It’s exciting to finally be able to share the news that we will be expecting our first child in October. We will be coming home three Byrnes, not just two, and we’re definitely excited that we’ll always have a beautiful reminder of our time here in Nicaragua. Friends here now say we are connected to Nicaragua by ombligo (belly button).
I can’t say I know what it is like to be pregnant in the U.S., since this is our first, but I can give some fun insights as to what it is like to be pregnant here in Nicaragua. First of all, telling people our news has been exciting, but the reactions have been distinctly different. Most people who we are close to and who know us well have been very excited to learn that we are pregnant. Our spiritual director had the best reaction so far, jumping out of her chair and dancing around the room. It was awesome. We all started to laugh and cry at the same time. We were glad that we caught Idalia and Marlon both at their house and were able to tell them together, especially since they have become our adopted parents here. They were very excited, and like a lot of people, immediately told me that I need to take care of myself, etc. Many of the teachers and students at school said that they already knew since I was beginning to show a little by the time we told them. Some of the girls in the fifth year class, the graduating seniors, already want to host a “baby shower” for me before we leave. The women at the parish, along with Padre Patricio, were very excited, said “felicidades” and again reminded me that I need to take care of myself. One of our neighbors across the street is also pregnant with her first. Mayerline is just a few weeks ahead of me and it has been fun to chat with her and compare stories, feelings, and recommendations from our doctors.
Many others, who we are not close to, but acquaintances in town, have passively received the news, not offering congratulations or appearing very excited. We were initially surprised by this, but after talking with a Nicaraguan friend, we have come to understand this reaction. She explained that this is due in large part to the fact that very often when women do become pregnant here, it is unplanned. Therefore, it is not celebrated and can, in the worst cases, be a reason to send the father running, leaving the mother alone to deliver and care for the child. I guess this does happen in the States too, but it seems to be more common here. Although, it does seem like the growing trend is towards celebrating new life and congratulating a pregnant woman.
I had expected to receive more suggestions and pregnancy recommendations than I have, but perhaps that is because I am not from here, and maybe people expect that I have a different way of doing things. Partially true I guess. A few women have encouraged me to go to the health center in town to get free vitamins. Thankfully, I’m well stocked from all our visitors who have brought us supplies. I have stopped eating the soft, unpasteurized cheese (cuajada) that is present on almost every plate at every meal here, which is sad because I love it….and similarly the fresh cow milk that we are gifted weekly by Douglas, one of our fellow teachers. Billy says that if he comes back weighing more than me it’s because he’s been drinking all the fresh, whole-fat, cow milk while I’ve been continuing to use the store-bought, pasteurized, non-fat milk we buy in Estelí for my cereal. Obviously no more Toña or Flor de Caña for me, but I can’t say it was often that we were drinking that before, so it hasn’t been hard to leave behind. I gave up coffee for the first trimester, but have somewhat returned to this morning ritual, only because I have to sample our own home-grown beans that we harvested from the backyard. I continue to be very vigilant about drinking clean water. I would hate to have to take anti-parasite meds while pregnant.
In many ways, it has probably been easier to be pregnant and avoid foods here. Sushi…we don’t even have the option. Amazing red wine…pretty much non-existent except for large corporate conglomerates of wine sold by Chilean companies in the grocery store, with import prices. Tasty feta cheese, brie, or other unpasteurized types that we indulged in prior to coming to Nicaragua…nope. I got excited last week when Billy came home with cheddar from the grocery…quite a splurge here, and imported from the U.S., but he wanted to bring me a little treat, which it was indeed. Really, I’ve been able to eat and enjoy most everything that I was eating before.
Some friends in the States have asked about the prenatal care here and again, I don’t have anything to compare it to in the States, but we have found a doctor in Estelí who is very attentive and has provided us with what we feel to be excellent care. At our last visit she spent a good 45 minutes chatting with us. Even though it is considered a private clinic, and therefore not free, she charges a mere $25 each visit. Pretty affordable considering that is often the co-pay in the States. However, most Nicaraguans have to rely on the free health care system because they cannot afford $25/visit to the doctor. I can easily access the lab too for all the blood and other tests that she’s had me do, for the small price of $2. Can’t be beat! I have this fear that when we do eventually return to the States it will be harder to vie for an appointment and face-time with an OB than here. Our doctor did tell me that I shouldn’t ride a horse in the first trimester of my pregnancy. I don’t think that would have been advice I would have been given in the States. And I am unfortunately not going to be able to say goodbye to all our friends in Waslala because the bumpy, off-road, five hour bus ride makes me a bit nervous, although pregnant women do it all the time. I’m just being extra cautious I guess, but Billy is making the trek up there to say our goodbyes for both of us.
Women here talk about achaques, or pregnancy symptoms that they may have. Lucky for me I didn’t have a whole lot of morning sickness. I appreciated this because our day depends so much on getting a lot done in the mornings (filling our water buckets, doing laundry), inclusive of being at work by 8am. My nausea usually came on later in the afternoons, and I was fortunate to be able to ward it off most days with a few crackers or an afternoon nap, when I had the free time. Billy would always prepare dinner, but then again he did that before I was pregnant. In terms of cravings, which is the other question that people ask me about here, I haven’t had too many. I guess it’s because there aren’t many things to crave. A few times I’ve walked past one of our favorite lunch spots in Estelí that has amazing rotisserie chicken and that does give me pause. Billy makes an amazing chicken dish that has definitely taken care of the chicken cravings though. Recently, I have had this somewhat recurring dream about making blueberry muffins, but I’ll have to wait until we’re back in the States to satisfy this craving. No blueberries here, or any berry that we are used to. The only other food I’ve craved has been pizza, but there is a great Italian restaurant in Matagalpa, Meson, and we were able to indulge when we were there recently to see our spiritual director.
I haven’t started to show enough to have people give me their seat on buses yet, but we also usually don’t have to travel that far standing up. I’m looking forward to the end of the month when Nicaragua celebrates Mother’s Day. There will be a large performance the day prior and a day off of school on the actual day of, May 30th. It will be fun to be able to fully partake in the activities this year with the other mothers.
Many people in San Nicolás are sad that they won’t be able to meet our child. We keep promising that we will send pictures and plan a visit. However, I’m sure it won’t be the same, just as our families are missing sharing in the pregnancy now. We are planning to make visits as often as we can, to introduce our pinolerito/a* to the place where it all began.
*There is a drink common to Nicaragua, known as pinol. It can be made either cold with water or hot with milk. It consists of corn, cinnamon, chocolate, and sugar. It is delicious! Often people from Nicaragua are referred to as pinoleros/as, people who drink pinol. A few friends here have begun referring to our child as a pinolerito/a, since she or he was hecho en Nicaragua.