I’ll start with my sister-in-law first. It was October 4, 2010. I know, I didn’t tell you sooner, I’ve been keeping it from you all this time. I was visiting my in-laws on that day in fact, so it was lucky for both my sister in law “Morena” and I, since not everyone here has a car like we do, and I was able to participate in the FASTEST BABY DELIVERY in El Salvador for the entire week. Ok, this is my best guestimate, and I *may* be exaggerating. But not by much.
I was near the house and someone alerted me it was “about time” for Morena and we’d better make a move in a hospital direction. She had waited a little while, maybe an hour or so, hoping her husband would get off work to make the drive with us, but he didn’t make it soon enough, so we had to get going.
In the car were me, my mother-in-law Irene, and Morena, in the back seat. I’m regretting how long she’d waited at this point, because she was saying “Ay!” at every small turn or bump in the road. There were a lot of “huecos,” or potholes in the road on the way to the National Hospital of Nueva Concepcion (Hospital Nacional de Nueva Concepción), which was not helping her cause. I did my best to avoid the potholes while still humming along at a faster speed, lest my car become the “spot” for baby to arrive in this new world.
We get to the hospital, finally, and the “vigilante” (security guard) let’s us in with the car, and drive right up to emergency. They were pretty quick to get her onto the delivery area, and my mother and law and I followed along on foot as they cruised her down the hallway on the mobile-bed. I was all set to go into the delivery area, us being the “supporting family” and all, but they have “new rules” now at the hospital. They say it’s to protect the babies against microbes. Which makes some sense, since this is an agricultural area, and heck knows what people drag in with their boots or have on their person after working around animals, but there are other reasons why it works ‘best’ for hospital staff to keep us divided, which we’ll talk about in the post about my niece’s childbirth.
So, no going into the “Sala de Partos” or delivery room, and my mother-in-law and I sat outside of it. I wanted to stay in contact with Morena’s husband, to keep him up to date, but my cell phone was almost out of battery. So I walked up to the nearest receptacle and plugged in. A woman on the hospital staff passed by and waved her finger at me and said “Oh no, you cannot use the plugs here to charge your phone.” How could I forget? We’re at the National Hospital (as in “free care”), so all expenses are monitored and no way can you charge your cell phone and get a “freeby” here. Cripes, now what to do? The security guard who was standing near “Missus don’t-you-dare-charge-your-cell-phone” Icicle lady as she passed by, said to me in a hushed tone, “Hey, why don’t you go talk with the security guard at the gate out front, he can help you charge your phone.”
Before I could even charge my phone, a doctor peeped his head out of the “Area Restringida” (restricted area / delivery room) and asked if we were relatives of Maria Irene Chacon, my sister-in-law “Morena’s” real name. “Yes,” we said. “She just had a boy”. My mother and I looked at each other, surprised and excited.
45 minutes had passed since she entered the delivery room. WOW. I was impressed.
Ok, she didn’t have a boy in the end. Because so many women were there having babies at once, there was a bit of confusion and a mixed message. We found out later it was a girl. Like the next day, in fact.
QUARANTINED This is a funny thing they do at the hospital, too. They let no one in for the delivery, and then keep the mothers and their babies in that area with no visitors allowed for several hours more. So even though it was still not even 5 in the afternoon, none of us was going to be able to see Morena and her baby until the next day, at visiting hour, which starts at 12pm. So that’s it. No father’s in the delivery room wiping the sweat from their wives forehead or caressing their cheek or hearing their wives scream at them “it’s all YOUR FAULT YOU SOB!” No, none of that sweet stuff. But we’re in the National Hospital, remember. The “free” one, and you get what you pay for. Morena reminded me, during our visit to Carmen’s delivery, now almost two years later, how she was careful not to moan or whine too much in pain. She was warned by our cousin Elsie, who’d had a baby 1 or 2 years prior to her, not to make too much fuss, because the nurses there say “Oh, you’re crying NOW? But you weren’t crying when you MADE this baby were you? No, you were asking for MORE when you opened your legs THEN, so you why you cryin’ now?” That’s one perk of working at the National Hospital, you see. Since they’re poor and they don’t pay for their services, you can treat ’em however you like and no one’s gonna make you do any different. So Morena made sure to be “tough,” she told me, “I bit the blanket, and I didn’t cry or whine, I wasn’t going to give them any reason to make comments like that to ME!”
HOSPITAL DECOR. While inside the hospital, I made a note of various wall-hangings. There were many posters about breast feeding to look at, most appeared hand-made, with hand-drawn figures of women and infants, or with cut-out pictures from magazines. All these posters were talking about the importance of breast-feeding, its nutritional benefits, with some posters strongly advising “solo pecho,” or only breast-feeding, the the first three to six months. Some people might have found this campy, but I really like it. It showed a lot of participation, and humanity by the hospital staff in efforts to affect the lives of their patients and their patient’s children. It felt really personal. Other posters, manufactured by some organization or the government hung on walls, illustrating ways to avoid dengue fever, and the importance of hand-washing to avoid illnesses.
We left the hospital, leaving Morena there, and knowing all went well and we’d see her tomorrow at noon.
DAY TWO —
We got to pick up Morena the day after she had her baby. We arrived at visiting hours, which start at 12:00 noon at the National Hospital in Nueva Concepcion, El Salvador. Morena’s husband Dulio and me. Before leaving for the hospital, he had just come back from work. Oddly, instead of rushing to the hospital with me, he was joking around with my husband and people around the house and cutting coconuts open for everyone that he’d brought back from the boss’s tree. I didn’t understand that. Perhaps I missed something. For me, a man who’s just become a father for the second time and hasn’t seen his wife since she had their baby a day before should be jumping out of his shoes to get into my car and drive as fast as possible to the hospital to see the new baby. But I have to recalculate. We’re in El Salvador, remember? things work different here. Take it easy. So I took it easy.
We get to the hospital and go down a hallway a little way’s from the delivery room where we left Morena yesterday. Its the last room on the right at the end. A 20 x 20 foot room with 8 beds in it. There were eight women there, a full house, all but two were there with newborn babies. Of the two women still pregnant, one was to give birth in one or two days, and the other was four months pregnant, interned for a serious infection. The room was very hot; all the mothers were sweating but the babies were all fine. It really is a small world. My brother-in-law Dulio knew the husband of the woman in the bed next to Morena.
We got everyone packed up and ready to go, and had to stop by the front desk before leaving. A nurse made sure to swaddle Morena’s baby girl, Wendy, before we hit the road. I drove 30 mph the whole way back, slowly swerving to avoid the potholes.