16
Apr

Being Pregnant in Cancun, Mexico

**Disclaimer: This is in no way meant to be a comparison between a pregnancy in the US vs a pregnancy in Mexico, unless specifically stated otherwise. I have never been pregnant in the US except for 1 week at Disney World, so I can only refer to my experiences here in Cancun and occasionally what I have heard from moms in the US.**

So now I am 7 months along! We’ve been lovingly referring to our little guy as “El Bebé”, and he’s a strong one so far. I’ve been blessed to have very few complications and hardly any symptoms. Some back pain has started to kick in a little, the heat in Cancun keeps me from being too active in the middle of the day, and El Bebé is kicking pretty hard sometimes, but beyond that I feel pretty awesome.

Overall pregnancy in Mexico has been a wonderful experience. People here really love babies, and Jorge and I both come from happy and loving families. We are so lucky.

I often get asked about what pregnancy and related healthcare is like here in Mexico, so here is my experience so far in Cancun:

1. People worry about my well-being

Ever since I started showing, everyone around me is constantly making sure I don’t over-extend myself. Friends will tell me to stop running if I rush to cross a street, and strangers are quick to pick stuff up when I drop something (which happens a lot). At first this was difficult because I’m a pretty independent person and I have been feeling really great this whole pregnancy, but now that the 3rd trimester has begun I am so grateful!

2. Everyone loves pregnant ladies

Strangers smile at me A LOT. It’s so lovely. I wish we could all be like this to everybody, all the time. I need to work on that, myself.

3. So much belly touching!

Confession: I am a belly toucher. Pregnant bellies have always been the coolest thing for me, and I love to touch the bellies of my pregnant friends and family. My family isn’t very touchy-feely, so I make sure to ask permission first. My social circle in Cancun is a little different. The amount of belly rubbing has been insane, and I hear it’s considered good luck. Many also believe that if someone wants to touch your belly, they absolutely should… resisting the urge or not being allowed to do so sends some kind of bad vibes to the baby, or so I’m told. In theory the belly touching is fine for me because I totally share that impulse, but for the first month or two after we announced I admit that things were tough. It doesn’t SEEM like it would be a private area, but I realized that nobody but Jorge ever touches me there normally. It was so strange to have so many people touching me in a place I had never been touched before, especially men. If I went to a social gathering, I could have up to 10 people touching my belly within a short period of time. Some people would keep their hand there for a good 30 seconds, some people would talk to it… Once I got used to it, it was wonderful. Now I love that friends and family show how excited they are about this little guy! But it took a few weeks to get used to it, for sure.

4. Strangers are pretty hands-off

Pregnant women back in the US often complain about strangers (usually older women, it seems) who approach them in the grocery store or the mall to touch their belly, ask questions, or sometimes to even say something mean. That has not happened to me in Cancun. I had one stranger touch my belly briefly last week, and that’s it. Last week we were at a Cancun resort on a day pass, and the other guests were mostly from the US. I was surprised by how many American strangers stopped me to ask questions (Boy or girl? How many months? etc) because Cancun locals don’t really do that with strangers at all.

5. More attention from men

When out in public, there are more men checking me out than usual. I also get more honks, headlight flashes and whistles. (Nobody has directly hit on me, though.) It’s nice to know I’ve still got it, I guess, but it definitely weirds me out. It’s always uncomfortable and sometimes scary for women to be looked at in public, but even more difficult when you’re “knocked up”.

6. Guessing the gender

This was the hardest part for me, and from what I hear, I think it happens pretty much everywhere. When you’re not pregnant, people usually don’t comment too much on your body. As soon as you get pregnant, people seem to think it’s open season to say whatever they like. When I was around 4 – 5 months and we didn’t know the gender yet, lots of people would try to guess the gender based on old wives’ tales about the shape of the belly. It sounds innocent enough, but when you have people looking you up and down every day for weeks and making comments on the size and width of different parts of your body, it feels like a violation of some kind. Of course these people have nice enough intentions, but it’s hard to have your body stared at and analyzed to your face. I urge everyone to please be careful about your comments. Many women don’t mind at all, but I have talked to many pregnant women and most of them don’t like being told things like, “It must be twins! Are you sure it’s just one in there? Maybe your ultrasounds missed the other one.” “You’re huge!” “Your butt is flat, it must be a girl!” “You don’t look pregnant yet, just fat!” “You’re too skinny! Are you sure the baby is healthy?” “Your belly is so wide! Your ultrasound is wrong… it can’t be a boy, it has to be a girl.” Etc etc. (Yes, these are actual things people say to pregnant women on a regular basis.) The body goes through a lot of scary and unknown changes during pregnancy and that makes many women feel insecure. My advice: If you want to comment on a pregnant woman’s body, just tell her she looks great.

7. Private health care

I am fortunate enough to have a private health care plan through my employer. Health care in Mexico is pretty great, at least in urban areas like Cancun, and I have several wonderful hospitals to choose from. There are plenty of excellent ob/gyns as well. Private health care in Mexico is only a fraction of what it costs in the States, and the quality is stellar if you know where to go. My ob/gyn charges $600 pesos (roughly $40 USD) for my appointments, and that includes a pretty high-tech ultrasound. Also, they looooove to give you ultrasounds here! My pregnant friends in the US say they get maybe 3 – 4 ultrasounds throughout their pregnancy. I have already had about 10! The downside to private health care in Mexico is that they have a reputation of pushing mothers into unnecessary c-sections. This is so they can have a more predictable schedule and charge you more money, from what I hear. I have read a few articles that show 70 – 80% of births in Mexico are via c-section!

8. Public health care and maternity leave

The free public health care system in Mexico is called IMSS. If you have a steady job here, you probably have access to IMSS, even if you are a foreigner. IMSS pays for maternity leave, which is 42 days before the due date and 42 days after the baby is born. Not bad! The only catch is you have to go to 5 pre-natal appointments at IMSS, I guess so they can make sure you’re really pregnant. These appointments were superfluous for me because I’m already going through private health care, but I have to admit I was impressed with IMSS. Government services in Mexico have a reputation for being disorganized and crowded, but my experience was great. I never had to wait more than 15 minutes for an appointment, and everyone was very friendly and knowledgeable. I even got some free vaccinations! To be fair, the IMSS location where I’ve been assigned is less crowded than most, and I’m able to schedule appointments in the morning when there are less people. I will not be having the baby at IMSS, but many friends have. The downside is that they don’t usually admit you until you are about to start pushing (they encourage you to do most labor at home until it’s almost time, otherwise you will just have to endure it in the waiting room), and they also don’t let anybody be in the room with you… not even the father! And visiting hours are very strict. On the plus side, the medical care is good, they don’t push you to have an unnecessary c-section, and it’s FREE!

9. Going out

Jorge and I are very social people, so on weekends we’re always out on the town. This hasn’t changed much with my pregnancy. I take El Bebé out to the beach, bars (no drinking, though), the mall, the pool, casual get-togethers… pretty much anywhere I would normally go. The only limitation is that I try to avoid crowds. After going to Disney World on the busiest day of the year (New Year’s Eve), I realized just how scary crowds can be when you have a pregnant belly sticking out. Cancun isn’t too crowded of a place, and so far I’ve only had to turn down invitations to nightclubs like Coco Bongo. I know many pregnant women go to nightclubs, which is great, but Cancun nightclubs are wall-to-wall packed, so it doesn’t seem like the best idea here. There don’t seem to be many other pregnant women out and about in Cancun, except maybe at the mall. I’m not sure if there just aren’t many, or if they prefer not to leave the house much, or if they’re just avoiding the ridiculous heat! But so far nobody has gotten on my case for going out, and I don’t get weird looks at bars.

10. Advice

From stories I’ve heard from other pregnant women (in Mexico and the US), I was expecting lots of people to be pushing me to do or not do certain things. I’ve heard people can be pushy when it comes to babies! But no. So far I have gotten stories from other people’s experiences and the occasional tidbit of advice, but nobody has been pushy in the least. Everyone has been open-minded about letting Jorge and me do things the way we think is best.

11. My Mexican husband

Of course I can’t speak for all Mexican husbands, but mine has been amazing. Jorge helps me get up from the couch, he goes to all my doctor appointments, he talks to El Bebé every day, he puts up with the extremely cold air conditioning I want every night, and he has even gone out late at night on several occasions to buy me ice cream. He pretty much does whatever I need/want, and it has been a huge help. I try not to take too much advantage of his kindness!

I’m not sure how my experience in Cancun, Mexico compares to the USA or even other parts of Mexico, but that has been my pregnancy so far. I have been overwhelmed by the love shown to our little family by all of our friends and family. Everyone has been so wonderful and helpful, and El Bebé is seriously lucky to have such a great life filled with love in store for him! We can’t wait to meet him and share him with everybody.

To all the moms reading this: I’d love to hear how different or similar your pregnancy experiences have been where you live!

1
Apr

Isla Blanca: So This Is Where All The Kite Surfers Hang Out

Ok, fine. I didn’t actually do any kite surfing myself, but I found out where everybody else is doing it!

On Saturday morning, Jorge woke up to a text message from his friend Benja saying his family was going to Isla Blanca, and did we want to join them? I was dying for a beach day and since we don’t have a car, I jump at every opportunity to get a ride all the way up there.

I’ve been to Isla Blanca before (read about that in this old blog post!) and it had always been pretty busy, but this time we had the beach almost all to ourselves. Something tells me Isla Blanca must just get really busy on Sundays. Isla Blanca is a strip of land with the ocean on one side and a huge, shallow lagoon on the other. The best part of all: it’s virgin land. Apart from one or two little seafood restaurants and a handful of beach homes on the way there, it hasn’t been touched. With tourism booming, we don’t have many places like this left in the Mexican Caribbean. Every time I go, I see so many birds!

The downside was the large amount of seaweed on the beach. We’ve been getting a lot of seaweed in Cancun this year, but I hear it helps prevent erosion to make the beaches bigger! Nobody seems sure what is causing it this year, but I guess that’s nature for ya. :)

It’s not that easy to reach. Isla Blanca is about 30 minutes north of Downtown Cancun, and a large part of that drive is unpaved road. You really need a car (preferably a sporty one!) to get to Isla Blanca. But it’s so worth it.

When we got there, Benja’s parents had already set up lunch under the shade of a lone tree. A very cool location!

After chowing down on some chips and ceviche, we headed to the lagoon to explore a little. In addition to some brave guys wakeboarding behind a truck, which looks REALLY FUN, we also found some baby mangrove trees, a family playing with their dogs, and even a horseshoe crab! (I was so excited about seeing my first live horseshoe crab, but later my friends from Philly tell me they see them all the time back home… I guess it all depends on where you’re from!)

A 5-minute walk by the lagoon led us to a campsite with trucks and tents, which turned out to be a big group of kite surfers. It was the first weekend of “Semana Santa” (a 2-week Catholic holiday in Mexico), so I’m guessing that’s why it was so busy. I may be wrong. But there were dozens of kites over the shallow lagoon water taking full advantage of the windy day. We saw some jumps, some pretty fast kites, and even a few wipeouts!

There’s not much to say about the rest of our day at Isla Blanca. We spent the afternoon exploring, watching the ocean, eating and listening to music. Can’t wait til my next chance to go back!

24
Mar

Cancun Date Night at La Habichuela Sunset

Between our regular dinners at the taco stand around the corner and the Italian place with $50 peso lasagnas, sometimes Jorge and I like to mix things up with a date night somewhere special. Last week we discovered a place that offered the perfect mix of charm, service and great food. I’d heard plenty of great things about La Habichuela Sunset and seen some beautiful pictures of it online, but it shames me to admit that I hadn’t been there yet.

Jorge’s birthday seemed like the perfect time to finally try it! After all, it’s impossible not to celebrate with this handsome guy.

We walked in, and it was stunning. The entrance is on the restaurant’s second floor, so you have this amazing view of the entire restaurant, staircase and 2-story windows toward the garden and lagoon.

Jorge and I wanted to see the Wednesday night Mayan show, so we requested a table in the garden. Magical.

I’m a sucker for twinkle lights and lagoon views.

Before the show, some of the performers went from table to table to do some face painting. This is the closest I will ever come to looking like a Mayan, by the way.

The Mayan show was pretty fun! The performers even came out into the audience, so it was easy to get caught up in the atmosphere.

As cool as the whole atmosphere was, we loved the food just as much! We got Yucatecan tamales to start… lobster, duck and shrimp! The lobster was my favorite.

Jorge’s main course was the chicken Veronica, and I had the amaranth fish filet (with tamarind and mango sauces… wow!). Both items were the top recommended dishes by our waiter German, and he sure knew what he was talking about!

And my favorite part… dessert! What a fun experience. German brought all the ingredients right to us and prepared tableside crepes for Jorge, which he was kind enough to share with me. I gave him half of my tiramisu in exchange, so it was all fair.

I’m always surprised that despite its Mayan history, the city of Cancun doesn’t have nearly as much Mayan/Yucatecan cuisine as you would expect. I’m so glad La Habichuela Sunset gives tourists and locals alike the chance to try an upscale version of local recipes. This restaurant is located in the Cancun Hotel Zone at Kilometer 12.6, almost across the boulevard from Plaza Kukulcan.

To see their full menu and find out more about the restaurant, visit the La Habichuela Sunset website or Facebook page.

12
Feb

This Is How You Do a Bachelorette Party in Cancun

Cancun is a pretty cool place to live. I could lie and downplay things and say, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” And sometimes there are tough days… but then I get to go on a bachelorette party yacht cruise to an island and it hits me that life is pretty good here in paradise.

My friend Jessica is getting married soon. She lives in Puebla, but she often comes to Cancun or the Riviera Maya for vacations, and her bachelorette party was no exception. Jessica’s a fellow Mexico blogger (check her out at MexicanAtHeart.com) and she brought a bunch of her family to Cancun to celebrate her last days of “freedom”. A few of us Cancun bloggers/friends joined her and her family for a Saturday afternoon bachelorette party on board a beautiful yacht called the Sea Horse from Sunset Marina & Yacht Club. The clouds were looming overhead all day, but we didn’t get rained on once.

We even ran into a bachelor party group at the marina, so of course we had to take a group shot before we split into our separate boats!

And guess who else was there? Fellow Cancun bloggers like Kelly (CancunCanuck.com), Kristin (WhatAmIStillDoingInCancun.com) and Marhu (MarhuBlog), plus one of my favorite Cancun tweeters Rebecca @BeccaMex. Yes, we’re all friends and if you follow our Twitter feeds you’ll see we hang out quite a lot!

First the Sea Horse took us through the mangroves of Nichupte Lagoon, then out to the Caribbean Sea. We were heading to Isla Mujeres! Along the way, we played some bachelorette party games and of course took some pictures of the amazing scenery.

I freely admit to getting pretty excited when the yacht anchored at North Beach on Isla Mujeres. We all know about my North Beach obsession, but very rarely do I get to see it from a boat. (I think this was the 3rd time.) Some of us couldn’t resist a little swim in the Caribbean Sea, and everyone had fun just hanging out on the boat with snacks and drinks. Just… oh my gosh, heaven.

Above photo by Kelly McLaughlin @CancunCanuck

After a few hours playing on the yacht, it was time to head back to Cancun, where I just napped for the rest of the afternoon. What a day!

After a day like this, it was easy for me to see why so many people choose Cancun for bachelor parties, weddings, honeymoons and anniversaries. My city has so many unbelievable ways to celebrate a special event!

Big thanks to the Sunset Marina and Yacht Club in Cancun… Beautiful place, beautiful boats and a beautiful event, as always!

27
Jan

The Pinche Mayita Mentality

In a few months, I’ll be the mother of a child who is part Mayan.

How cool is that?

This civilization that I learned about throughout my childhood history classes will soon be the ancestry of my very own son or daughter. Maybe my kid’s ancestors helped build the pyramid at Chichen Itza. Maybe they traded with the city of Tulum. Maybe they carved the statues at Ek Balam. Maybe they lived their lives in small villages in the jungles of Yucatan.

Everyone I know in Cancun is fascinated by ancient Mayan culture, locals and expats alike. We go on day trips to visit the massive ruins and post selfies from the tops of Mayan pyramids. We watch colorful Mayan shows at Xcaret or at our resort. We take pictures with the guys in the huge Mayan headdresses on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.

So if we love Mayans so much… why do we hate Mayans so much?

During my years in Cancun, I’ve heard the phrase pinche mayita thrown around quite a bit. I guess it would translate to something along the lines of “little f***ing Mayan”. Sometimes people will just say mayita (“little Mayan”), which sounds like it might be nicer, but it never is. The term is typically used as an insult, or to refer to somebody who might be in a lower social class, or just based on their appearance. (The Mayan people tend to be shorter and have darker skin.) The phrase always rubbed me the wrong way, but even more so when I started dating a guy of Mayan heritage then married into his lovely Mayan heritage family.

Over the past few generations, the Mayan people of the Yucatan region have even stopped speaking the Mayan language. My husband’s grandparents speak fluent Mayan, although I’ve only ever heard them speak Spanish. My husband’s parents speak some conversational Mayan and occasionally teach me little phrases, but I never hear them use these phrases in actual conversation. My husband speaks no Mayan, except for a few curse words that his uncles and friends taught him. When I asked why their native language was never passed down, I was told it’s because people are now embarrassed to speak it.

I hope this next generation of Mayans can overcome the pinche mayita mentality and realize just how important and amazing they are… including my kid.

22
Jan

Another Isla Mujeres Beach Day

By now it’s no secret that Jorge and I loooooove Isla Mujeres for a beach day! It’s so close to Cancun, the ferry ride is gorgeous, and the waters at North Beach are super calm for wave-haters like us.

So of course, we couldn’t start 2015 without a day on the island. Unfortunately, the day was very, very windy and even the pool-like water at North Beach had waves! We were disappointed at the rough-ish water, but that didn’t stop us from chilling on the beach all afternoon.

Not much new to say here, but I had to show you guys our pics from this weekend. From the Ultramar ferry to North Beach, Hidalgo Street and the Malecon.

 

7
Jan

Cancun Is Home Now

I’ve lived in Cancun for almost 10 years now, but through all that time, the USA was always still “home” to me. I anxiously awaited every trip back to the States, and I closely followed the news back home.

This year, things changed.

Jorge and I just spent 2 weeks in the States (Christmas with my sisters, and New Years in Orlando). We had such an amazing time, but it seemed strange when I realized that I was anxious to get back to Cancun. When we arrived back in Cancun, I stepped outside the airport and smiled as the hot, humid air filled my nose while I pulled my suitcase through the parking lot. I was home. Cancun was home.

Throughout 2014, I also stopped reading news stories from the USA. Something inside me said, “These social problems aren’t your problems now. You don’t live in the USA. You haven’t lived in the USA since 2005. You need to focus on Mexico, now.”

Maybe it’s because my parents moved to South America this year. Maybe it’s because we’re having a kid that will grow up here and have Mexican heritage. Maybe I’ve finally just been here long enough to let go of another life. But I’m happy. I love Cancun.

This must just be another stage of expat life.

And now… Bonus pictures! Thanks for reading. Here are a few of our Orlando photos… it was so weird being a tourist! We’re used to being the cool locals, so making the transition to nerdy tourist was tough.

10
Dec

How to Tell Your In-Laws You’re Pregnant

Jorge and I wanted a special way to tell his family about the baby, especially because it will be the first grandchild for his parents and the first niece or nephew for his brothers. My wonderful mother-in-law has been throwing out not-so-subtle hints for years that she would love grandchildren sooner rather than later. I think she was surprised to find out we weren’t planning on having kids right when we got married 4 years ago!

Since we were announcing a few weeks before Christmas, I came up with the idea to make some personalized ornaments as an “early Christmas gift”. We NEVER give out Christmas gifts so early, and honestly I was really, really surprised that they weren’t even a little bit suspicious.

I won’t go into too many details. Instead, here’s the video!

Note: The “tia” ornament was for my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, who had to work that night.

My side of the family is equally excited, but since we’re spread out between 3 different countries, it’s hard to organize a big surprise!

30
Nov

THE Big Announcement!

So whenever I have an announcement to make, people always assume it’s a pregnancy announcement. That’s just one of the side effects of being a 20-something female!

But this time… it’s true!

Jorge’s a big gamer, so we made this for our Facebook announcement:

I’m 3 months along with Baby Mendez, and Jorge and I are both very excited! I’ll be keeping you guys posted here and/or on my Facebook page.

23
Sep

Why I Can’t Compete with Mexican Women

My first clue was 9 years ago at university here in Cancun.

In 1st semester, my Mexican classmates would frequently ask me, “Laura, where are your earrings?” “Laura, why didn’t you do your hair today?” “Laura, why do you have huge bags under your eyes?” So for the past 9 years, I have made sure to never leave the house without earrings and concealer. The comments have almost entirely disappeared. (I still don’t “do” my hair, though, because I’m not sure what that means. Now that it’s super-long, nobody says anything, so I think I’m ok.)

On Saturday, Jorge and I went to a wedding. I put on a pretty dress, strapped on some nice sandals and covered my face in exorbitant quantities of makeup. This time, I was determined to get it right.

And yet, once we were at the reception, I looked around me and saw scores of Mexican women with beautifully crafted makeup designs. We were surrounded on all sides by immaculately blended smoky eyes, perfectly glossed lips and expertly placed lashes, all complemented by skin-tight cocktail dresses, push-up bras and sky-high heels. These women are good. My makeup looked bland and colorless by comparison. So what is a girl to do? I rushed to the ladies room, where I had to wait for two tween girls to take some selfies before I achieved mirror access, then I put on as much eyeliner as my eyes could handle. Better. But still not enough. Eyeliner was all I had in my arsenal, so it would have to do for now. I swore that for the next big social event, I would attempt a smoky eye.

Today, it’s happening all over again. The internet at my house is down, so I had to rush to Starbucks this morning to start work at 9am. I barely had time to wash my hair before I left the house, but I did manage to shower and miraculously iron my shirt. So here I am right now, sitting at Starbucks, with a naked face and damp, tangled hair. This Starbucks, however, is a fancy Starbucks. The people who come here are Cancun’s elite… or at least, they pretend to be. The women here have perfectly straightened hair and brightly colored wardrobes that look anything but effortless, or sometimes expensive workout gear paired with a full face of makeup so they can look spectacular during a session at the nearby gym. When the men walk past my table in their tightly-fitting button-up shirts and overly gelled hair, overpowering scents of Lacoste and D&G reach my nostrils for a brief instant. My ears are filled with the sounds of the baristas preparing Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the giggles of 30-something Mexican trophy wives, and the over-enunciations of Mexican businessmen trying to impress their colleagues. It’s a fashion show, and I showed up unprepared.

And surprise, surprise… once again, I’m the only female in the room with no earrings.