Getting things done where we live always comes down to relationship. Who do you know? Who do they know? Who else might know you and know someone else who knows another person? It’s a very circular way of accomplishing anything, but once you know someone who can get you the information you need, you’re well on your way towards what you want to get done.
However, if you know no one at all… well, where do you start?
That’s where we found ourselves. After the disastrous visit to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy that we already knew was well on its way, we really had no leads or places to turn for the next step. We wanted to pursue a homebirth but who could help us? As wonderful as the birth center was for Madison’s birth, they had already told us they had no contacts in Tijuana or Rosarito for midwifery care or homebirth options. Other friends who live here and had natural births in other birth centers in San Diego didn’t have any new information or contacts for us. One person even went as far as to tell us it was illegal and could jeopardize our visa status (the exact opposite of what we needed). I sort of felt like I was one of those people who asked too many questions, got to nosy, and if I wasn’t careful some official was going to show up, knocking on our door, and give us some sort of fine or punishment. Now, I know that’s ridiculous to think but the way people are responding to my inquires about home birth in Tijuana, it was like it was a taboo topic or so culturally offensive (not to mention – gasp – dangerous!) that I couldn’t help but think there was some Secret Birth Police out there just waiting to trap me.
There was a glimmer of hope when we found out that one of the staff members in our organization was a trained, professional midwife from Australia. I nearly tackled her at our next community gathering (which was quite awkward since I don’t think we had really even met or had a conversation before that moment) and told her my great plan of homebirth and would you please consider being our midwife pretty please please please? She was so happy that we asked her and completely willing to work with us towards a homebirth. I though we had done it – we had our midwife! We were going to have our homebirth in Tijuana after all! Hooray!
Then the bad news came. Just a little while later, she took a trip to Australia to visit family and while she was there, she went to renew her midwifery license. As she explained to me later, she looked up her license numbers only to discover that it had expired a few months before. There is a test that all midwives in Australia take every two years for compliance and new requirements, but because she was overseas in Mexico she missed that window as well and had lost her license completely. She was devastated and apologized profusely over and over again. We were disappointed as well. The one promising option that looked like our path to homebirth was now in shambles.
In hindsight, we can now see what a blessing this turn of events was for us. While we didn’t doubt this woman’t professional ability as a midwife, the fact that she was an Australian midwife and not a Mexican midwife could have presented a host of complications for us when it came to all the paperwork and registration that needs to take place after a birth (of any kind, not just a homebirth). As we found out later, there are extreme limitations to access to the official forms that doctors (and midwives) fill out to record a birth. Government offices only issue a set amount to each professional every month, and to obtain more there is a process of submitting the used forms and only receiving the same amount that was turned back in. This locked-down approach to paperwork is due to the rise in infant kidnapping that occurred a few decades ago (as we were told my our actual midwife, months later). People were showing up with documents proving that the child was theirs and processing official paperwork to get birth certificates with their names on it as the parent…when in reality the child was a missing person, abducted, or worse. The government stepped in and launched a whole new set of rules surrounding the entire paperwork process, thus making it much more difficult to obtain that crucial first document which proves the legitimacy of the birth.
If we had gone with the option of having our Australian friend attend our birth, she would have had no way to obtain that key document. We would have shown up at the Civil Registry empty handed, asking for a birth certificate for an infant that had no paperwork, was born at home, and whose parents are foreigners. From the government’s perspective that scenario sends all the red warning lights flashing for a worst case scenario of child trafficking or kidnapping. What a relief that we never had to face anything close to this imaginary nightmare. Instead, we found ourselves back to where we started – wanting to birth at home but with no legal way to accomplish it.
I resumed pounding out key search phrases on my computer keyboard – homebirth in Tijuana, Tijuana birth options, Mexico birthing at home – in desperate search for anyone who could help us. A few long nights of clicking through one page after another, a shot-in-the-dark email with a plea for help, and a surprising reply finally set us on the path towards…home.