The matrone’s grandfather
Matrone is the affectionate term for the people in the community who help with the birthing of the babies. They live in the small, remote villages that are tucked into the mountains that surround us. Sometimes people walk over to their house to give birth and sometimes they go there. It all depends. They are both men and women.
A matrone comes and sits with me for a little while. She tells me her grandfather taught her to be a matrone when she was sixteen and she has been one ever since. Actually, he taught all his grandchildren to be matrones and pretty much all of the people delivering babies in the area are his relatives and learned from him.
She caught her first baby when she was sixteen and went on to deliver twelve more babies for that family. I give her a bag with some educational pictures in it; things h she can show the women in her village. There are pictures of babies in various forms of fetal development on a metal ring with educational drawings on the back. There is a small, handmade book of anatomical drawings related to reproductive health. She looks at them and nods. She has been doing this a long time without such drawings. I am not sure if I foolish or helpful. She is training her nieces and she says they will like them and she, of course loves the new bag they are stored in.
She proudly wears a badge that indicates she has had some training through the clinic. After she leaves I figure that she caught her first baby around 1964; around the time the United States government started supporting Hatien dictators out of fear of communism. She caught babies under the watchful eye of Papa Doc’s secret police and then in the background of Aristede’s liberation theology. Governments would come and go as she walked these familiar paths and watched babies be born, grow, walk away never to come back, and have their own babies.
I ask her how many births she does. She both smiles and looks weary. Then laughs,
“anpil” which means many. I think of a grandfather training all of his grandchildren to deliver babies and the legacy he left here amongst the rocky places where goats and children climb and play as the adults sit in the last light of day around the three large rocks of the cooking fire.