Bienvenido de nuevo!
Well you hate to see it but at long last I came down with The Coronavirus™ last week. I’d never previously come down with it and quite honestly was, like the rest of the outlier group never to test positive, starting to (secretly) think I could be immune. I am humbled, to say the least. I have come down with several flu-like illnesses since arriving in Argentina (and since the pandemic began), testing negative each time. So when I awoke to a 103 fever two Mondays back, I took the test with full certainty I was being overly cautious. The double line appeared almost immediately, and I briefly understood what it must feel like to discover a pregnancy (of course it was nothing like that, but it was a moment of disbelief I have never otherwise experienced). As I mentioned in my last post, I was set up in the living room due to construction taking place in my bedroom, a situation we quickly realized wasn’t going to allow for isolation. So I packed my sleep away camp bag and moved upstairs into my host sister’s room, separated from the rest of the house by a terrace and lots of distance. I spent the recommended 5 days of quarantine sleeping, watching movies, reading, sitting on the terrace, doing yoga, scrolling through TikTok, calling my friends and family, and reflecting on the time I have spent here. In the moment, I felt that I was being robbed of a week I could have spent in the hospital and in doula meetings and at my Spanish school and exploring the city, but with the perspective of hindsight, I now see how beneficial that week alone was for me. Being forced to rest, to step away from work or the job of constant translating or the pressure to meet new people or see my friends; to process emotions and, most importantly, to be fully alone for a week provided a kind of reset in this experience that I didn’t know I needed. Coming out on the other side, I was filled with energy to keep learning and practicing Spanish, to put myself out there and ask for more hours at the hospital, to initiate more conversations with my host family, and to share myself more honestly with the people around me here. The Saturday I left my host sisters room, the construction had finished and I was finally able to move my things out of the doll house and back into my dresser (refer to previous blog for context). Back and better than ever, baby!
This past week at the hospital was my favorite yet. I worked out a plan to start going three days a week (the difficulty is organizing a ride, as the city of Moron is too far to take public transportation), so my schedule is currently Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at the hospital, Spanish classes on Wednesdays and Fridays, and scattered doula groups/responsibilities in between. Starting this past Monday, we new volunteers were able to enter the laboring rooms freely without the accompaniment of our senior doula. Thankfully, the birthing room requires much silence and very minimal communication. I have practiced conversations/terminology in Spanish class that are specific to my work in the hospital, and beyond these basics, a lot of the work is physical, i.e. providing massages, suggesting new positions to progress the labor, helping the women walk/shower/get onto the birthing ball, providing a break for the partner or family member, fanning the woman in labor (this is truly the most important part), getting cold rags, recommending when to take rest, encouraging the most natural process possible, and promoting skin to skin post-birth. Monday and Tuesday we split our time between the birthing rooms (neither day with active deliveries), the postpartum unit, and the NICU. Thursday, however, we started the day in the room of a 17-year-old who had come in for contractions at 40-weeks (full-term). She was accompanied by her partner, and we spent the day guiding her through movements to progress labor and having conversations to ease her anxieties. At several instances during the process, she begged for a cesarean birth out of doubt in her ability to deliver her baby. As advocates and emotional support companions, we reassured her of her body’s capabilities and her original desires to delivery naturally. We were present when her water broke, through each of the transition phases, and provided support during the delivery. Her mom could not be present at the birth, so it felt in some ways that we provided the maternal accompaniment she would have otherwise not had. I have been present for births throughout nursing school and in my time as a volunteer doula at Vanderbilt before the pandemic, but never have I witnessed and aided in a birth from start to finish in the way we did with this family. It left me both exhausted and filled with immense gratitude for the privilege of working in this intimate field.
I feel in some ways that I’ve entered a new chapter here. If at first there was the honeymoon phase when everything was exciting and fun, followed by several challenging/frustrating weeks of doubt and homesickness, I think I have now finally entered a season of feeling comfortable and rooted here. Speaking and understanding Spanish is becoming easier and therefore more enjoyable, relationships are growing more naturally and I feel like I have transitioned into a member of my host family here, and hints of an impending spring are carrying us optimistically forward. Of course, I know that my feelings will continue to develop in my final two months, but for now I am leaning into this newfound feeling of comfort, however long or short it may last.
Next weekend I am headed north to the infamous Iguazú Falls with my friend Lucas, so get prepared for many waterfall photos (think mom at Niagara Falls for the first time energy). In the meantime, enjoy some sentences from the diary & some photos:
August 17: Today I read an entire book and watched a whole TV series, I think covid is making me really powerful.
August 19: My quarantine craving all week has been boba tea (?), feels random because I have consumed it maybe twice in my life so if someone could tell me what this means?
August 25: I watched a woman naturally push a baby out of her body today and it made me forget everything else in this life.
Until next time, ciao lindos!