1992: Chicken Soup / Dora Leonor Mesa

15: 00 Hours January 17, 1992, a pregnant woman loses the mucus plus. With the experience and enthusiasm of her first daughter she was walking alone to the October 10 Maternal Hospital, better known in Havana as the “Hijas de Galicia”.

There she was treated by a gynecologist who told her she was 3 cm. dilated. Incredibly, the woman convinced her doctor to let her return home to feed her 2-year-old daughter, and to be able to buy the chicken that has just arrived at the butcher shop, and would only be sold on the ration book. There hadn’t been any sold to the population for a month and it was forbidden for Cubans to purchase it at hotels in dollars, on pain of being sent to prison for at least two years. To make matters worse, the black market didn’t always have this delicacy available even at its high prices.

Now at the butcher shop, with the symptoms of delivery, the woman, shouting, faced a crowd of waiting customers.

“I’m giving birth and I’m going to buy now because chicken soup is good for new mothers!”

I don’t remember exactly if there was a sudden silence, but I imagine the surprise and disbelief paralyzed everyone. However, the woman handed her ration book to the butcher to note the amount sold, collected the several pieces of chicken that were her share, paid, and walked in the opposite direction from the hospital.

16:00 Hours. Once home again she fed her little girl. Then while she was washing up she called her husband to tell him she was going to return to Hijas de Galicia becuase she felt worse (?!). She gathered her and the future baby’s belonging and returns on foot to the hospital. Asking the neighbors for help was a waste of time, no one would hurry to help a “worm,” as they call people in Cuba who do not sympathize with the Revolution.

The hospital staff didn’t believe her when she said she was in labor (6 cm dilated). Pandemonium broke loose on seeing her so calm and alone. She was lucky. There was electricity, the elevator was working, and they didn’t have to carry her on a stretcher up the stairs to the delivery room.

19:00 Hours. Induction of labor, contractions, 12 cm, dilated, and the woman didn’t stop. She constantly squatted while the medical staff watched television and waited. The bed didn’t have sheets, but the her sister-in-law brought some. The nurse asked if she wanted drugs, without telling her what it was, and she refused to take something until she knew what it was. In the end they agreed.

22:55 Hours. Instrument delivery with forceps. The fetus was born “face up.” The patient lost a lot of weight. The baby weighed 8 pounds 13 ounces. An elephant according to the commentary of the doctors. It was the first baby that heavy for many months.

On the ground floor her husband, family members and the chicken soup were waiting. Everything breathed easier with the news of the delivery. The instructions left by the mother were precise:

– If I hadn’t given birth today I would petition the highest levels urgently. I don’t want my daughter to die. This hospital has a very bad reputation for negligence and poor hygiene. The doctors are talented but the hospital conditions are deplorable.

February 7 2012