Kendall and Justine met Laura on their very first trip to León. Laura picked them up from the airport and acted as a shoe broker and translator to help them find Poppy Barley's first factory. Since then, Laura has led all our Poppy Barley operations in Mexico, and, naturally, we’ve gotten to know her well; through her, we have a window into Mexican culture. For the second volume of our Magazine, with its focus on pregnancy, we asked Laura to tell us what it’s like to be a mom in Mexico.It is hard to try to represent 50 million Mexican women - you see, there are many Mexicos. We have many realities that live unbelievably close to each other. You can see really wealthy people, with chauffeurs and the fanciest clothes, and two meters away, the poorest of all persons. I will do my best for you all!
Marriage and a BabyErnesto and I got married when I was 21 and planned to not have babies for 3 or 4 years, but we still didn’t know Maria (who is well determined and stubborn), so we were pregnant 7 months after our wedding. She has been the best-unexpected gift. It was not seen as strange to get pregnant so soon. Women in México think of maternity as their ultimate purpose in life. So most of them get pregnant very soon after the wedding, if not before. We still live in a society that points out single mothers and getting pregnant before marriage is a cause of embarrassment and finger pointing for most families. Of course my traditional, old fashioned, super catholic family would have killed me if I had dared.
Choosing to Have Kids in MexicoAll women are expected to have babies in México. I don’t think that many of us really think whether we want to have babies or not, we just do. It is taken as the next step in a woman’s life and we just go ahead and take it without much thought. There is not much for a woman who decides not to marry or not to have kids. I assume we do have a few of those women, but they are always thought of as selfish and unnatural by most people in México. I don’t know of any couple who has decided not to have babies, I know several that have been unable to, but it was not their decision.
Being Pregnant in MexicoA pregnant woman represents virtue and life, and is seen as delicate and fragile. They are also seen as every woman’s daughter. Every woman she runs into during her pregnancy will tell her what to do, what to eat, things to avoid... a million pieces of advice that have been given by our grandmothers for centuries. I guess the intention is nice, but the information frequently contradicts each other, so it is hard to know what to do. When a baby is born, they say that the mother "se alivió", (she alleviated) as if she had been sick because she was pregnant! Mexican women tend to get really big when pregnant, it is easy for us to gain 15 to 20 kilos during our pregnancy. I think most Mexican woman have the best time ever when pregnant, or at least I did. I was spoiled by my husband, parents-in-law, family and friends. I indulged myself with everything I wanted to eat, all our amazing Mexican cuisine was available to me... guilt free!! What I remember eating the most was jicamas with powdered chili and mole.
Midwives TalesDuring pregnancy, Méxicans have a lot of funny ideas:
- One that I really love is the idea that people who have newborn babies bring a huge present with them when they are born. It is usually thought of as a new job for his/her parents, great economic improvement, a new car, a new business, etc. This is so hope giving for parents, they feel like they are soon to be blessed, not only by the baby that is about to come, but also "the blessing" they are getting as the baby is born.
- If the mom has a lot of heartburn during pregnancy, it is believed that it is because the baby has a lot of hair. I know this sounds a bit crazy (or a lot!), but even some doctors can tell you this is true and that the amount of hair on a baby´s head is proportional to the frequency and intensity of heartburn suffered during pregnancy.
- If moms have a sudden whim for a certain kind of food, and it is not immediately satisfied, the baby can be born with a mole.
Maternity BenefitsOn the official side, our government does not give a lot of benefits to pregnant working women. Our maternity leave with salaries paid covers 40 days before birth and 40 days after. Fathers for these babies do not get a day off work to help with the newborn, a symptom of our macho culture. Fathers are not expected to offer any kind of help during the first days of the baby or after really. Babies are 100% taken care of by mothers.
The First Two MonthsFor the Mexican middle class, during the first few months after the baby is born, one of two things happens:
- Mexican grandmothers move to the new mother’s house to help her with the baby. They become like the mothers, because they are expected to help day and night!! I am not sure how I will feel about pausing my life to help my daughter with hers.
- The new mother moves to her mother’s house. The advantage here is that the father has an easier time with these first hard months. Mom and grandmother are happy sharing the new baby and the father is having great sleeps at home.