Saturday, April 05, 2008
Our new baby, installment #36
... and second guest appearance by the home birth husband. Americans get entrenched in a set way of doing things; the years go by and all the protocols become automated, the accepted process is the path of least resistance, and it takes real effort to do anything differently. It's that way with sprawl, a subject I've written about, and this kind of self-reinforcing dynamic is very much at work in the business of being born. The hospitals take care of all the little details of bringing a new person into the world. Two specifics: the birth certificate and the social security number. In the days following Harrison's birth I called City Hall to see what I had to do to get a birth certificate, and wasn't given the full story. I came in armed with what I thought was sufficient documentation, only to be told I needed our marriage license; not immediately apparent why the city needed to know if we were married or not, but if we weren't, the mother needed to come apply. There was no answer at City Hall in Cambridge where we were married -- it was a Friday -- so I drove down to the state bureau of vital statistics to pull a copy (for about $20). Then I had to fill out a lengthy questionnaire with all kinds of personal questions that I had to ask Tina on the mobile phone in the busy municipal office. Needless to say this took the better part of a day. Next task: taking said birth certificate down to the Social Security administration to apply for Harrison's number. We need it for our tax return to prove the addition of a dependent, but the mutiple pages of instructions on the web seem to indicate it could take 12 weeks. And so we're forced to enter into another tried and true convention: the filing extension. Small price to pay, all of this, but just another indication of how the system makes us feel like we did something really unusual.