On February 9th, three years ago, my third daughter Mary Catherine Socorro was born in a hospital surrounded by a couple feet of snow in Western Pennsylvania. This hospital is where my mother gave birth to me in 1970 and fell into a comma for ten days following. When I was twenty-three years old, I gave birth to my first born daughter Rachel in this hospital, then at twenty-six my son Thomas. Julian was born two and a half years later, and then Leah Rose a year after that. Eliott was born in San Diego seven years later and in two and a half years more came Mary Catherine. The women in the maternity ward recognized me, as we had shared these moments when souls connect in a dimly-lit room while a new person is welcomed into the world. The time span between my first and last daughters is seventeen years and the women in the maternity ward and I shared the wrinkles of life in our faces.
Mary Catherine was conceived in Mexico in our home in the interior of the country in an urban area south of the capital. At that time we were living a life of trying to achieve residency in the country for myself and the kids, but to no avail. We had too many Americans in our family to be an economic dependent of my Mexican husband. However, we had several burners on in our planning and were opting to find a way to make everything work out. Hope has a way of blinding a person to the reality and that hope kept our drive and comfort that our pregnancy was justified, even with the negative comments. A two week visit to Pennsylvania while 9 weeks pregnant gave a second lawyer, an expensive, big named lawyer in the heart of Philadelphia 5 hours’ drive, an opportunity to ask someone directly knowledgeable in immigration law if the fact that I was sitting there pregnant made a difference in the outcome of obtaining a visa into America for my husband. The answer was no. The answer was the same as the previous high-profile lawyer that I visited in a downtown Pittsburgh high-rise a couple years prior.
Some people say that I do not plan well. They do not consider all of the plans that I do juggle. Having to live in two countries without a way to make either life legal and the awareness of the children’s futures creeping up to an ugly head of reality can take a lot of planning regardless of the socially-correct aspect of it. I loved him so deeply, and carried within me the will of the youth of a sassy American, I just told myself inevitably I will be determined and I will find a way to make It all work. That is the hope that, like I mentioned, drove me to continue my wretched torture with a smile.
The entire prenatal care and pregnancy was carried in Mexico – very modified in comparison to the extensive medical take-over of a woman’s body that American maternity doctors put into effect. The prenatal care that I did seek was from a doctor perceived as one of the better doctors in the city. It consisted of a series of monthly ultrasounds… no other tests. This was my sixth pregnancy at 40-years old, post cesarean. The reality of these conditions are something that may label me as negligent in American terms. I am aware of the attitude that I got when I walked into a hospital in labor and told them that I received my prenatal care in Mexico when I gave birth to my son in San Deigo on the border. They called child-protection on me for it. I was well aware of the perceived indications that I was somehow not okay to want to spend my sensitive emotional pregnancy with my husband in Mexico, as we were not given an option to be in America. I am not attempting to diffuse the responsibility in that statement, but that is something that I mention as to show the weight on my mind at that time in my life.
There was a Sunday morning that came along that when I was in my seventh month of pregnancy that we went to Catholic Mass at one of the several churches that we visited ritually and faithfully every Sunday. This particular church was built centuries prior and was crumbled in much of the rock’s exterior with faded paint and birds living within the deterioration. The garden surrounding gave the sense of a magical mystical enchanted purity in this historical building that many considered only to be their weekly revival. I felt at peace there. We were accompanied by my sister-in-law, her influential husband, and their three sons. Their family was well-known in all class statuses of people in our area, so we made somewhat of an entrance everywhere we would go between their notoriety and our Americanism… so people were generally respectful to us with an air of eagerness to please. An old woman all wrapped in shawls with a wrinkly face, tough hands, and less than four foot ten came up to me out of the crowd and held her hands on my stomach and chanted some words with sincerity in her stare into my eyes… and walked away. Her blessing, her message, was that my baby was okay. The worry of my societal obligations was gently handed to God at that moment.
The plan at this point was for me to fly to Pennsylvania at Thanksgiving. Mary Catherine was due on January 21st and no one wanted me to wait longer than that like I did with her brother a couple years prior – as I flew up to the border at the pregnancy’s due date to renew my tourist visa that was to expire the day after the due date and I could not get an extension. Actually I say my visa was due to expire, but that also included Julian and Leah who were with me as small children. Thanksgiving time, and the scheduled departure, came closer and my belly grew real big with Catherine’s pregnancy. I looked full-term at only 6-months gestation. I had trouble accepting that I had to leave. Our tourist visas were due to expire in December which left us no other legal option so that we had to leave the country. We contemplated riding a bus to the border, or driving our van, to renew my visa and then return to give birth in Mexico. Again it was not just my own visa that needed renewal but Julian and Leah, as well as little Eliott who was at that time a couple years old. My father made it clear with his insisting that we fly to Pennsylvania to give birth and my husband sided with him for the safety of me and the baby. It was settled.
The day came for me to be at the airport and I became physically, mentally, and emotionally unable to function. I could not pack the clothes that would be necessary for Julian, Leah, and Eliott, and myself in the suitcases. I could not think straight. I was dragging my feet so much that we were so late to get to the bus-station that took us on the two hour drive to the city’s international airport. We were involved in a minor traffic-accident on the way due to the hurried, frantic mode of travel that we were in. I sat in the passenger seat crying and began to hyperventilate at the thought of having to leave my husband, my home at heart, my comfort. We missed the last bus that would have arrived in the city before the scheduled airline flight. The flight was cancelled.
My father was angry and my older two kids that were living in Pennsylvania with their father, my first husband, were planning on meeting us that day at the airport, were terribly sad. It was the day before Thanksgiving, but we rescheduled for Christmas Eve. I needed more time to process the tear that I experienced in having to break away from my husband and my home that we built together. Guilt surrounded my every thought in not being able to please and provide contentment and consistency to all those who I loved so dearly and it tore me in half.
Christmas Eve came and by the time I was focused on staying calm. I had an entire month to stabilize my emotions. I was now in my ninth month of pregnancy and absolutely huge. I accepted what had to be accomplished and separated that plan from my emotions, as one would do when the responsibility overrides the desire. We placed emotional blocks on the building Christmas spirit that was in every aspect of our lives at that time, with friends’ invitations to holiday parties that we turned down and decorating that was not a part of the season for us as a family. We told ourselves that it was just another day that year… there would be next year.
The next year never came incidentally as we spent the following two years in immigration law limbo purgatory while getting that visa secured, and yes my sassy American attitude did make it work after being subjected to the torture of being a family that was considered to not be important enough by my country to give relief to, or protective outreach at best. Yes, I made it happen, without their help, at the price of my emotional stability and possible future mental trauma for my entire family. Does it sound exaggerated or dramatic... Maybe… I am accustomed to expecting less it seems in order to deal. If my words carry an exaggeration that is nothing more than a typical situation of a woman who cannot accept proper societal role, than my deepest apologies for writing it out for it to reach another’s eyes.
I sought medical preparations for my daughter’s birth. I assumed that the birth may have to take place in my father’s home due to there not being insurance established. My son was born on the border and because I was not a resident of California, I was personally billed for the entire amount, ruining my already ruined credit. His birth also included the cost for his newborn first days for a week in intensive care. This fact caused me to aim for a home birth to alleviate any more debt than I already had. The local association of mid-wives could not handle my pregnancy through because I was already at 38-weeks and that was an unacceptable part of their procedures, especially that I was considered high-risk at 40-years, with prior cesarean birth.
I went to the hospital to ask if they could be so kind as to help me receive the necessary preparation of prescribing to me the prescription that eliminates the possible bacterial meningitis contracted in a natural birth, because my intentions were to just do it alone at the house. The hospital then connected me with a program to aide in pregnant mothers living in poverty. At that time I was put into their system and the multiple testing and ultra-sounds were conducted. I was continually informed that there were complications, that the baby was very large and I had too much amniotic fluid, along with the previous cesarean and my age and the abated prenatal care… they pleaded with me to get an immediate cesarean. I was sent to a prestigious woman’s hospital in the nearby city of Pittsburgh and was told by everyone that I needed to deliver right away.
I wished to be out of that society and back in Mexico with my husband so much. I lived with sadness in my heart. Back at my father’s house were my children that were pulled out of school to make this trip. They missed three months of school. We kept up with their studies with their cuadernos and libros that they brought. We had contacts on the phone with friends in the school to coordinate what lecciones were covered. The cyber-school here in Pennsylvania was arranged the first of our arrival, but by the time that they got it together, it was time for us to go back to Mexico.
I remembered the old woman in the church with her message that my baby was okay. It was enough for me. I told the doctors that I was in control of my body and I would not be prey to their influences. I assured them that I knew my baby was okay and would be delivering her when she was ready to come.
She finally decided to come at two weeks post-partum at 42-weeks gestation on February 9th.
She was ten pounds of God’s blessing.
I was able to be with my family, all of my children were with me. My oldest two children lived beside the hospital and walked through the two-feet of snow to come visit us while we lay in the hospital after her birth. My first born daughter Rachel is the Godmother of my youngest daughter Mary Catherine. We conducted the ceremony at St. Paul’s Catholic Church a week before we went back to Mexico when Catherine was six-weeks old to meet her father.
When we arrived in Mexico, my appendix ruptured a couple days later… but that is another story.
Mary Catherine is three today. She was born in the 95-percentile for her sie and is now in the lower half of percentile for her age, varying between five and thirty percentile. She is a tiny little girl, but chubby. She has above average intelligence and I know this in comparison with her gifted sister’s same attributes at her age. She has big blue eyes and strawberry, wispy hair… and she has been on ten international flights during her lifetime… plus three international flights while in my belly…
She is a blessing to the world.