say “look what I just showed you,” because apparently she was aware of the intentions. Later when I came back from the States with the baby, her and her husband approached me and Ricardo during our first moments of reunion with the request that I go to the courthouse immediately to claim that the baby had been born in their house and that way the baby would be Mexican and escape the American draft and any future wars… yep. That’s about all the proof I need to show me that they wanted my son. He was already given a social security number when he was born though, so that little plan of theirs stopped right there, except for me smiling and agreeing that Mexico was so much better, in my fragile post-delivery state of mind trying to show that I was really in this forever with their brother because I loved him and had no intentions of separating the baby with him. Ugh.
      I had to get to the border. Something happens to a woman when she is pregnant called nesting. We start to prepare for the baby, both mentally and emotionally, but also physically preparing a place for the baby to sleep, cleaning, organizing the little blankets and sleepers. At nine months, I was now faced with a quick trip to the border so that I can get this visa situation straightened out and then return. We chose to fly. We would go visit my sister in San Diego, spend a couple days with a Thanksgiving dinner, and come back. This was my 5th child. My babies were always 2 weeks late. That gave me some extra time, even though the due date was 2 days before Thanksgiving. It would all work out perfectly.
             I had very minimal prenatal care. My initial visit was in the States before I went to Mexico. I was just into my 13th week when I had the sonogram that told us that the baby was not only very healthy, but the baby was a boy. My mom was with me that day. Ricardo had already gone to Mexico, and was waiting for us. My mom flew into Florida to help me to get things ready to go. She called the baby little Ricky. I was so content to have a part of him with me because of his absence being so unbearable. Throughout the pregnancy within Mexico I had a total of 2 doctor visits, both of which they performed a sonogram with no internal, that seemed to be how the doctors approached pregnancy there. One thing that made me feel at ease, other than the initial visit of the baby looking very healthy, was the fact that this was my 5th baby. The only real issue that I was having was that my 4th baby was a cesarean. I had always heard that once you have had a surgical scar on your uterus that it could bust open during the labor contractions causing internal bleeding and certain death within moments. That was not such a good feeling. Especially because his sister was pushing so hard for the natural delivery, acting as if I were a prissy American for even suggesting that I needed a cesarean and not wanting to do it the less expensive more practical way. I took it as a dare more or less, and decided to go with the natural birth despite what I was told by the American doctors. The hospital delivery room that I “registered” into that month was not exactly what I was accustomed to. The walls were very dirty and there was so many people waiting. A woman came and took me back to this narrow hallway where the nurses were trying to slide by each other to get what they needed to do their work. They did the usual blood pressure, temperature, etc. then they put me into another area that looked more like a storage closet with a gurney in the middle of it and handed me a smock to put on after removing my clothes. She gave me a cup and needed me to pee in it. There was a bathroom if I could squeeze past the stack of medical supplies put in front of the door, mind you, I was pregnant and huge. There was no light in the bathroom or toilet paper. The entire process was awkward. I began my examination on the gurney with nothing more than a curtain that they pulled shut from the mass of people walking in the hallway on the other side. I tried to relax and just keep in mind that not only do I not know anyone but that it would be over soon… don’t be modest, don’t be modest, don’t be modest… I’m a big girl. They broke the seal, the plug, without any communication as to what they were doing. I was the American piece of meat.
           The day came for the flight. We took an inner country Mexican flight from Cuerna to Tijuana, with the intentions of my sister from San Diego to pick us up and we would spend Thanksgiving together, her and I, my 2 kids, and her husband in their apartment. The airport in Cuernavaca is one room with a bathroom to the side, a drink bar that was closed on one wall, a ticket counter on the other, and a place to put your bags on the other. There were no seats or accommodations. My brother in law worked there. He was a firefighter, but their office is a part of the airport. To tell you the truth that may not be exactly correct, but that is what I know. We say goodbye to Ricardo. “We will be back in 2 days baby, not too much time, I love you.” We went beyond the security, waved goodbye and went on to board the plane. The airplane may have already been somewhat full because in Mexico they will stop and “pick up” more passengers as they go towards a destination. I did not seem as if there were many passengers waiting to board at the airport. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention because I was emotional. We had to walk across the runway to climb up steps to get into the plane. We reached the top of the steps and the stewardess stopped me from going into the plane. I was obviously at the 9th month point of pregnancy. I tried to wear a “concealing” shirt, but it is hard to minimize a beach-ball size stomach with a waddle. My doctor’s excuse should work; I took that out of my purse and handed it to her. While she looked over it, I glanced to the right of our situation and realized the entire plane full of people, all staring at me… this big fat pregnant American chick holding up the show. The pilot came back and got involved as did his co-pilot and another stewardess. By this time, our delayed flight had been noted inside the airport, so running across the runway towards the stairway to the airplane is my husband and brother-in-law. Our situation grew into a small convention in front of our audience with me, in all my pregnant glory, not knowing Spanish, just reading faces, wondering what is going on. I blurt to Ricardo and my brother in-law “I cannot miss this plane”… everyone gave in to the wishes of my negotiators and Ricardo and I said goodbye once more from across the small crowd of airline personnel. We buckled up. The stewardess gave me a little “you are ok?” She checked back with me throughout the flight. The doctor’s note was a lie. We had our friend, who is a doctor, type it up for me in case there was a problem, which there was, so it did serve its purpose, but the dates that we applied were way off from the fact that my due date was the day before. I soon realized why they do not want pregnant women on an airplane though, especially that late in the pregnancy. As the plane broke from the ground and the pressure changed within the airplane, reality hit me. My stomach felt like there was a full balloon going to pop, mixed with feelings of rapid stirring. I concentrated on being calm and talking my body out of labor. I could remember all the faces that were staring at us arguing with the pilot to let me stay on moments before… I was not about to deliver the baby within that narrow tube of packed humans. We landed in Guadalajara for passengers to get off and passengers to get on. Then we were off to Tijuana. The whole trip took 4 and ½ hours. It only hurt when we took off and landed. Once we were in the air I was able to deal with the uneasiness of my stomach butterflies, but it was a different, less scary feeling. The airport in Tijuana might as well have been a thousand miles to walk. I was grabbing on the walls and handrails the whole walk to the baggage claim and get out of there. I looked like a 90 year old woman, walking real slowly, as if every step was my last. Something happened to the pregnancy on the trip.
           We had a wonderful Turkey dinner the next day. We discussed the different aspects of our life in Mexico and their life in San Diego. I think it was at that time that we discussed the return flight plans. The return flight was scheduled for in the evening the next day. They were not comfortable to drive into Tijuana at night. I decided that I would change the flight to a different time. Then it came out that they were not comfortable for me to return period. Their thought was that I should give birth there and then return. Of course this took me into a whirlwind of emotions for my nest was already built that I needed to return to and Ricardo was there waiting, “2 days” were our last words. It was a really difficult moment to accept. My sister called the airline the next day and somehow it was said to the person on the other end of the ticket reservation that I was 9 months pregnant, so that is when the airline employee cancelled the whole thing and said that I could fly after the baby. Now there was no turning back if I were to fly. The airline would not permit it. I thought about riding the bus back. I called around and priced it. The phone call with Ricardo went something like him assuring me that it was ok that I have the baby there, and return with a healthy baby, he would be ok to miss it. He gave me the extra incentive because he said that he thought it was something that he would not really want to see, painting the picture of the fainting father during delivery… so I was more at ease. He told me to “relax, baby.” My sister thought that it was a good thing that one of us was rational, and gave him that much.
        Our presence in their apartment became an apparent struggle. They were not accustomed to the noise that kids produce, along with their kid desires for walking to the park, 900 questions, snacks, goofy TV shows, rolled up socks on the middle of the floor, and many other patience building kid additives. Their apartment soon became a little tense with all of the added pressures of having a pregnant woman that could hardly walk and 2 anxious displaced children. They were missing school, so we tried to fill in that space best we could with book reading. We made several trips to Barnes and Nobles. We took long, very painful, walks in the mall, and 2 weeks went by, until one Saturday afternoon we went to Chuck E Cheese. I told my sister, I am having the baby tonight. I felt that last minute sickness. We went home, I could hardly walk at all, took a bath, and we all relaxed. My sister and I looked in her computer photo memory albums at her wedding photos. At I said I better get some rest because I am going to have the baby soon, so I lied down on her couch and immediately fell asleep. No sooner had I dozed off then my water broke. I knew enough, even as dazed as I was, to roll off the couch. I looked over at the clock; it was . I knocked on the bedroom door, “it’s time,” luckily the kids just slept and her husband was there to hold down the fort. My sister drove real fast to the hospital. She dropped me off at the front door, my pants were soaked and every time I moved more of the fluid came out. Even though it was a birthing hospital, I had this embarrassment feeling walking in with wet pants. She motioned me to go straight on back to the room behind her. There my sister met up with me after she had parked her car.
       The hospital staff was in a different mode than we were. The room was bright, and the staff was wide awake as if it were in the middle of the afternoon. We were not feeling that way though. We were more in the apprehensive mode. This was really not planned out or let alone thought out. She said, “Do you want me to stay?” I said, “Don’t leave me here. Yes, of course.” It was at that very moment that she became my birthing coach. This was not a planned out decision. I had already become cold to the fact that this birth I would be on my own due to the previous plans of the Mexican hospital delivery, especially without knowing Spanish. I knew it would be me in the end that had to push him out no matter where I was, or who was beside me. The staff started to ask me the usual medical questions. I told them of Mexico, of the previous cesarean, of my previous children; my age of 37 a month away from 38… they hooked the heartbeat machine to my stomach. The contractions started at that point, not too extreme. I explained to my sister, “Do you see this line here? When that one starts getting up to the top here and stays up there, I will not be the same, I just want to warn you. I will be having the out of body experience then ok? So don’t be alarmed at my screaming…” She looked worried…real worried.
      She stayed calm and collected for me though. She sat beside me the whole time. During the contractions I began to have extreme back labor. I could not get comfortable and I was in a lot of pain. I was not able to have pain medication because they said it was too late. There was one nurse in the room that was in her 20’s very young. I said to her, “If my previous cesarean stitches break open, what feeling should I be looking for?” I was a little concerned about it. I didn’t want to be on the blind while in this situation of extreme pain. I wanted to know what to look for –I was told that “I would know it if it happened.” The back labor made this labor the worst thing that I have ever felt in my life. My sister punched my lower back for me at my request. I remember staring into the eyes of the nurse girl saying “help me,” which later my sister said that she had a tear when the baby was born. I probably was blowing her mind I was like the exorcist writhing around on that bed. The time came for the last stage of labor. They knew to come because I was screaming in a deep diaphragm scream that was echoing down the hall. There were roughly 20 people who came in at that point. All of the sudden I was important? My sister later told me, they were expecting a drug baby. I was told to push, I said are you sure? I gave it my all and there was Eliott. He was beautiful and exactly like Ricardo. I could not see any of my features. He was his father 100%.  My sister took photos and let me talk on her cell with a calling card to Ricardo. It was but in Cuernavaca it was . Ricardo went to mass that morning as a father for the first time; I am sure with a smile.
        As the doctor was doing her final touches to me, I was filled with this excited energy and started to talk as if I had 19 cups of coffee. The doctor was the same age as me, she had long blonde hair, and she reminded me of an old friend of mine. She let me touch the afterbirth that was in a bowl and I remember feeling so surprised at the sight of it, not what I expected. Then I held my little love. I missed Ricardo. I was angry that he could not have been there for those first moments. When you go through the pregnancy you dream of the romance of those first family moments and I just got ripped off.
      I spent the day with the baby, in our room, my sister went home, got the kids and came back to show the older two their little brother. Two nurses came in and gave the baby a bath. “What is that plastic bag on his thingy for?” They told me it was procedure for testing for drugs. I brushed it off knowing that I don’t do any drugs. I stayed in the bed the whole day holding the baby, letting him nurse and sleep. My assigned nurse came in to do all of those random check ups on my blood pressure and check on the baby. I was so happy and deliriously tired, that I kept rambling about the baby’s father and my Mexico experience. I had not been able to brag about it before that, so all of my happy moments were coming out to this woman who acted as if she cared about my entire happy romantic version of my pregnancy. My sister let me know what this same woman said to her in the hall, but I was not aware of anything but my overwhelming motherhood….
       Then it happened. It was around and they came with a little baby cot on wheels and said there was a problem. I said he isn’t sick. Oh but his numbers aren’t ok… that was about the most extensive explanation that I got. They let me walk with them in my robes to the private elevator that led to a room below with maybe 50 infants, all hooked up to machines. There were neon lights, and breathing machines, and beeping machines, heart rate and number machines, all hooked up to these tiny little babies that could fit in my hands… and there was my fat 8 ½ lb Eliott. What could they possibly have in common? He was placed on a bed of his own, lit up with a heat lamp above and plastic sides, with machines that they didn’t need to use. The nurses held him down and stuck the IV in his arm complete with a sturdy placement slat with bandage tape to secure it all while he screamed--- for me. I was tired, post partum, missing Ricardo, missing anything normal or familiar. They let me hold him and I was able to nurse him to calm him down. My head kept nodding off. I was told that I would not be allowed to sleep there in a chair while holding him. I tried so hard to stay awake. Eventually I had to go back up the empty room without him. I called my sister sobbing “they took him” she tried to calm me down. During the night the nurses called me on the phone in my room to come down to the ICU twice because he was crying so hard and wouldn’t calm down or take one of their bottles. He wanted to only be with me. The next day I was released. I had to go and I wasn’t allowed to take him. I was still only told that his numbers were off. I demanded to know more because he didn’t even have a fever, and was obviously in the wrong room because he was huge and healthy. The young nurse, who was pregnant herself, looked at me like I was evil. “Don’t you want the best care for your baby?” I could not believe that was my answer. “A doctor will be happy to answer your questions,” she said. The doctor on call came over and explained that my baby would have to stay for a week to receive an injection once a day. I tried to convince them that a simple outpatient service or a pediatrician appointment would suffice, but they would not have it. I said, “Do you realize that I do not have insurance, money, or a medical card?” That did not seem to bother them either. They were keeping my baby and I could not seem to convince them otherwise.
       My sister and her husband were burdened with the kids and the rides to the hospital and nursing me through my depression. No sooner would I get home to get some sleep would the phone would ring. The ICU nurses would call me, “can you please come back soon,” he screamed when I was gone and wouldn’t eat for them.  I would stay as much as I could during the hospital visits and just hold him in the rocker in the corner. I was constantly fighting my head nodding off. The nurses grew to be accustomed to me and one of them actually said to me, “My family used to vacation in Mexico every year. People here in San Diego look at Tijuana as all drugs and violence because that is what we see on the news,” and we both agreed that it was not the entire picture and an unfair version of the truth of a country. There was more to my baby being held there than some numbers.                 
       Several case workers came in at random moments to talk to me about breast feeding, remember this is my 5th baby, small talk about my life, about Mexico, about my other kids, my business. I told it with pride, like those who know me, how I do. Anyone who ever wants to know, I tell it like it is, because it is my life and I have nothing to hide. I think that throughout the week they came to the conclusion that I was bonding with the baby, that I was ok, my intentions were pure. They scheduled him for a release date.
       During this time I explained to Ricardo over the phone what was going on. He was not allowed to be in the USA due to the current lack of intelligent immigration reform. It was really difficult to try to explain to him, especially in our Spanglish, when common daily life words were not part of this story. He was told by the “calle chismas” that meant something was horribly wrong with the baby, if in America, they kept him for a week after birth. I think he was expecting the worst.
      Then the truth came out. My sister told me that the original nurse that talked with me in my room the day that the baby was born cornered her in the hallway outside my room and said, “What is the story with your sister? We need to know.” My sister defended me. As a family therapist, you would think that my sister's point of view would make a difference, “she has one thing on her mind, and that is that she loves the baby’s father, and that is why she is in Mexico.” Apparently, it was concluded that I move around too much. The child services were called.
       The day my baby was released from the hospital, my cell phone rang as we were walking into the hospital from the car garage. It was child welfare. They acknowledged that the baby was released and I said that I was aware and on my way to pick him up. They asked me if I was returning to Mexico and approximately when I would do so. I said when the baby is well enough of course, which was the smart answer, the baby was not sick, obviously. She said that she noticed that I have other children and asked if they too would be returning to Mexico with me. I said “What does this have to do with the medical release of my baby from the hospital? It does not relate. It has nothing to do with it. Our conversation is over.” That was the last I heard from them.
      I returned to Mexico a week later with our new son on Christmas Eve. I was then approximately $30 thousand in debt to San Diego Sharp Medical Birthing Hospital. I believe that the extensive hospital stay was only because of the mention of Mexico in our lives. I have not ever officially asked another doctor to compare notes to know for sure, but maybe one day I will. I feel angry that Eliott had some type of separation issue as a baby after this and developed colic. I blame this for it. I felt very controlled, looked down on, and violated. I also believe that the entire procedure/ diagnosis was either a false one, or at the very least blown out of proportion for other reasons. I feel that if I would have delivered in a regular hospital, we would have been released together the day after the birth. Maybe I am wrong medically, but they seriously made a big case out of it. I have a hard time believing anything anymore when the word Mexico is mentioned. My son is healthy, and still coping with separation issues at 3 ½ years; but now it is with his Mexican father, far, far away, living separate lives due to immigration reform lack of.
     This was my end of pregnancy/birth experience within the first year in Mexico with my husband and my first real experience with many things...including my first experience with racism directed towards my family.

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