The Weekend the Water Broke
I cannot say that my friendships here are the same as my friendships back in the states or even those with my fellow volunteers. There always remain certain cultural barriers, language issues, general miscommunications, or gaps in education level and life expectations that prevent us from understanding each other or talking about certain things. For example, they all think I have a boyfriend in the states (to prevent a surplus of matchmaking schemes and marriage proposals), while I’ve never garnered the courage to ask Mama Silvan how she feels about being a second wife. That’s not to say that these relationships are in any way subpar – I have great village friends who make me laugh and with whom I love to spend entire afternoons. And even better yet, many of these people have become more like family to me than casual acquaintances. I trust them to have my back – despite our frequent mutual confusion over how the other does certain things, despite not seeing eye to eye. They are always there for me and care for me. And I hope they realize it goes both ways. All of which is simply a long means of saying 1. It’s going to be difficult to leave these people come September and 2. I have a Beninese niece as my Thanksgiving week started with the arrival of two new babies!
Mama Silvan had a boy, Samuel, and soon thereafter my best friend/ sister Nicole had her baby girl, Rita. Thankfully, they were both late evening / early morning births so I was not expected at the health center or in the birthing room. For those of you who are interested, our clinic birthing room is literally just an open aired room with two examination tables and a desk….no running water or the latest technological gadget. And no one finds it strange for me (or the nurses’ children) to wander in or out. Have I mentioned yet that pregnancy and birth in this country still blows my mind?
These arrivals proved no exception. The week before, Nicole had informed me that she was going into labor; only, when I returned after the weekend, she was very much still pregnant. Primed with her example, I took Mama Silvan’s Saturday declaration that she was giving birth more as wishful thinking than a factual statement, especially as she came back from the centre de santé (health center), declared she would return that evening to do the deed, and then proceeded to continue household chores and fix dinner for both me and her family. Yet, by the next morning, both she and baby Samuel were back – healthy and happy.
Nicole popped a few days later on Wednesday– again a surprise as I had no clue until showing up at the clinic and hearing the commands of “Michelle, go see your baby” (all the apprentices like to rib how it’s mine as much as Nicole’s….a joke I still do not quite understand. They also now love to tell me how it’s my turn to give birth….to twins). All in all a perfect way to start Thanksgiving and perfect timing as that afternoon started the American (baby and Beninese less) festivities.