Countdown to September – Baby #4!

Be prepared for the most anticlimactic announcement in the history of announcements:

We’re pregnant.

Yay!

Now, of course we are brimming with excitement and looking forward to Baby #4 joining the family sometime in September or October (and planning for another home birth in Mexico).  We are grateful to have another life to welcome to the world and into our home.  The kids already know how to talk to the baby and Leah is particular about making sure my shirt is pulled up and my belly is exposed when it’s her turn, especially if she’s ‘reading’ a book to the baby.  Oh, and the name suggestions are out of this world.  Possibly blog-post worthy all in their own right.

The reason for the wah-wah nature of the announcement is that I wanted to start writing about how I’m processing becoming a mom of FOUR KIDS.  My heart and mind are already picking up habit loops based on what I think life will be like, trying to grasp onto some sort of plan to help us survive those first few months.  Let’s face it – newborns are the most unpredictable creatures on the face of this earth.  And for an INTJ mother whose StrengthsFinder score is all DisciplineStrengthsFinder score is all Discipline and whose DISC score is a soaring S, a tiny, wailing, inconsistent, irrational human is so hard to deal with.

I love them.  Yes.  But there’s a lot to process and I want to use this space to help do just that.  Here’s to new life and more diapers!

Why yes, you can have a homebirth in Mexico – Part 7

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4/Part 5/Part 6

Here are some thoughts I had during my prenatal care with Angelica, the midwife who attended our homebirth in Tijuana in November 2014.  These excerpts are from an email conversation with a phenomenal woman who has dedicated her life to humanized birthing in Mexico.  She has (and continues to be) a pillar of support and source of knowledge for the birthing community in Mexico and beyond.  Although we have never met in person, I consider her a dear friend and close confident with all things pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.

Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how my partnership with Angelica Granada is going during this pregnancy. We ‘officially’ switched our care to her about two and a half months ago, and since have had two home visits with one coming up next week (we also met with her twice before that to get to know her and her approaches to care). We have decided to not see an OBGYN concurrently with her care (unless, of course, something occurs during the pregnancy that warrants their care). I am intensely appreciating her approach to prenatal care – it’s very hands-off, trusting of the mother and baby, yet at the same time with attention to details.
The home visits (which I LOVE that she offers) have consisted of a conversations about diet, exercise, how I feel, how the baby is moving/growing, and then blood pressure, measurements, listening to me and the baby, and taking a few notes. Then we usually start discussing a question or topic that I have in mind and go on from there. No lab work, blood draws, weigh-ins, or excessive paperwork to fill out. Actually, I haven’t filled out ANY paperwork with her yet, except for writing my name in her spiral notebook where she keeps her client notes. She has a few methods/practices that I’m not completely in agreement with, but willing to let those go for now and deal with them when/if they arise
In comparison to what she DOES offer, DOES practice, and DOES believe, those few points are quite minimal to me. I still plan on having something in writing about our desires before, during, and after labor so we can agree on and refer to it. In describing her training and expertise, I would say she is much more a traditional midwife than a modern midwife – traditional in the sense that she is trained/skilled/knowledgable, but still influenced by the current medical approach to childbirth and pregnancy that remains here in Mexico. Does that make sense? I’ve found that doing supplemental research on my own in regards to diet, care, preparation, etc, has been much more helpful than simply just asking her ‘What should I do for…’
It’s almost painful for me to think of the situation that a midwife like Angelica finds herself in – even if she WANTS to expand her knowledge, WANTS to access the latest evidence-based findings, WANTS to update herself with approaches or practices or techniques…where does she turn? To whom can she go? And even if there is someone/somewhere, how would she even know it was available or know how to access it? And would it even be in a language she can comprehend? Not speaking against her competency or intelligence as an individual in any way, but just reflecting on what I’ve observed in the medical community since living here for the past 12 years.

Here are the things that have made my heart sing with joy (and relief!) as our relationship has progressed:

  • she is totally okay with no internal exams
  • anyone can be at the birth. the birth can be AT HOME (a setting in which she has practiced many times)!!!!
  • she has some knowledge of herbs, teas, etc for the pregnancy and labor
  • no episiotomies, but she can do sutures if needed after the birth
  • if i want, she is fine with leaving the placenta with us
  • i can birth and labor in any position
  • i can eat and drink during labor
  • after the baby is born, s/he goes straight to the mom to begin breastfeeding as soon as possible to help stop the flow of blood, contract the uterus, and promote attachment and bonding
  • completely promotes and supports breastfeeding
  • placenta is birthed on it’s own time (no traction or pulling)
  • so far, she hasn’t mentioned a total time limit for labor (unlike the dr with my previous pregnancy here who mentioned freidman’s curve as his point of measurement for a successful labor)

As I read that list I think, ‘Well, DUH!’ But then I have to chuckle and smile and shake my head in gratitude that I will be ‘allowed’ to birth this child as I was created to do.

It wasn’t long before we met and passed all three due dates we had for this pregnancy – one from the doctor, one from the ultrasound, and one from Angelica.  They all were at the end of October, but from the moment we found out we were pregnant I had a sense that it would be a November baby.  Maybe I convinced myself to wait?  Maybe she needed those few extra days inside me to gear up for her big day?  I’ll never know why but I do remember being at peace with whenever labor decided to start.

Why yes, you can have a home birth in Mexico – Part 6

Earlier this month we celebrated Leah’s second birthday.  Being that she is two, and really has no idea what a ‘birthday’ is, we decided to keep it low key and do a family dinner at her restaurant of choice (Red Robin).  However, any time she hears the word birthday, she will yell, “Ee-ah!  Bir-day!”, as if she alone has the right to this thing called ‘birthday’ and gets to drag it out as long as she can.  She actually seemed genuinely offended when we sang “Happy Birthday” to her grandpa (my dad) a few days ago, as if anyone else dare have a birthday because that’s hers.  Gosh, I love her.

Of course with her birthday came memories of her pregnancy and birth, which brought me back to this series which I have left unfinished for quite some time now.  We are also wanting to grow our family in the next year or so, and my thoughts are drifting back to all things prenatal.  I figured it might be appropriate to finish one birth story series before I start another one (we aren’t pregnant yet, but hoping to be soon!), so I’ll do my best to finish sharing about our first homebirth in Mexico (because you better believe that we’re planning for another homebirth this time around, too!).


Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4/Part 5

I remember dialing the midwife’s number and listening to it ring, my heart in my throat and my stomach churning with anxiety.  Jerry and given us her name (Angelica) and phone number ( 044 664 313 1267), and I couldn’t quite believe I was actually calling a professional, licensed midwife in Tijuana.  Only months before it seemed impossible, yet here I was listening to the ringtones buzzing in my ear. Suddenly, the phone clicked and I heard a brisk voice: “Bueno?!”  Thinking back, I’m sure my Spanish was awful as my nerves were racing, but somehow my story stumbled out and I asked the right questions and we scheduled a time and place to meet.

Soon after, my husband and I met Angelica face to face and it all came gushing out – our long journey, the struggles, the heartache, the glimmer of hope, and now a real life, flesh-and-blood, authentic Mexican midwife sitting in front of us.  She was gracious and warm and down to earth, and answered all our questions (we had a lot!).  After meeting her two more times over the next month, we finally decided to switch our prenatal care completely into her service.

She did home visits.  She used real language.  She asked permission before touching me or doing anything to us (me and baby).  She used common sense in evaluating my health, leaving things alone when they were fine and trusting my body to grow our baby.  We had discussions about birth plans and options; instead of being told what to do I was welcomed into a conversation about what would be best for everyone involved.  If I had been in another country that openly supported midwifery, she might not have been my first choice as a midwife.  But faced with the options we had, I was more than confident in her skills and our preparation to choose to homebirth in Tijuana.

Why yes, you can have a homebirth in Mexico – Part 5

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4

Hi Jerry,

My name is Jamie and my husband and our two kids live in Tijuana. We are US citizens serving with a Christian nonprofit ministry here. I came across your website when doing some online research about homebirths in Mexico. We would love to have a homebirth with our next child…I read on your website that you are no longer able to travel and attend homebirths. Would you know of any local midwives who are currently practicing in our area and who attend homebirths?  Anything you could share with me would be extremely helpful.

Thanks so much,

Jamie

As soon as I hit ‘send,’and the email spiraled off into cyberspace, a huge wave a relief washed through my body as I let out a huge breath of air that I didn’t even know I was holding in.  I had done it.  I had found someone who could help us.  Now all I could do was wait.

Truth be told, my hopes were set pretty low.  We had hit so many obstacles along the way already and it sometimes felt like the whole world (or at least the whole country) was set against our hope of a homebirth in Mexico.  Plus, judging from the website where I found Jerry’s contact information, I half-expected his email address to be as outdated as his design choices (he’s a midwife, not a web-professional – no judgement here!).

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Imagine my shock when I checked my email the next day and saw an email from Jerry.  An actual, real, in-my-inbox email!  I’m pretty sure I almost dropped my phone due to my excitement.  It was short and to the point, but it held a promise of things to come.  He was out of the country but asked me to send him a message in a few weeks and he would send me “my midwife’s friends data” who lived in Tijuana.

There it was – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  The elusive unicorn sighting.  We had done it!  We had found a midwife!  Well, almost.  First we had to wait a few weeks for him to return from his overseas trip but we had found proof that there was a practicing, component, Mexican midwife in our city who could be the answer to our prayers.

Why yes, you can have a homebirth in Mexico – Part 4

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3

As my search for someone to help me find a path towards homebirth, one of the first names I came upon was Joni Nichols.  Her website was like a beacon in the night.  Somewhere in Mexico, there were people giving birth just like I wanted to!  I started chasing that glimmer of hope with all my strength.  Joni and I had exchanged a few messages while I was pregnant with Madison and we were looking for natural birth options in Tijuana at a hospital or birth center type setting.  She was so helpful in passing along information and although we decided to use Birth Roots’ services for Madison’s birth, I knew she was the right person to ask for help.

Something I have learned through this journey in the world of unmedicated, midwife-assisted homebirths is that the majority of the people I encounter are simply bursting at the seams to offer help, extend relationships, and provide wise advice.  It was so refreshing to converse with someone who supported our desires and spoke to what was best for our situation, instead of feeling like we were being forced into a predetermined set of rules and regulations.  I’m not sick, I’m just pregnant!!!

Messages and emails started flying through cyberspace as Joni and I struck up our digital friendship once again.  I caught her up to speed with my pregnancy and birth of Madison (where we had previously left off) and she helped dispel the myth of homebirth being illegal in Mexico.  Like we later learned, she strongly suggested that we find someone who could help us obtain the correct paperwork for documenting a homebirth.  However she didn’t have any specific contacts in our area of the country.  She told me, “There are some great educators and doulas I met in the area…just can`t seem to find anyone to actually ATTEND the births as midwife or doctor.”  Sounded like were in the same predicament.

I hit the internet search engines again, trying every combination of phrases and words to kick my research to the next level.  On yet another desperate search, I came across this page.  My initial response was to click right on through and not even pause to read what it said.  The colors!  The graphics!  The rudimentary formatting and layout!  Not to mention the fact that the midwife was a man and he was no longer offering his services.  Something told me to keep with it, so I started clicking around the site and what I saw astonished me. Here was a man who had spent seven years of his considerably older years serving the poorest and neediest women of Tijuana in their moments of greatest need.  From his home in Southern California, he would drive all hours of the day and night to cross the border into Tijuana to help women with their prenatal care, labor, and delivery.  As I scrolled through page after page of detailed (and quite graphic, yet completely normal and natural) stories and images, I realized I might have found what I was looking for.  Of course, Partero Jerry (as I learned he was called) would not be the midwife for us, but he may be able to provide that missing link to join us to what I hoped was a network of support and resources in our city.

I found his email address somewhere amongst the flashing neon text and black background of his now invaluable website, and with guarded elation sent him and email, asking for any help he could give us.

Why yes, you can have a homebirth in Mexico – Part 3

See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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.

Why yes, you can have a homebirth in Mexico – Part 2

click here for Part 1

There was one other motivating factor in my desire to have a homebirth.  As foreigners living in Mexico, we go through a Visa process and application every one to three years (depending on the current government legislation) that costs us a few hundred dollars each time.  Multiply that by four (the number of people in our family at the time) and it gets really expensive, really quickly.  Not to mention the fickle nature of some of the branches of Mexican government – immigration being one of them.  It seems like every time there is a new election, or even a new calendar year, laws and regulations change and what we though was a bunch of progress towards the next level of our Visa suddenly becomes naught and we are back at the beginning again.

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How could a homebirth help?

Any child born in Mexico is a Mexican citizen by birth, and a citizen of his or her parent’s countries by parental right.  The parents of that Mexican born baby also are eligible to become permanent residents, which means one (very long, very frustrating, and very time consuming) process to completely and finally gain resident status.  Apart from freeing ourselves of the ongoing application, renewal, and payment process of sustaining our Visas, the permanent resident status allows us access to more privileges as foreigners in Mexico (like owning property or a house, which is a dream of ours to do one day).  It also fast-tracks the Visa process of any of our children who are not Mexican citizens by birth by allowing them to apply for the same level of Visa – permanent – as us parents, instead of having to climb the multi-tiered, multi-year traditional method of obtaining permanence.

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Needless to say, this one detail weighed heavily on our decision to pursue a homebirth.  Of course, if we birthed in a hospital in Mexico, our child would also be a Mexican citizen and the same privileges would apply both to us and the baby.  Yet the more I researched options for hospital births here in Tijuana (and even visited a few), the more I knew that the best option for us would be our own home.