Three weeks have passed, I’ve seen girlfriend from afar. I pray for favor, only God can make her open up to me, to begin the arduous climb of trust.
She is very present in my mind and heart so I pray and wait and trust. And now, here she is once again at my door. Boyfriend told her “La gringa te va a acompanar al hospital” (“The American will take you to the hospital”).
So we head to the hospital for her to have her 1st doctor’s appointment. Hospital Nacional de Occidente is the government run hospital in Xela, gives free medical care to all who enter.
It’s 6:30 am as we get into a bus. Boyfriend does not accompany us; he graduates today from a carpentry class. His eyes are full of emotion and joy – he has successfully completed a 4 month class…it’s time to celebrate!!
Xela is already awake, with people setting up their market stalls and others beg their eyes to wake up with a cup of steaming hot coffee and here I am jealous, wishing I too had a quick fix of caffeine. We get to the hospital at 7 am, stopping to pick up companions on the way. The crisp morning air pours over us as the attendant hangs out the door begging people to enter with their Q.1.25 (20 cents).
We enter the outpatient clinic. It is bursting at the seams with people; sickness calling out.
So many lines to wait in…we curve around, asking permission to pass and finally find a long line of women with expectant stomachs. Twenty minutes later we are given the #7 and told to “take a seat”. A young doctor enters, dressed in white with a big smile on his face. He proceeds to announce to the sea of expectants that we all need to follow him for an activity. No person will be seen until we all attend. “Just our luck”, I think to myself.
With doctors present, we all sit in a large auditorium as “Pin Pin Sonrisa”, the clown, begins to perform. I text Julio, as I find this all quite comical and inconvenient as all I want is a medical appointment. Five seconds later Samaya & Genesis, my girls, are on the phone scolding me for not taking them to the hospital to see Pin Pin. During the hour of diversion, both clown and doctors emphasize the importance of relaxation and laughter to the patients who live out daily routines of hard work and stress. They also encourage women who are victims of abuse to report it.
After an hour of laughter and forced participation, we line up for a snack served by the doctors. I am immediately aware of being in a foreign land as I stand several feet above the crowd and eyes look at me, then at girlfriend in their attempt to explain the relationship. Some scrap of the courage to ask. We agree to say that I am her “tia” (aunt). One asks if I have children and then asks if I plan to have more…my mind fills with memories of my pregnancy of Mayela and her life cut short. It’s been almost a year.
And now back to the room filled with 20 lines of wooden benches, and we wait. It is now 8:30 am. Two small girls about the age of my own enter with their mother, mouths full of blood from extracted teeth. They are about the age of my girls. And my girls are not here because I have the luxury of sending them to pre-school.
Girlfriend stands in line and waits to be weighed. A mere 107 pounds, and that’s at 5 months.
As we sit, we talk. And I learn….
- Mom is in jail, completing her 5th year. “We don’t get along.”
- She is one of six brothers and sisters. Her 14 year old brother cares for them all – sometimes she visits just to check in on them. Their step-Dad helps support the crew of little ones.
- “My grandma is mean.” I let that sink in for a bit and then ask, “Why do you say that?” Girlfriend replies without much thought, “Because she does not love us.”
- She used to go to church with a friend, but right now does not because boyfriend does not want to go.
“After this, can we leave?” She has had enough.
“Number 7, first visit”, these words are music to our ears and sore behinds.
We enter the examination room.
Girlfriend lies down and we hear the baby’s heartbeat. Girlfriend listens, no emotion present. I am relieved and joyful to hear the little life speak out and let us know he/she is okay. There are several issues to check out, more appointments to be made – more excuses to come back and be a part of this public system of medical care.
After 30 minutes on the wooden benches, we are led to a gated window where personal info is recorded for the hospital database. And so we wait and wait and wait. The man behind the gate appears unmotivated, unconcerned, perhaps even bothered by the fact that there are 20 people lined up, dependent on him to be able move on with their day. I wonder what his story is, why he has this job, how much he gets paid. I might be just as unmotivated in his position; however, my frustration mounts along with other patients as this is just taking too long. One woman speaks out; the man behind the bars gets angry and refuses to help her. Girlfriend is unsure of her birth date. The name she goes by is not her birth name. What exactly does that do to your identity, your self- worth I wonder to myself. Two hours later, we are given a hospital card that is the gateway to services. We set up 4 appointments for girlfriend who was ready to leave this place the moment we entered. It is now 1:30 pm.
We pass by the technical school where boyfriend is celebrating his graduation.
I enter my apartment at 2:00 pm and Genesis asks, “Ya nacio el bebe?” (Is the baby born yet?). I smile, give a hug and take a deep breath.
May 31 – Despite my longing to stay in the covers, I get up at 6:00 am. Girlfriend has an appointment at the hospital at 7:00 am. I get dressed, ready to go yet doubt that she will show.
7:30 am and still no knock on the door. She needs this appointment but there is nothing I can do. This 17 year old, who acts more like she’s 12 does not know how to care for self. How is she going to care for a little one? Accustomed to living day by day, minute by minute – there is no time to think of self, medical needs.
I see boyfriend later that morning, and ask him to help encourage girlfriend to keep her medical appointments. He says he will try. Give us favor Lord. Protect mother and child.