A Midwife’s Monday

You’re returning to your clinic after visiting a client in her home. Nothing compares to seeing a new mother caring for her healthy baby after you’ve spent months working as a team and just a few days ago made it through the delivery. What you saw today tops your “why-I-love-being-a-midwife” list. If only all your work weeks could start off this way!

Along with that joy, today you have a midwife-in-training along for the ride. She’s bright-eyed and itching to get into things. You decide to redeem the drive time.

“See that little spiral-bound book peeking out of my bag?” you ask.

“The blue one?”

“Yeah. Go ahead and take a look at it. You’re going to need one for yourself.”

The trainee retrieves the book and looks it over. “Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine.  This looks interesting, but, um, I did take medical Spanish in school. Did I say something wrong with the last client?”

“Oh, no, you did well. It’s just that, as you’ve learned, many of the women we serve in this area are from Guatemala. Some of them, like the mother we just visited. speak what I call “dictionary Spanish”. Others speak their own variety. Sometimes they grew up speaking Spanish as a second language after a Mayan dialect.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“I think you’ll see what I mean with our clients this afternoon,” you grin. “Oh, and remember, as a midwife, sometimes your clients look to you for advice on all sorts of things.”

At the beginning of your visit with your next client – a young mother from rural Guatemala accompanied by her cousin – nothing much unusual happens. A few unique words are used, but your trainee catches on quickly. You begin to wonder if you anticipated too much. Then your client says,

Mi hermana me estaba preguntando si usted tendría consejo para ella acerca de su bebé que tiene rozadura.”

You glance at your trainee. She discreetly raises an eyebrow.

Rozadura es cómo pañalitis, ¿verdad?” you question, even though you know the answer. Both are used to mean diaper rash.

Your client smiles and nods, “Sí, es como pañalitis.”

You continue your conversation. Later that afternoon, the midwife-in-training comes to you looking a little less bright-eyed. “I’ve got to admit,” she says, “starting with that first office visit and continuing all afternoon, I’ve found out I don’t know Spanish as well as I thought I did. At least not the way these ladies speak it. And then there are all the folk medicine ideas I’ve never even heard of!”

You’re encouraging nature kicks in. “Don’t worry. I think you’re gonna do great. Learning a language is a life-long adventure. At least it seems like it has been for me.”

“Well,” she says with the smile in her eyes back on, “I know one thing. I’m going to buy myself one of those books.”

Want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient? Check it out on Amazon!