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Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers: Mexican Women, Public Prenatal Care, and the Birth Weight Paradox

Alyshia Gálvez
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers
    Book Description:

    According to the Latina health paradox, Mexican immigrant women have less complicated pregnancies and more favorable birth outcomes than many other groups, in spite of socioeconomic disadvantage. Alyshia Gálvez provides an ethnographic examination of this paradox. What are the ways that Mexican immigrant women care for themselves during their pregnancies? How do they decide to leave behind some of the practices they bring with them on their pathways of migration in favor of biomedical approaches to pregnancy and childbirth?

    This book takes us from inside the halls of a busy metropolitan hospital's public prenatal clinic to the Oaxaca and Puebla states in Mexico to look at the ways Mexican women manage their pregnancies. The mystery of the paradox lies perhaps not in the recipes Mexican-born women have for good perinatal health, but in the prenatal encounter in the United States.Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothersis a migration story and a look at the ways that immigrants are received by our medical institutions and by our society

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5201-9
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Chapter 1 Paradoxes and Patients: Immigrants and Prenatal Care
    (pp. 1-20)

    When Marisol (a pseudonym) was pregnant with her first child in her hometown, a rural hamlet outside the state capital of Puebla, Mexico, she suffered frequently from morning sickness. Her mother-in-law, with whom she and her husband lived, knew a solution. When the nausea was too much for her daughter-in-law to bear, she would preparecaldo de gallina, chicken soup. She wrung an older, egg-laying hen’s neck, plucked it, and over several hours cooked a rich broth laden with vegetables picked from the fields surrounding their home.¹ When Marisol sipped the soup, served with fresh, hand-made corn tortillas, her nausea...

  5. Chapter 2 Immigrant Aspirations and the Decisions Families Make
    (pp. 21-48)

    Claudia did not wish to migrate from her home in Castillotla, Puebla. Nevertheless, her partner, who had been in the United States before, thought they should, and, with a baby on the way, she said, “Uno piensa en los dos, no sólo en uno” [You think about the two of you, not just yourself]. She had a terrible time crossing the border in Arizona. She was returned to Mexico seven times by the border patrol. She worried about the immediate risks posed by her crossing, and she also worried about going through the remainder of her pregnancy far from her...

  6. Chapter 3 Remembering Reproductive Care in Rural Mexico
    (pp. 49-80)

    Luisa was busy. Even while she chatted amiably, she diligently worked, writing onto the sketch of her family tree the names, birth dates, and birth weights of all of the many grandchildren given her by her seven children. Over several weeks, I had conducted participant observation with a women’s group at the Queens community center of a large immigrant-rights organization. Once per week a mixed-age group of Mexican women gathered, some with their babies, some with toddlers and preschoolers who played with crayons, blocks, or puzzles while we talked. For three weeks, a visiting Mexican psychologist had run a workshop...

  7. Chapter 4 Becoming Patients: Birth Experiences in New York City
    (pp. 81-120)

    If María Pacheco had given birth to her daughter in her childhood home in a small rural municipality outside of Tehuacán, Puebla, her mother told me she would have been treated to forty days ofreposo, rest, during the cuarentena. During that time of recuperation, her mother, sister, sisters-in-law, and motherin-law would have bathed her in hot herbal steam baths, bound her womb with a rebozo, cooked appropriate “hot” foods for her, and given her special herbal teas tocomponer, literally compose or repair, her insides as well as increase her milk production. Although her small town no longer has...

  8. Chapter 5 Critical Perspectives on Prenatal Care
    (pp. 121-146)

    Rosa migrated from Puebla’s state capital three years prior to becoming pregnant and seeking prenatal care at Manhattan Hospital. I asked her whether she planned to have anesthesia during labor and delivery. While her husband massaged her back, she told me she did not.

    Alyshia: ¿Y anestesia por qué no quiere? [And why don’t you want anesthesia?]

    Rosa: No sé, me gustaría sentir a mi bebé. Pienso que para eso se arriesga uno a tener bebes. Si no, ¿qué . . . qué chiste? [I don’t know; I’d like to feel my baby. I think that it is the reason...

  9. Chapter 6 Prenatal Care and the Reception of Immigrants: Reflections and Suggestions for Change
    (pp. 147-165)

    Increasingly, long-term settlement by undocumented immigrants is reluctant: an artifact of the increasing militarization of the border and the closure of access to visa categories that in the past made circulation to and from communities of origin and migrant destinations feasible. As Douglas Massey and Magaly Sánchez write, “We have militarized the Mexico-U.S. border to block unauthorized migration, but this effort has reduced the outflow of migrants more than lowered the inflow” (2010, 246; see also Dreby 2010). Today, although not all unauthorized immigrants who find themselves living, working, and starting families in the United States do so because this...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 166-170)

    As I complete this book, the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is under attack. Legislators and activists at the state and federal levels are organizing to strategize ways to legislatively mandate a reinterpretation or revision of its guarantees of birth-right citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in the wake of the Civil War, in 1868, guaranteed equal protection under the law as well as birthright citizenship, a constitutional amendment deemed necessary because previously slaves and their descendants had been denied citizenship, a practice upheld byDred Scott v. Sandford(1857). Advocates for revocation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees cite some...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-180)
  12. References
    (pp. 181-196)
  13. Index
    (pp. 197-212)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-216)