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.

8 comments:

mommymichael said...

ya know. we didn't have to go through any of that. my midwife had the paperwork ready, we signed it on our first postpartum visit and she sent it into city hall. our birth certificate was ready to be picked up 2 weeks later and we soon received his social security card. Although with Willem, his name was spelled William oh his ss card... so THAT was a pain to fix.

mamaofquiteafew said...

I guess it's different from state to state. We took our babies in to the vital stats office when they were 6 days old to turn in the paperwork for their birth certs. We were in a state that didn't allow midwives to attend births at all, much less twins, so we told the guy we had them unassisted. That got some looks!! Anyway, we had their copies of their birth certificates same day, and the social security cards came a few weeks later in the mail.

It is funny, though, how many things the average hospital-birthing mother doesn't have to even think about.

Cam said...

Just finished reading your book Birth: A History - the UK/Australia edition. Fascinating - first book I've read from cover to cover since the birth of my 4th child (and 3rd home birth) 8 weeks ago. In your book you said you weren't brave enough for a home birth but I wasn't brave enough for another hospital birth after the first. Congrats on making the decision to have Harrison at home. It is really magical. I have a photo very similar to you and Harrison in the pool of me and my second son in the pool.
Home birth is getting more common here in New Zealand and registering the birth is easy - fill in the form and post it off - birth certificate arrives in 2-3 weeks in the mail. The only different thing is that the place of birth is not listed as the city but the full address of our house. The tax number (social security equivalent)can get done in the mail too - they'll send the forms or you can download them from the tax department web site I think.

Noelene said...

I'm surprised too that this wasn't a service that your midwife provides (that is, handling the birth certificate). I hope that you guys are able to get it sorted out. I've been following your story and I think its amazing. I'm so glad you got the birth you wanted and that it was a homebirth! Congrats on the new babe.

hearnoevil said...

To mamaofquiteqfew:

I was shocked to learn from your post that the state you live in makes having babies with midwives illegal yet let people have babies on their own. It goes to show you that they are not concerned with people's happiness nor safety at all.

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