When I was pregnant with my first daughter Natalie in 1986, the Chernobyl reactor exploded and the threat of a nuclear cloud passing over the Pacific Northwest and radiating the six-month old fetus inside me freaked me out. Later, when I was pregnant with Ana in 1989, tanks rolled over Tiananmen Square, scattering protestors, killing some, injuring many, and reminding me that being pregnant is an act of hope in a world that often does its best to squelch it.
Ana, almost thirty now, has been living in Ecuador for nearly two years. Within the past year, she made several trips by canoe into the jungle to conduct a study of two indigenous communities regarding their safety and health priorities. She made her last visit to the jungle in her fourth month of pregnancy and finished a report on her findings in her last trimester. Earlier this month, I flew to Quito to spend five weeks with her and her partner Daniel in order to be present for the birth of their son, due October 26.
The week before I was to leave for Quito, the city shut down. A national strike by transportation workers was called on Wednesday, October 3 in response to the austerity measures imposed by the government as a condition of an IMF loan. A gas subsidy that had been in effect for fifty years was revoked. Indigenous groups, students, and unions joined the transportation workers, barricading roads with rocks and burning tires.
Flights in and out of Quito were cancelled. I checked the news and saw videos of mounted police, tanks (some of which had driven down Ana’s street), and tear-gassed protesters. President Lenin Moreno declared a state of emergency on Thursday and said there was no possibility he would back away from the measures. It was also evident the protesters would not back away either.
I started to worry that my October 9 flight would be cancelled, but I made it into Quito late that night. Ana and Daniel met me at the airport, having hired a car in case taxis were not running. The streets were mostly empty and a little eerie. At one point, a military truck carrying soldiers turned in front of us.
For four days after my arrival in Quito, protests raged from afternoon well into the night. Ana and Daniel’s apartment is just blocks from one of the areas where protesters concentrated their actions – Parque El Arbolito where the Movimiento Indigena had taken refuge in the Casa de la Cultura.
Explosions and helicopters whirring overhead were the soundtrack to Ana’s pregnancy now. At times, tear gas permeated the neighborhood. Daniel, firm in his solidarity with the protesters, touched Ana’s belly with their son inside and declared him a rebelde.
When Moreno imposed a 24-hour curfew on Saturday, October 12, we worried about what would happen if Ana went into labor early, whether her midwife and doula would be able to make it to the apartment. Daniel’s Plan B was that he would run to the nearby park where many medical personnel were volunteering to help injured protesters and fetch a doctor there.
But late Sunday afternoon there was a lull in the protests and Moreno held talks with the indigenous leaders. Later that evening, there were again sounds of explosions, but this time they were fireworks. Soon church bells pealed. Daniel announced, “!El pueblo ganó!” Ana, relieved and exhausted, went to bed. Daniel layered on sweaters and went out, intending to spend the night rejoicing in the Casa de la Cultura. Minutes later, I also went out into the exhilarating night to join the steady stream of neighbors heading to the park to celebrate.
Here’s a good article that explains what the Ecuadorian people were fighting for.
It’s been a week and a half since the protests ended, and we await the baby.
We speculate on when he will come. Before or after the due date? If after, how long after? We wonder what he will look like, expecting him to be born with a full head of hair the way Ana was. We think he will be plump like both his parents were as babies.
Chances are he will be a thoughtful, artistic, compassionate, justice-advocating human being like his parents. He will be raised with a sense of social justice, a love for the natural world, an aversion to waste and consumerism. He will be Ecuadorian and American with Mexican, Filipino, and Scottish roots.
He will be what this world needs more of – a good and kind human being.