Friday, February 3, 2012

The Pregnant Lady Search

Last night I fell asleep with the feeling of complete peace after visiting Doña Silvia and her children for late-night coffee and bread. The following morning, I awoke to feelings of discontent, again. I will have to leave this beautiful town for reasons outside my control. Too soon.
I read the Doctor Seuss book my parents gave to me after high school graduation, "Oh! The Places You'll Go." In the front right page, my wonderful step-father had written:

"Look to this day, for in its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence...the bliss of growth, the story of action, the splendor of beauty. For yesterday is already a dream and ...tomorrow only a vision. But every day well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope."

With new conviction, I decided that, while it was not my choice to leave my post early, instead of becoming bitter or resentful,  I will fill my remaining days in Guatemala with "all the verities and realities" of the life I've grown to love here.

Which brings us to today. I spent the day preforming check-ups on 6 pregnant women with Sonia.

Our schedule:

Meet at 5:45am

Wait for a bus

Hour to two-hour journey to the village we are visiting

Begin The Pregnant Lady Search, as I like to call it. OK, we're really doing a Census for expecting mothers and to get their vitals, hand them vitamins, and make sure they know when to come to the "Casa Materna" to have their babies. Talk with them. Calm their fears.

Today, in a period of 5 hours, I saw the worst and best of this country I've come to love.

We visited a 15 year old whose pregnancy is unknown to everyone except myself, Sonia, and her mother for fear of discrimination; the supposed father is a man in his 60s who lives in the adjacent house. She is in middle school.

On our way to visit another mother, we encountered a tremendously happy and bright 3 year old girl who insisted that we take pictures of everything so she could scream in excitement as I showed them to her (many children, due to malnutrition, basically look like zombies with minimal facial recognition or interaction with the world, same as the adults. It is an extreme pleasure to witness a child that has interest in her world). We listened to "Goin' to the Chapel" on my iPod. She was delighted.

We visited a mother whose previous daughter had died at 2 months old for unknown reasons while her husband had abandoned her. She just gave birth last week, prematurely, to a baby girl. They are doing well.

I talked with a girl my age about her baby who is due tomorrow - she wants it to be a boy. In appreciation of our visit, her mother gifted Sonia and I some beautiful cactus that is widely used in this part of Guatemala and Southern Mexico to soothe inflammation - "Toni" it is called.

As we made our way home, we had to cross a river where local men were removing sand and rocks for construction. Looks like those materials didn't get used to build the bridge we had to cross:

I came home dirty, tired, and mildly sun burnt; the usual. I had experienced the heartbreaking, the heartwarming, and the frightening. But I was home.

Walking through the forest with one of the teachers I work with a few weeks ago, he remarked to me as I kept falling over all of the branches and roots on the ground, "You know Elizabeth, this isn't life, it's just walking - it doesn't have to be so hard." I laughed at his casual wisdom.

This has not been the easiest of paths, Peace Corps, but it has indeed been the most rewarding yet. I am leaving one home to go back to another, be it by walking, stumbling, broken-down bus, plane, or make-shift wooden plank bridge. I have lived every minute of it - and lived it well.

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