Part two in a two-part series on giving birth in Costa Rica. Those of you who are mothers will understand why it has taken me more than five months to write the second part of this series, as promised in May.
Having a newborn baby is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences imaginable. These five months with my daughter Emilia have left me speechless, without the words to express my feelings.
However, I want to share my experience of giving birth in Costa Rica and also shed some insight on the complexities of the process of registering a birth abroad and obtaining a U.S. passport for your child.
As I explained in part one, our focus and preparation for birth was through hypnobirthing, and I wanted to give birth as naturally as possible (TT, May 11). On May 16, that vision became a reality.
Throughout the early morning hours of that special day, my partner Hugo and I applied the breathing and relaxation techniques we learned in the classes. I was amazed at how calm I was able to remain as I breathed through the uterine waves, also known as contractions, in the darkness of our apartment.
As dawn approached, the waves intensified, and I ventured outside to try to walk slowly through each strong wave. I knew the time to head to the hospital was drawing near when my neighbor tried to talk to me outside and I could barely get out the words to respond. We wanted to spend as much time at home as possible, and we pushed it to the limit, until my water broke after taking a shower and we left in a rush for Clínica Bíblica Hospital in San José.
We arrived at the hospital around 7 a.m., and a second instance of water breaking happened in the street right in front of the entrance. At this point I could barely walk, but they brought out a wheelchair to wheel me in. The hectic time of settling into our room and taking care of the administrative stuff is a blur, since I arrived already five centimeters dilated.
The nursing staff was excellent and fully understood that I didn’t want any medications, so they pretty much left us alone in our nice room to continue the labor process. At eight centimeters we headed for the birthing room and waited for my doctor so that the pushing could begin. As intense as the sensations were, it was incredible to be fully aware at the moment of Emilia’s birth at 11:11 a.m., when we discovered she was a girl in perfect health.
Our stay at Clínica Bíblica was very comfortable with an excellent nursing staff.
However, we ran into some trouble when it came time to begin breast-feeding. This is my only criticism of the hospital, but it is a serious one, as it set in motion a challenging first month of breast-feeding.
The nurses were not very skilled when it came to helping a new mother learn to breast-feed. When Emilia wouldn’t latch on to the nipple, the nurses said that if she didn’t eat in the first five hours she would have to be given formula, and this is what occurred. As soon as she was fed the formula, she no longer had a reason to breast-feed.We ended up leaving the clinic with two big cans of formula, and Emilia had yet to latch on to breast-feed.
A few days later,with the help of pezoneras, or plastic nipple protectors, recommended by our birthing instructor Ansu Coto, who paid us a home visit on a Friday night, Emilia breast-fed for the first time. For me, it was the most challenging aspect of new motherhood, and one for which I did not feel prepared.
I recommend the book “Keys to Breastfeeding,” by William and Martha Sears, which offers invaluable information about breast-feeding.
I also called La Leche League (228-0941), an organization that offers mother-to-mother breast-feeding support, encouragement and information, and a woman named Nancy helped me with a couple of questions. This is a great resource for new mothers who struggle or just need support during the process of learning to breast-feed.
We found a great pediatrician in Dr.Carlos Orozco on San José’s Paseo de los Estudiantes, and the EBAIS public community health clinic in Sabanilla, east of San José, is excellent for routine checkups and vaccines.
During the past 10 weeks, Emilia and I have attended Yoga for Babies classes and Massage for Babies with Coto, who now has her own space close to our home in Sabanilla.
These classes have been an incredible forum to meet other mothers and babies.
Mothers connect with their babies by helping them use their bodies in movement and feel relaxation in massage. There is time for mothers to share concerns, sing and learn from each other. Emilia loves the classes and the yoga positions, and looks forward to her nightly massage before bedtime.
As you can see, we have been quite busy enjoying and adjusting to our new life with Emilia. Five months later, I am finally getting around to dealing with the bureaucracy of getting my daughter her U.S. birth certificate and passport (see sidebar).
Giving birth in Costa Rica has meant that my daughter is more of a citizen of the world than I am. She is blessed to be both a Costa Rican and a U.S. citizen, and I await each day with wonder to see whom she will become.
Registering Birth Abroad and Getting a Passport
To register a birth abroad, pick up a packet of forms with instructions at the U.S. Embassy, in the western San José district of Pavas, Monday through Friday, from 8 to 11:30 a.m. You can also download the forms from http://sanjose.usembassy.gov. Go to the Passports section and look for the list of available forms; the required forms are the DS-0011 and the DS-2029, which are the passport application and the application for a Certificate of Birth Abroad.
One of the most difficult aspects of registering a birth abroad is that you must list and prove your physical presence in the United States. In my case, I had to list every visit back to the United States during the past seven years since I moved to Costa Rica. In addition you have to show proof of physical residence of the U.S. parent(s) after the age of 14, such as school report cards, high school or college transcripts, expired passports or income tax forms, which in my case I needed to have brought to me from the United States.
Then an official birth certificate is required, which can be picked up at the Civil Registry, in front of the National Library in San José.
Also required are a copy of the parents’ passports or birth certificates; if one parent is Costa Rican, then submit a copy of the cédula and the marriage certificate, if the parents are married. Finally, you need a letter from the physician attending the birth, stating the place, date, time and details of the birth.
You can take passport pictures at the embassy for ¢1,000 (about $2) to turn in with the forms.
After you drop off the forms, you will be given an appointment for an interview, which in our case was scheduled for a week and a half later. Mother, father and child had to be present. At the interview, you need to present the receipt showing you paid the fees, which are $65 for the birth abroad and $82 for the passport.
On Oct. 10, we arrived at the U.S. Embassy for our 8 a.m. interview appointment. After a series of questions about the birth, the doctor’s name, and when my partner and I met, we were told that Emilia had been approved for the birth-abroad registration and her passport would be ready for pickup in two weeks’ time. I learned that since Emilia was born “out of wedlock” to a U.S. mother, I had to prove only 12 months of residency in the United States.
It appears each case is different, depending on whether the parents are married or if the child is born to a U.S. father, so look closely on the embassy Web site for those requirements.