Learning to Feel Babies Inside Us: Wisdom from Majosik, Chiapas

Maria Luna midwife. Photo: Juan Carlos Guzmán Luna

FROM THE EDITORS: This beautiful article is part of the Tzam Trece Semillas Zapatistas project, a plural, multicultural space that proposes a dialogue (tzam means dialogue in Ayapaneco) between communities, ideas, projects, dreams of the original Mexican peoples. The project’s goal is to publish the work of 130 collaborators in thirteen months, from May 2021 to May 2022, thirteen being a sacred number in the autonomous regions. As Awasqa, we have made a commitment to translate one article into English per month.

SOURCE: https://tzamtrecesemillas.org/sitio/aprender-a-sentir-bebes/

Maria Luna midwife. Photo: Juan Carlos Guzmán Luna
Maria Luna midwife. Photo: Juan Carlos Guzmán Luna

My name is María Luna López. The community where I was born and raised is called Tzajalchen, from the municipality of Tenejapa. I came to live here in this town of Majosik because there was a man who understood my soul and who is originally from here. I got together with him, we had kids, and that’s how I ended up living here ever since.  

How did I learn to feel a baby inside? How did I learn to be what they call a midwife?

The first time I started to feel a baby was when I was 15, with my first daughter. It felt like a little ball inside my belly. I wasn’t sure it was a baby because I wasn’t feeling sick, but then I stopped having my period. I began to feel a heartbeat and movements that I had never felt before and that was when I realized that what was inside my belly was a baby. I began to reposition her, to identify where her head was, to feel her body, to feel if she was well-positioned or not and so, my hands gradually became trained. 

And when my baby was born, they asked me:

—Who is the midwife who was repositioning your baby? —they would say.

—Nobody, I myself repositioned her. —that’s how I answered them.

Because, actually, that’s right, I took care of myself and repositioned my own baby: I would feel her, I would reposition her. Later, word spread out among the women, and that is how I began to care for and accompany more women during their pregnancies. 

Nobody taught me. It is a gift from God that came out of nowhere. It seems that he chose me to accept and do this work. Back then it wasn’t like it is today where you can get support or someone to help you. Back then, we didn’t even have medicines or medicine houses, like nowadays where you can find different types. If somebody got sick or something happened to the women, there was no one to care for them. That is why I say God chose me to receive this gift of feeling the baby inside and helping many women.

There are midwives who also learned it through training, but they do not have the necessary knowledge, so there are times when things go wrong or suddenly they use many things that are no good for some women.

There was a time when the doctors also trained me for this job, but what I did not like was that I did not understand what they were saying (in Spanish), and also, it was different, everyone there could see and that was a bit embarrassing for me. It has nothing to do with the knowledge and wisdom that God has given me. Why do I say this? Because they only learned it through a book or in school, they do not have the expert knowledge in their hands, they do not know if the baby is okay, if they have to reposition the baby or do something else. That is why many of us did not get anything from that training, we prefer to continue doing our own thing.

I’m telling you, the way they taught us was completely different and even embarrassing. I may look like an old woman, but I have never had complications with women during their delivery, their babies are always born healthy. 

It is difficult, though, to treat mothers who are careless. Great care is required during a pregnancy. There are times when they are exposed to bad airs or the mother starts feeling cramps. But since I also know how to treat all those diseases, they have always been safe with me. Being a midwife is not only about repositioning the baby, I am like a guardian of life, and I am a guide for women. I also help and guide women on how they should take care of their children, that’s another thing I do because otherwise, they won’t know what to do when the time comes. Having a baby is not easy, it involves a lot of work and a lot of responsibility because life is at stake. That is why we must protect it.

I remember the first woman or mother I took care of after I took care of my own pregnancy. I think I was already destined to do that job well because the mother didn’t have any complications to welcome her baby. I was with her the entire time like a second mother. I remember the day my first daughter was born, I felt lonely. That is what happens in hospitals, they leave you on your own and help you only when you feel you can’t take it anymore. It shouldn’t be like that. All women need care, companionship, and help.

And yes, I would like it with all my heart to teach more women what I do, so that this gift that God has given me is not lost and, above all, so that our ways of life are not lost. For me, helping and accompanying other women is about protecting life.

TSELTAL LANGUAGE

Te bilej ja María Luna Lopez. Te lumal banti tojkonej, te banti lum k’inal a’ jultal te chulelej yuun ek te me’ tatek’ej, ja’ te ta banti pareja Tsajal ch’en. Julon  ta kuxinel te li’e, yuun ay te winik laj sna’ben ch’ulel ek’ej, jich a’ talon taj ich’el li’ ta banti Majosik.  Melel tsi te winik laj kik baj sokej, li’ lijkem taj paraje Majosikij.

¿Bixi nojp kuun tsi te ay alalej, te parterae?

Te bitl’il sbabi la kai te alalej, ja te bitlij la mak te sbabial te kala alej 15 años kich’o a tsi teyej.  La kaite taj ch’ujt  te ay binti nolol te’a, maj na’ stojol tsi me alalbalej. komo mayuk biyael k’inal ya kayatsi, ja to  te bit’il ma’  jach kil tsi te chamelej y jach kai te chikan xp’itp’un te xch’ichelej, te’a na’ stojol a’ te alal te ay ta yutil te ch’ujtej. Jich ta kunk’utik a’ nojp kuun, la ka’yulaj, pit’ulaj te ta kala ch’ujtej. Jich a’ ch’ij ta k’ab te alalej, kaibe te yalaj jol banti ay te alalej, te ya la bak’etalej, jich a jul ch’ulel ta ya’ybel lek te alalej.

 K’alal tokemix kuun a’ tsi te kala alej, ay mach’a las sjok’oben.

-¿Macha a’y alalil la’ wak be yay te a’ walej?” Xi k’olal.

– Mayuk, joonax  la kai. Xon.

Melel yunix joon laj kai a’ tsi te ch’ujtej. Yaj pit’ te kala chu’jtej, ya bislun, tek’elbal, k’atal bal, ja’ jich la kai, te p’ijubontal a’ menej. Jich a’ chiknajon ta stojol tsi te yantik antsetikej  y jich a’a jachon ta ya’yel xch’utik ek’ te yantik antsetik.

            Mayuk mach’a la yakben nop, jich a jul taj wenta yuun te kajwaltikej. Ja’ jich k’oem te la tsaon te kajwaltik ta  yich’el sok spasel te at’elilej. Melel tsi te name talej, mayuk xa wil te bi’il ora ayix ya’tik te koltael kuytikej. Te nameje, mayuk to a’ te poxiletikej, sok te snail te poxiletik te bit’il ora ayix bayel taj ten te poxiletikej. Me tsajkat ta chamel te nameje, o kuytik ya’el te ja’ ay swokolik te ala atsetikej, mayuk mach’a yax ilotik. Tek me kal a’ wai a’ tsi te kajwaltik taj tsaon ta yich’el  sok pasel te majtan a’telilej. Swenta jich yax stak yak koljta  ta  yaibel a’ te lal yunik  te yantik alnich’anetikej.

               Ay te antsetik a’ya aleletik te laj snopik ta banti jun p’iteselej, pero ja’ me nej, maba lek yax spaik te ya’telikej, melel ayax taik palta, sok yax stuntesik bitik, ja tsi menej ay mala lek ya yai te ala antsetiek.

            Ay xan ek’e te bitil ya kich tik p’itesel yuunej, pero te binti tao ta ilel teae, ja te max kaibetik te skop yayejik, sok  k’ejel y k’exlaltik nax sba  ta ilele te yax spasikej.   Melel yunix a te p’ijilil yak’oben te  kajwaltikej, k’ejel e’k’aj. Binyuun tsi te ya kal a’ waiye, melel nopojik ta estudioe, max snaik yielel tsi me toj o ma tojok tsi alalej. ja me kala wai tsi te ma tojik k’oel ek’a tsi te antsetikej. La me kila kal a wi te bitik jun tiempo k’axonae, mayuk banti ay ba ay; ta mero melel, k’exlaltik nax sba ta ilel te binti xi yax snojptewinike.

            In bi kilel ta me’elil ya’tikinij, mayuk tao falta ya’tik, lek yax p’ejkaj te alaletik yaj wentainej.

               Banti yax k’ax wokoltik tebuk, ja’ te me mayuk yax skananta sbaik te antsetikej, melel tsi te alalej, ich’el ta muk yax sk’an. Ay te bit’il yax tsakotik te i’kej, te ojselej. Pero como ya na’be tebuk xposik ek tsi te bitik chamelilej, jich yax kolik a tsi te bitik chamelej. Sok, melel tsi  parterailej, Ja jich k’oem ya kai te kanan kuxejale. Sjultanal tsaik te antsetike. Skoltael, sp’itesel ta xchi’tesel yal xnich’anik  te yantik a la antsetikej ja’ xan jich k’oem te yan a’telil ya pasej.  Melel te xchijtesel te alalej, maba tajimal.

               Ya tox jul ta jol  te bit’il kilojix ba tukel a’e, te sbabi alal la kilej, mayuk a’ k’ax swokol te yala me’. Yuni wan jich  ayix tal tojol ta spasel ta lek a te a’telilej. Mayuk a’ pijtes, ja jich k’oem te chebal smeonej.Melel ya’ na’ stojol te joon  jich  la pas sentir te tukel ayon la kaibae’. Y ja’ me mayuk jich yax spastaj ta banti hispitaletik  tsiteyej. A’ bijchil yax enat, ja’ to ya wich wentainel a’ ta me max ju’ix ya ma’yaej. Tsi manix jichuk asel yax sk’an te jichukej.  Mele tsi te antsetikej, wentainel yax k’anik.

            Y jich i’, Li’  ko’tan  tsi te ayuk ba ay mach’a yax k’an yax sjok’obenej yax sk’an tsnopej, swenta jich max ch’ay a’ te stalel te majtanil yuun yak’oben te kajwaltik sok swenta max ch’a xan a’ te stalel kuxlejatikej. Te joon ya kaiye te skotael swentainel te antsetikej ja’ ya yich i’chel ta muk a’ te kuxlejalej.

Portrait of the author: Sebastián Guzmán Luna

Authors
María Luna López

María Luna López

PUEBLO TSELTAL María Luna López Es una mujer tseltal de 58 años, originaria de la comunidad de Majosik, municipio de Tenejapa en Chiapas. Además de ser partera desde los quince años de edad, se dedica al cultivo del café, del maíz y el frijol. Por su destacada labor como partera tradicional, es conocida por toda la gente de su comunidad y municipios vecinos por orientar y acompañar a las mujeres antes, durante y después del parto.

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