I live in a largely Hispanic community between Bakersfield and Visalia. When I enter the grocery store, I am greeted in Spanish, only I do not speak Spanish. I say, "Oh, hello!" and they automatically resume our conversation in English. I am not offended by this -- in fact, it always tickles me that they think I speak Spanish! Kind of similar to the realization that those Scottish accents I love so much -- if I were around a bunch of Scots, I would be the one with the accent? That's what I mean. My husband and my 9 year old speak Spanish, and my dad and his side of the family. In fact, my dad was born to US-citizens, but in Mexico City -- they were there for work; both his parents were Hispanic-lineage and of course bilingual. Unfortunately, I never learned Spanish.
I go to church with many families who are native Spanish-speakers. If the children attend school, they speak English, but many of the parents speak very little. I have a very good friend, and we are able to communicate because her English -- though minimal, is better than my "un poco" Spanish. We were visiting the other day, and she shared this story with me -- it caught in my throat, and I knew (with her permission) I had to share it.
When she was 18, she had her first pregnancy. She had little support from family or friends, and in her own words, her life was not on track. Around 4 months she grew very ill, and this being her first pregnancy, she didn't know this was not normal. One morning she woke to notice her vision was disturbed, and finally she decided to visit the clinic. There they discovered her baby no longer had a heartbeat, and with the symptoms she was displaying, it likely had been a while since he had passed -- she was very sick. They admitted her to the hospital to administer antibiotics and other medications, as well as start the process of inducing labor. In the meantime, she grew so ill, she lost her vision.
Scared, alone, and unsure, she spent a lot of time crying in the hospital bed. She said (and I was so surprised to see I understood this whole part of the story in Spanish): there was an American doctor there (in Mexico), who spoke excellent Spanish. Every day he came, and he sat with her. She was very scared. One day when she was crying, still unable to see, feeling sick with infection all over her body, he came and tried to help her calm down. To distract her, he asked, "What foods did your mother eat? After having a baby?" She couldn't think well. Again he asked, "What did your father bring to your mother after she had a baby?" This woman remembered: "Arroz con pollo, e champarrado." Even though her parents weren't with her, the doctor had a feeling this would help her feel connected to her family.
Later that evening, instead of the usual hospital food, a plateful of warm chicken and rice came, along with a cup of thick, hot chocolate.
The doctor would continue to sit with her -- her vision still had not returned. Sometimes she would wake up crying, terrorized by bad dreams, and she could hear there was someone else in the room, also quietly crying -- it was her doctor.
When it was finally time for her to leave the hospital she decided to ask: "How did you get chicken and rice for me everyday?" He answered with a tear in his eye (that she could now she see): "I paid someone to make it for you."
My friend went on to have five more children, and she told me other stories that showed the beautiful ways she was helped through her births. I didn't know she lost a baby, though. It felt great to hug her, and to let her know I was so sorry about her first baby -- and I know, it doesn't matter your language or culture, loss is felt deeply, and it is remembered. I cannot think enough amazing things about the man who helped a young, scared woman through the most frightening experience of her life -- I am grateful to this doctor for truly caring for my friend in ways she will never, ever forget, and for showing her his heart.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)