25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Today it costs about $1,500 to have a normal child delivery in Chetumal, Mexico, which is where a lot of locals have their babies. It costs $2,000 if there is surgery. In Belize City, it costs about $2,000 normal and about $5,000 if there is surgery. It only costs about $500 in San Pedro, but there is no surgery facility yet, so many people do not want to take that risk and prefer to be in a facility where surgery is available, just in case.
Twenty five years ago it cost $300 only to have a child delivered in Belize City with Dr. Cabrera, who was the renown doctor for that kind of thing. However, I want to take you back to the 1950’s and 60’s when the cost of a child delivery was only A CHICKEN. Yes, after you had your child delivered by one of the three renown “parteras” or midwives, all they would ask for is a chicken or two. So after the nine days when she would come and attend to the mother with massages and special baths, and the baby with the healing of the navel, mom would catch a large hen or two and send them to doña Chabby, or doña Masita, or doña Leandra. They were elderly ladies and were very happy to do their community service at no cost, except for a chicken. If you wanted to be really generous and kind to them, you would send them a “mantilla” or headscarf for their birthday for them to take to church. Ah, and when dad killed a hog, he could not forget to send some meat and chicharon or fried pork skin to the beloved midwife. I remember taking chicharon for many years to dona Masita, whom my mother taught me to love and respect like a second mother for she received me into her hands into this world. For me dona Masita was like a mother Theresa to others around the world.
A chicken for a child delivery, unbelievable! Ah, but you would say, how many babies died at childbirth? The answer is practically none. A death at birth was practically unheard of. There was no surgery, but these ladies labored like good professionals along with the mother. They wrapped their heads in a turban-like fashion, and labored for long hours with the expecting mother. If it was hot, they sweat, and if there were mosquitoes, they worked under a “pabellon” or mosquito net. They got their pieces of cloth and sterilized them in boiling water. They used their leaves and baths to allow for more intense labor pains. They had their own medications to stop a hemorrhage, to cut the umbilical cord, to heal the navel so it would not be too deep or too bulged out. They knew how to get a flabby belly to normal fitness form and taught the mothers how to breast feed so that the breast could have milk for at least a year or so.
As you can see, these women were like professionals and did their jobs with loving and dedicated care. And all of this for a chicken or two? San Pedro, in my opinion, will never be able to repay them for all that they did for us. They only thing we can do is honor them. A good way to do so is to name a few rooms in our new hospital in their memory. How about Dona Masita for the maternity ward, and Dona Leandra for another and Dona Chabby for yet another room. San Pedro can surely honor these humble and untrained yet brave professionals of our past. Ambergris Today and Twenty Five Years Ago salute them in the name of all of us in San Pedro.