15 August 2016

Border Life

Living on the edge of two nations that are so tightly related is the most interesting experience. Tijuana is so Americanized that it could hardly be called Mexico, and yet, when I pop into the US, people speak Spanish to me. I now have a job, a real CNA job that I love and hate all at the same time. I love it because I simply love what I do. I hate it because I don't relate to anyone with my cross-border lifestyle, and it's very difficult to make friends. This post is a glimpse into my cross-border life, and what makes it so darn difficult.

7:00ish AM- Leo wakes up. This wouldn't be so bad if he hadn't woken up 3-4 times throughout the night.

7:45ish AM- I finally get up, and begin checking what The Line is like. The line reigns supreme here in TJ, even for people who don't cross. If the line is slow and long, no one is going to get downtown or to Playas very quickly.

8:00-9:00 AM- This time period is filled with getting ready for work, which means eating breakfast, getting the kids all ready, heating up the hot water for showers, and me actually showering and dressing. I also have to pack my work bag- 1 gallon of water, a breast pump, milk storage bags, Cecilia's lunch box, and my wallet and phone charger.

9:00-10:00ish AM- Obsessively check Facebook posts about The Line. Depending on the reports of fellow Tijuanenses, I decide what time to leave home.

10:30ish AM - The average time we all load into the car and head to the line. Because it's summer and Cecilia has no school, we have been doing the Line as a family.

10:30 AM-12:30 PM- 2 hours is an average line time for us at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The kids get bored, Leo gets hot, Hector drives the line for most of the time. This is our family time. Right before I get to the gate, Hector and the kids all get out of the car. I take over driving and they go up to the pedestrian bridge that they will take to walk home. Hector tells me which caseta is moving the fastest and which line to get into.

12:30 PM- I get across into the US. I stop by a grocery store and buy my lunch for the day. Then I drive the 30-plus miles to the town where my job is located.

1:00-1:30 PM- I get to work. I don't start for another hour, but since Leo cannot drink any formula without getting sick, I have to pump. The only real place I get to pump unbothered is in my car. Go me.

2:00 PM- I clean up my pump and put the milk away in the employee fridge. I get ready to start my work day. The next time that I'll get to pump will be my lunch break.

10:30 PM- Get off work and drive the 30-plus miles home. Hopefully, Mexican customs doesn't "randomly" stop me.

11:00 PM- Get home from work. The kids should all be asleep. At least Leo should be. I change out of my scrubs and into my pajamas.

11:15-12 AM- I pump once more, just to make sure Leo will have enough milk for the next day. Since he is still so needy, it is extremely difficult to get time where he isn't attached to me on my days off to pump and build up a freezer stash.

12:30 AM- Go to bed and do it all the next day.

Sometimes, the line is super fast and I cross quickly, sometimes by 11:30. That means Hector is with the kids for 3 hours before I even start my shift. Sometimes, the line is very slow and I have to pump while in the line, and once it took 4 hours and I was late to work. I spend about 5 hours of quality awake time with my Leo a day, and most of it is spent sitting in a car or me rushing around him. He barely knows who I am except that I am his food source.

Is it worth it? Sometimes I don't know. I make decent money, enough for us to live humbly, but comfortably. But I am not living at home. I am living in my car, in a state of constant commuting. My patient's remark what I am "tired already?", and I explain that I've already had a full day even before starting my shift. Will I keep it up? Absolutely. While I may be lonely and missing my family, they will be clothes, housed, and fed. There is nothing more that I need than that. It's not that I want lots of money and that is why I work like I do and commute like I do. We have just enough, and it is finally nice to be able to be caught up.

22 June 2016

Cecilia's First Holy Communion


We are Catholic. I try hard to raise my children to understand their faith enough to explain it to others who may not understand. Part of growing up Catholic is receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time. Cecilia has taken classes every Saturday for two years to lead up to this moment.
First Communions in Mexico tend to be large social gatherings, where friends and family get together to mark this important life event. However, we are not incredibly social. Our family is very small and Hector and I prefer to keep to ourselves. The large party that usually accompanies this event was absent on this day. Instead, we tried to keep the focus on the sacrament. As Catholics, we believe that the bread and wine is truly transubstantiated into the literal Body and Blood of Christ. You don't get much more of a personal relationship with Christ than that. We didn't go to a salon- I did Cecilia's hair myself after Cecilia picked out a hairstyle from Facebook. Her dress had transparent sleeves, so I made her a satin cape to go along with it. I couldn't find any godparent as Mexico requires godparents for everything, so her Catechism instructor stepped in and did the favor.

We got to the church about an hour early because parking can be ridiculous. That gave me some time to take pictures in the park. I really wanted a family picture, but neither Leo nor Hector could not cooperate at the same time. I tried to get some pictures inside the church beforehand, but the hustle and bustle made it near impossible. 
Fortunately for me this time, everything in Mexico is a hustle. The church hired a couple of photographers to take pictures. I'm glad because I couldn't get a picture of Cecilia receiving for the first time. People tend not to be very nice when it comes to their kids. I get it. The photographer charged me $50 pesos per photo, about $3 USD. I was very happy with their work, and I didn't even get their business card.




After the Mass, in leiu of a party, we went out for Chinese food. Cecilia loved walking all over and having everyone see her in her dress. After eating, we went to the beach to take a couple more pictures of her.


All in all, the day was not what I had always dreamed for her. I would have loved for us to be surrounded by friends and family, but we were able to keep everything focused on what was really important. First Communion is not about the fancy dress, the party, the godparents, or the pictures. It's about Jesus, and nothing more. I hope that when Isaias and Leo make their FHC, we will be able to focus on Jesus and not on how many people show up. 

14 June 2016

Navigating Through the Fog

Cecilia was a "high-needs" baby. She was colicky on top of that, but she was a very clingy, very whiny baby. But, she was also a happy baby, who smiled and cooed when her needs were met. She had short periods of contentment. I struggled to bond with her though the exhaustion of being a first-time mom and dealing with her so un-Gerber Baby-like temperment. Every expectation I had had of motherhood went out the window and I was severely depressed. After counseling and medication I was able to somewhat make it out of that fog after about eight months or so. She was still very high-needs: nursing constantly, sleeping irregularly, and very clingy, but she was learning to be content with other people.

Isaias was my most chillaxed little guy. He was a champion nurser from day one. I had a bit more of an idea of what I was doing. He was content to just sit in his bouncer and talk to me while I got things done. He loved to eat and was mostly, a fat, happy baby. I was feeling great around two weeks postpartum, and post-partum depression never reared its ugly head.

If Cecilia had been a boy, she would have been exactly like Leo. Not only are they similar in physical appearance, but also in temperment. Leo is probably my highest-needs baby. Even at the hospital, I could tell he was different. It was almost like he was angry that he had been born. He would cry every time he was placed in the bassinet, and that sleepy newborn period right after birth? It never came. The wailing came every time I had to go to the bathroom or try to shower. The nurses begged me to let them take him so I could sleep a tiny bit, and for the first time out of three kids, I let them. I felt like a total failure already. I couldn't even calm my newborn down. My milk took five days to come in this time, and he was wailing and starving and dehydrated. Once my milk came I thought it would get better, but the howling never stopped. I would try and take him for car rides and it took forever in the car to calm him. After about 30 minutes he'd fall asleep and we'd head back to the house, pull into the driveway, and he would be awake again. After about a month I thought he would start to settle, but no. He was still very angry no matter what I did. I would swaddle him, and it helped a little, until he learned to break the swaddle and it no longer helped. I thought coming to Mexico would help, being with Hector to give me a reprieve. But what good can Hector do with me if he has no breast to feed him?

He wants to be held constantly. He has no natural schedule. One day he may actually nap for more than 20 minutes at a time, other days he might not nap at all. And those tiny breaks of silence might come at 9 in the morning, other times not until 3 in the afternoon. He nurses so frequently that I am unable to build up a freezer supply of milk, if he'll even take a bottle at all. It's a hit and miss most of the time, leaving Hector frazzled with a wailing infant any time I have to get out of the house. Leo cries with such an intensity that it literally feels like someone is grinding every nerve you have. By about 4 in the afternoon I am so drained from his care that I cannot even keep my eyes open. He wakes up about 5 times a night now. Leo almost never smiles and has only actually laughed a total of three times since birth, each time because his siblings were able to do something he thought funny. People comment on how serious he is all of the time. Sometimes I think that I've made him laugh and then I realize he's starting to cry. He absolutely hates to be put down and is usually wailing every time I need to go to the bathroom. If he is sitting in his bouncer, but someone is right in front of him, talking to him, he is sometimes content like that for a few moments. I tend do this while folding laundry. However, if I stand up to put a pile of clothes away, he is howling before I've even left the room.

Maybe all of this wouldn't be so tiring if it weren't for the two older kids. When I had Cecilia, I let myself and the house go and everything went into caring for her. I had no one else to feed, no one else to clothe, the house could be picked up by someone else, not that one infant really makes that much mess. But I have two older children now, one of whom is homeschooled. There is no napping when the baby naps. I have to wash the dishes because honestly if my kids did it, they wouldn't get very clean and theyd probably break them all knowing how clumsy they are. I have laundry for a five people. I have to cook for my older kids because they obviously no longer nurse. I have pets and responsibilities. Hector is an amazing help, but he has to help mostly with Leo since he literally sucks all of the energy out of me. I miss my older kids and I know they miss me. Cecilia helps with Leo a lot, too, She holds him so I can cook or clean something, but she is not a babysitter. She is a 10-year-old child. Isaias has a lot of sensory sensitivities and all of the crying sends him into meltdowns and episodes where he just goes rigid and covers his ears, trying to hide from all of the stimulation. My son's homeschool lessons have included a lot of YouTube videos and practical studying, rather than book or worksheet learning, although Hector sometimes will hold Leo so that we can get proper learning done.

I am tired. I know that there is an end to this, and I know that there is nothing wrong with my baby. It is simply his grumpy personality. It is extremely exhausting, but yet, still a sacrifice of love. I love all of my children, especially Leo. I am still so glad that he is here. In a few months, maybe once he begins to move around a bit on his own, he will calm down a bit and let me do something, like read. For now however, I am in a fog. I can sort-of see, but I can't see how long this goes on. I have slept enough not to go crazy, but I am still so, so tired.