A Pig Farm Birth

By Jerry Whitng

I wrote a smaller version of this story for Midwifery Today for their Spring, 2000 magazine.

One day in late 1999, the first year that I started doing Midwifery in Tijuana, someone told me about a young girl that was pregnant with her first child and living south of them in the riverbed. After a bit of asking around, someone told me that she lived on a nearby Pig Farm.

Above is a photo of where this young pregnant girl lives. I knocked on the door of the center building in the photo. Soon the door opened and I met a very shy young pregnant women. I told her that I was a "Partero" (Spanish for a male Midwife) and that a neighbor had told me that she might want my help for her coming birth. Shyly, she invited me into her "house". Inside her little room, I met Rosario, As with all my new moms, I asked Rosario if she was scared to have her baby at home. "Yes, I am scared some, but most women where I come from who live in rural areas still have their babies at home with Parteras". "OK" I said, "Let me check you. If your baby is head down and in a good position and your pelvis feels ample, then It will be OK to have your baby here". Everything felt fine, so I had Rosario fill out a signup sheet. As Rosario filled out the sheet, I could see that she was 17 and about 35 weeks along with her first child. It was obvious to me right away that Rosario and her extended family were VERY poor. Rosario had no previous prenatal care. I told her that I would be visiting her every Saturday until she delivered. After Rosario relaxed a bit, she was very pleased that someone was going to come and visit her and care for her.

These families had moved into parts of this building that had previously housed animals. There were 3 families living here, all related. Rosario's mother and father in law and their children lived in the building on the left. Rosario's sister in law and her 5 children live in the center building along with Rosario and her husband. There is a white sheet suspended from a wire that separates their living space in this common room. Rosario's part is smaller, about 7' X 12'. In Rosario's room, there is a non working gas range on the left, a chest of drawers on the right, and her bed in the back. Very little room to walk in. The large. flat roofed part on the right of the photos are where the pigs. Just an old, corrugated tin wall separate Rosario's living space from the pigs.

On a subsequent visits, I met her husband. In the photo above, in the background are the pig pens. One day in late December, I received a call that Rosario was in labor. When I arrived, Rosario was walking. She was still in early labor, and had not dilated yet. Later in the day, I sat with Rosario as she had her contractions. I began to really notice how horrible this place really was and the living conditions that Rosario faced on a daily basis. The smell of this place was overwhelming. The flies are everywhere, you literally had to be careful to keep your mouth closed when outside, the flies were so thick. They are much worse at 4 PM, the hour that they fed the pigs. Because of the massive presence of flies, there were hundreds of spiders everywhere. Although Rosario and her husband had done a good job of covering the ugly and dirty corrugated walls with pretty sheets and blankets, there were small separations where you could see in places just how dirty this place was. Overhead, there was a white sheet stretched between the walls, but in some areas, you could see what was above the sheet, hundreds of spider webs. I thought to myself, "How am I going to get Rosario through this birth without an infection of some kind!" As it got later, I slept in my van outside. During the night, I got up to go pee. I saw what I thought was a cat running around in the dark. I got my flashlight, and discovered that it was not a cat, but there were many giant rats running around, going into the pigs troughs and eating their food. I quickly got back into my van. In the morning, I checked Rosario, but she was still the same, so I left to go have breakfast and do a few visits with my other patients. I returned about noon and found that Rosario was starting to make some progress. Because of the filth, I gave her an enema. There was no bathroom here, not even an outhouse, so Rosario went out behind the house and relieved herself behind a bush. When she came back, I used iodine on her vagina. I was hoping that these measures would lessen that change of an infection. By 4 PM, Rosario was having very hard and painful contractions. About 5 PM, Rosario's husband saw her crying, and said to his mother "Why are you letting her suffer so much!" His mother promptly told him that she suffered the same when she gave birth to him. He left, crying and very upset. Soon, Rosario was pushing. At 6:07 PM, Rosario gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

We cleaned up Rosario and the baby and took this photo. Rosario looks absolutely beautiful and radiant! Just then, Rosario's husband came back and saw that his wife had given him a beautiful little girl. He looked at me and hugged me hard and thanked me profusely. He cried again. I told him that it was Rosario and her faith and courage that made this birth turn out OK. About 6 months later, they moved away from this horrible place. Rosario and her family still live in the riverbed, and I have done several births for her family. Rosario had a boy last year. Rosario is about 4 months along with her 3rd. child, and you don't have to ask where she will have it.

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Jerry