We wake at dawn for our second day with the Mayan communities, with a Wuqu’Kawoq nurse. These villages are much more isolated than the first ones we had visited: our journey was over an hour’s drive through the mountains, on narrow, sandy and stony paths. All 9 of us were packed in a car that can hold 5 individuals. The bends and the unevenness of the journey plunges us into a second and nauseated state, which we endured until the end of the day.
The program we observed was related to the “Salud Móvil” which uses technology (especially the smartphone) for the health service. We followed a “comadrona”, a local midwife living in these remote communities herself, in her three visits of the day. The role of the comadrona is to check, using various technological devices, the baby’s health. For this, the comadrona puts a phone on the belly of the future mother and connects to speakers. We can then hear the heartbeat of the baby. The application used is catered to the comadrona and patient’s language, Kaqchikel. At the beginning of the session, the comadrona asks a set of questions so as to complete the patient’s medical file on her application. She asks how many pregnancies she has lived, how many children she is a mother, how old she is, whether she has ever been to the hospital, whether she has had any health complications during her life, whether she is diabetic, etc. The question of contraception is not asked because it is difficult to address this topic, as explained to us by the Wuqu’Kawoq nurse. Moreover, the comadrona we followed was very religious. She is the mother of “11 children and a stillborn child”, and the subject of contraception is not discussed in the morning. All the information collected is recorded by comadrona on the monitoring application of pregnant women created by Wuqu’Kawoq.
“Each case is unique,” explains comadrona. Our morning confirmed it quickly.
The first woman is 41 years old. The brown mark chiselling her belly is the aftermath of a past caesarean. Maya Kaqchikel women go to the hospital only in case of a serious problem because the doctors do not speak their language and they are often afraid of such places. Most of the time, they give birth at home with the help of the comadrona. The Cesarean section of this woman seems to concentrate in her a particular story that allows us to glimpse the complications that she had to face. Thanks to the application contained in her phone, comadrona can access her patient accordingly.
The second is 14 years old. She is seven months pregnant and is happy to give birth to her first child. Her “esposo”, with which she is not married because she is not of legal age, is an 18-year-old boy living in a neighboring community. The books strewn on the ground and the signs taped to the walls teach us that the girl studies “language and communication” and learns English.
The last mother-to-be is a woman in her thirties. For this visit, no phone was used, the young woman prefered traditional medicine still practiced in some Mayan communities. The pregnant woman and the comadrona meet in a kind of sauna, called the Temascal. They undress both and the comadrona mass the body of the pregnant woman. After that, they wash themselves and a bunch of sacred herbs on the body. The comadrona explains to us that this method, long used by the Mayan communities, allows an optimal development of the baby and that the heat contained in the Temascal as well as the massages lavished on the future mother are all factors which will guarantee a better childbirth.
We ended this day with a video interview with the comadrona, who told us with great sensitivity her story and passion for her job. She takes the opportunity to light a fire of pine needles at the foot of the religious altar, which alone furnishes the room, large and dark, in which we realize almost an hour of maintenance.