Words by: Laura Janette Guerra Ríos
It all usually starts with smiles, love and good wishes, when you notice a baby is coming. Relatives feel happy for you and even strangers smile at you. Who doesn’t love babies? They are cute, smell brand new and bring a new hope into your life.
However, being a mom in México is not as pleasing as it should be. I started a job as a German teacher in January of 2014, I asked the staff to give me a contract to be able to have social security, but my contract was going to end in July.
I was hoping that in August they were going to hire me for another year. In Mexico private schools often hire you for a year to avoid giving you seniority, and raising your wage. I spent five months hiding my pregnancy status (I was lucky that it wasn’t a very obvious pregnancy). In those months before July I was searching like a mad woman for a new part time job.
Having a baby is not easy, or cheap, so I felt it was a good idea to try this.
You see, I was so naïve.
NOBODY in México hires a pregnant woman. It costs more and the girl will be out soon for three months. It’s like a curse, even if you’re overqualified for the job you ask for. So when I signed the august contract, I felt relieved. I asked for social security and they answered: “OK, you can have it”. I told my boss in September and they even made me a baby shower.
It seemed like my fears were bigger than the situation. I remembered then seeing teachers having babies all the time when I was studying and it never seemed to be that big of a deal.
Before I left I asked a friend to cover me those three months. The timing was perfect. I also remember that some of the other teachers asked me if I had social security because they didn’t. I felt blessed but I knew that most owners of any business do not ever give this kind of benefits to their workers.
But in college things were very different.
There was a teacher in particular to whom I had to give several essays that treated me in an especially hostile way. She asked me where my baby was going to be born, she also asked me whether it was going to be in a private or public hospital, and she even asked me if I was living with my boyfriend. But the worst question was “Are you actually planning to finish college?”
I felt mocked and disappointed. She gave me a lower grade than the passing grade and she refused a revision. I only needed six more subjects to get my degree so my academic career was then frozen. This was two weeks before my baby was to be born. My University calls itself humanist, my degree is Mexican Literature and we even share a building with philosophy, history, sociology and education. I believe that this was the least possibly humanist attitude.
It wasn’t fair but this is the Mexico I was talking about.
My baby was born on November 8 of 2014. A day before I had seen the gynecologist and she had told me that the baby was to be born in a caesarian.
She wanted to respect my decision of going for a natural birth but there was a possibility for complications. Five months earlier my previous gynecologist had decided against my will to deliver the baby naturally. I had changed my gynecologist because I didn’t feel comfortable with a doctor that didn’t respect my decisions, but if the baby’s life was a stake of course I wasn’t going to complain.
In Monterrey, where I live, 60% of all the births in public hospitals are delivered by c section. It’s easier and more lucrative for the doctors, so even if you are on the first months of the pregnancy they will already be trying to convince you to pick a date for the surgery. They even try to avoid telling you the cost of their services. Some of them don’t reveal the costs until after the operation.
That is a very stressful situation when you are pregnant.
My boyfriend and I were considering the option to have the baby in the US, despite the romantic significance of having our first baby in the country where our families were born.
In the end we realized that the costs were almost the same. Since I was 20 my parents have helped me with medical care. This covered part of the costs of the birth. In the same clinic where I was born 27 years before I gave birth to my first child.
They made me feel safe and I felt like I could trust them.
I stayed there for 3 days. The day my baby was born I didn’t feel anything but joy. The best day of my life was that day in which I met my baby. Our camera didn’t work so we have the video from the cell phone of one of the nurses.
Even though they took great care of us, there were lots of problems when we tried to leave. We were to leave on a Monday but they initially they didn’t let us go. Someone lost our legal documents and now they were expecting us to pay for the whole service, despite the fact that my mother had asked daily for the bills of the room.
We found out that they were charging us for ghost articles and services that we never even used. Even the room I was in was one that we hadn’t asked for. We realized that it is a very common practice so that clinics can charge you for more money. We were to leave on Monday by midday, but they still tried to charge us all the way to Tuesday.
In the end everything worked out ok but so much corruption and greed made us feel uneasy.
We moved to our current house a week before the birth. It was super stressful to deal with the change at the last stages of pregnancy.
The first two weeks after the birth we stayed at my parent’s house. My boyfriend visited us every day. Then the three of us finally came to live in our home. The first weeks were hard. I quit breastfeeding and bought the formula the doctors had recommended.
We saw two different expensive pediatricians (50 and 30 dlls. each visit) that told us that our son had the regular reflux. It seemed to us that our son was in pain.
Even though he had his antireflux mattress, one night he almost drowned. It was one of the worst and coldest nights of my life.
Our third pediatrician changed our lives.
He’s much less expensive and he actually works in our street. He showed concern about my baby’s situation and realized that we had to change his formula.
He told us our baby had been in pain before. We tell ourselves often that the more expensive the service the better it is. This is a huge lie we tell ourselves all the time.
Today our baby is 4 months old and healthy. His name is Arturo. We nicknamed him R2D2, which sounds like “Lil’ Arturo” in Spanish. He’s cheerful and he is growing fast. He already weights twice his newborn weight.
After all of our odyssey I feel happy because we are making our best to take care of him. I’m sure we’ll continue to make everything for his welfare.
It took me a month to write this article ever since Mr. Ryan Child asked me how it is to be a mom in Mexico. Nobody had asked me this before. Even if this story was last year some parts of it are still painful for me to remember. I’m sure all the cases are unique like all babies are, but I believe my very particular story has to be known.
It’s an example of how it is to be a college student, a part time worker and a pregnant woman in Mexico. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share my story. Whenever somebody asks me how it is to be a mom in Mexico I’ll be able to tell them all of this. Thanks to your interest and support women like me are not alone.