When Nicaraguan women give birth, they say, “Da la luz.” It means give the light.” I adore that phrase. Three simple words that signify hope, love, and anticipation of a bright future…a shining star is born.
Esther went into labor right on schedule. I was hoping that she would bring forth the light on Cory’s birthday. On our walk to the local hospital I asked Francisco, “Can you attend the birth of your baby?” “I do not think I can help Esther because men are not permitted in the delivery room,” he responded. What a shame, I thought, because a birth is a family affair. “Maybe you can ask the doctora if you can be with Esther when she gives the light,” I said.
We parted a blue sheet that separated the waiting room full of coughing people from the patients, and entered the labor-in-process room. Six beds lined the light green room, each with an assortment of bed linens the women were required to bring for their beds. Frayed posters hung on the walls displaying various birth-control methods and the importance of breast feeding. Francisco wasn’t allowed to enter the room, so he stood at the doorway.
Esther was sitting on the bed close to the open window. “It’s so hot in here,” she panted. I looked for a fan. Nada. The beds were full of women in an array of labor or post delivery. Two mothers-to-be were chatting with their families, another mother was nursing her newborn, and one woman, in heavy labor, was moaning, while her mother stood behind her cradling her limp body.
“I brought you water, food, and a few gifts for the baby,” I told Esther. There are no cafeterias in the hospitals in Nicaragua. In fact, the patients bring everything…sheets..pillows…food…everything. Esther called to Francisco standing in the hallway. “Did you remember to bring rags?” Rags? My imagination was running wild. Rags? “Did you remember to bring me a loose dress when I give the light?” she yelled. ” I forgot to bring rags and a dress,” Francisco lamented. “No problemo,” I said. “I’ll call Ron and he can pick you up on his motorcycle and take you to your house.”
Meanwhile, the sweat was rolling off my eyebrows and into my eyes. “Esther, let’s go outside and sit under the mango trees,” I pleaded. I called Ron, he was on his way, and we settled into 3 metal chairs under the mango trees eating ice cream. “Francisco, ask Esther if she knows how to breathe and how the labor process works,” I asked because Francisco speaks English, too. “She says, the doctora told her to breathe deep and she will tell her when to push..nothing more,” he translated. So, with Francisco’s help, I explained everything in vivid detail, and we practiced breathing through her contractions.
A friend of Francisco’s delivered a plastic bag with more food and a special cactus drink for Esther. Apparently, this Pitaya cactus juice lubricates the birth canal and it is also good for a man’s prostate. “Francisco, when Esther gives the light, will they give her any pain medication or anything?” I wondered. “No,” Francisco stated emphatically, “It is illegal. The baby is delivered naturally with no pain medications.”
When Francisco returned from his house with all of the necessities, Esther was in heavy labor and it was getting dark. Francisco asked the doctora if he could attend the birth, and she replied with surprise and delight, “No man has ever attended a birth before. It will be a first!”
Ron and I returned home, and Francisco lovingly attended to Esther. Sayid was born early in the morning on Cory’s birthday. Esther and I now share a special bond. We both gave forth the light on the same day, 28 years apart.
Francisco spent the night at our house. Esther’s family spent the night with Esther and baby Sayid at the hospital. I made a big chocolate cake to celebrate our bonds and births of our children on the same day. We invited our neighbors and sang happy birthday in Spanish, then in English. Once again, I am humbled and awed to be sharing our lives and our lights with my gracious Nicaraguan community.