The most ambitious travel I did during my pregnancy was to
travel to Argentina for my honeymoon when I was eight weeks along. And true confession, we came home early
because I started feeling sick and freaked out. During my pregnancies, I preferred to remain close to home, rarely
traveling beyond my area code. Admittedly,
I was never a big traveler and being pregnant squashed what little wanderlust
On the other end of the adventure spectrum, record numbers
of Chinese women are traveling to the United States in the middle of their
pregnancies, not to see the sights (though many of them do), or take in our
rich cultural traditions. Nope, they’re
here to have their babies, and it’s a whole thing. It’s called “maternity tourism.”
Women who participate in “maternity tourism” are mainly
wealthy mothers from China who want their babies born on U.S. soil so they will
have American citizenship. The mothers
pay anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 for lodging, transportation and food. In some cases, they pay even more for their
medical care. One company, YouWinUSA,
advertises $38,000 for fees to guide a pregnant woman through the maternity
There’s so much about “maternity tourism” that confuses me.
I’m thinking that the federal government might want to get involved here and get a piece of these profits, not shut down the operations.
First, the mother-tourists interviewed said they do
it because they want their babies to have access to the American educational
system. I thought the American
educational system was famous for being average or below-average when compared
to other countries, including China. For all our handwringing over the state of
American education, these women pay thousands of dollars to leave their homes and travel across the globe, just so they can have babies entitled to an American
education down the road.
That's not my idea of a serene birthing plan, but then again, I’m
not trying to raise children in China, where pollution, repressive politics and
food shortages loom over my family.
While I chose nesting and having a baby shower with close
friends, these globetrotting mothers opt to visit Disneyland (because that’s
super fun when you are about to give birth), shopping malls (where better to
get fried food and maternity pants in one place?) and, on some occasions, a
firing range (what’s more American than guns?). I don’t understand it, but then
again, I’m not willing to have a baby on foreign soil.
Second, our government, it turns out, is not so keen on
these birth plans either. In fact, on
Tuesday, federal agents stormed more than 30 “maternity hotels” in Southern
California. While it’s not a crime for a
foreign-born woman to have a baby here, the feds suspect there might be
widespread visa fraud, conspiracy and other crimes.
I’m thinking that the federal government might want to get
involved here and get a piece of these profits, not shut down the
operations. I’m pretty sure tourism is a
good way to make money (think Las Vegas year-round or New Orleans during Mardi
The future for maternity tourism is unclear now that the feds
are cracking down. For me, the only
maternity tourism I want to do is to my local Costco, where I can put my feet up
on an indoor picnic table and feast on a big slice of pizza and a free