Lucia in the sky with diamond… earrings? Or not. And other mama drama

5 Sep

Lucia, being a baby of not-quite 2 months old (at the time of writing this), looks pretty androgynous.  In the U.S., the color of baby clothing is what tends to identify a baby’s sex. I even had a nurse think that what was on the medical chart identifying my baby as a girl must have been wrong, since the baby was wearing green. In Mexico, apparently what identifies sex is earrings, or the lack thereof. So since Lucia doesn’t have her ears pierced, everyone assumes she’s a boy. When we say she’s a girl, people are shocked and dismayed. “When are you gonna do her little holes?” they ask. “When she asks for it,” we reply.  That stops some folks, but others insist that that’s silly; she really needs some earrings.
People also believe that babies here are cold all the time and must be totally bundled up, even in sunny, 80-degree weather. “Where are her socks? Where’s her hat?” someone scolded me (this is a theme, really). “It’s hot out,” I asserted. “When did she tell you she was hot?” Around the same time she told you she was cold- I didn’t say. What’s even better (“better” being more ironic and irritating) is when strangers insist on holding my child, and then when she cries they tell me it’s because she’s cold, or for some other reason which is surely my fault. It couldn’t be because she doesn’t want to be in their arms, even though she was not crying in my arms just 3 seconds ago and now that you’ve given her back to me she’s stopped crying again. No, no, you, the stranger, surely know better than I what’s wrong with my baby. Thank you.
Which brings us to another baby mama drama of mine: strangers snatching my baby from me. I realize it’s probably universal that people like to hold babies. I don’t normally mind other people holding Lucia. In fact, it’s often a nice little break for me and her papi. But my mama-bear instincts kick into high gear when people who haven’t even introduced themselves to me come up and try to take my baby out of my arms. There’s no, “oh, can I hold the baby?” or even, “hello, my name is so-and-so”. They just come and reach out their arms, and I’m a big bitch for not wanting to hand over my baby. I don’t care if they know Conan, or Conan’s mom Paulina. I don’t know them. And I am (one of two people) responsible for Lucia’s wellbeing. Even if it weren’t dangerous (and parents, you try telling me you like to hand your newborn off to strangers on a regular basis), it’s still exceedingly rude. I can’t imagine trying to take someone’s baby out of their arms without a) asking them if it’s okay, and b) INTRODUCING MYSELF, if it’s not already a friend of mine. Part of this is, I believe, another symptom of me not being a real human being here (or maybe there’s another reason why so few people will speak directly to me?). For example, day 2 in Juquila, I go to the corner store with Paulina, with Lucia in her wrap as usual. People in the store come make a fuss about Lucia (Okay, cool. She is an adorable baby and all that.), but they ask Paulina if it’s her baby. Ummm, have you seen Paulina pregnant in the past year? Is Paulina carrying this baby around wrapped up against her body? You obviously can’t really mean to ask if this is Paulina’s baby, so why are you asking that? Is it that important to not acknowledge my existence? We could make a comic book character out of me- the invisible mommy. Look! There’s a floating nipple feeding that baby! Look! That baby is walking down the street held up by thin air! Bless their little hearts, they surely just want to help poor Lucia, as it must seem that she’s all alone.
And then I have culture shock around safety. Car seats are practically non-existent, for example. We went out to eat tlayudas a couple days after arriving. A friend of Conan’s picked us up in their car, so we had our car seat ready to go. The friend rolled down the window and his 7 month old daughter was sitting on his lap. He says he’s teaching her to drive, and doesn’t understand why we’d want to use the car seat. Granted, I understand better as we drive around town- between all the hills and curves and speed bumps, the random livestock and the people in the street, you never actually pick up speed. But in this case my cultural idea of safety is soooo deeply ingrained that I can’t help but feel nervous and upset. All I can think is that of course it’s fine to ride around without a car seat- unless something happens. So I wrap her tightly in her wrap, pressed up against my body, put a seat belt around us both, and throw a prayer to the wind. What else can I do?
Being a mom in a foreign country adds a whole new dimension to what it means to adapt. I have always considered myself such a chameleon, so capable of accepting whatever happens as an interesting story, if nothing else. But between the fact that I live here now, that I’m not just passing through, and the fact that I have this adorable, precious, teeny-tiny being to take care of, it’s a whole new ballpark deciding where and how to stand my ground, where and how to refuse to adapt, and how to do it graciously. No one said that motherhood would be easy.

4 Responses to “Lucia in the sky with diamond… earrings? Or not. And other mama drama”

  1. mommyjustaddkids September 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    When I lived in Mexico I was struck at the cavalier attitude towards death. In many ways a much healthier relationship with death than the fear and denial we tend to have with that entity.

    But when I think about taking my baby there? I would be struggling with the same things. Yes — we’ve been indoctrinated here to be worry warts — to believe that any amount of germs or dirt will do the baby in,

    you’ll find your happy medium
    and people will roll their eyes at you
    but you’re the mommy


    ps — people here are always after me to bundle Owen up and put a hat on his head inspite of it being 100 degrees here some days — ignore it — you know best.

  2. storytellerkaydee September 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    No matter what country you are in, people will tell you that you are doing it wrong. 🙂

    • exiletomexico September 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      Right! I definitely understand that it’s universal!

  3. Ain't Linda September 6, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    Parenthopd changes everything. I didn’t believe that until it happened to me. It sneaks up behind you and hits you in the heart just when you think you’ve got things figured out. And if it doesn’t, you are not doing it right.

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