Five years ago I took a seventeen day bug-filled trip to the Peruvian Amazon with a medical group to further my book research. It remains one of the most soul searching, fabulous, horrific, spiritual times of my life. I expected to be an observer. I never anticipated how much my participatory role would change my perspective on life and the lives around me.
Stories from the Amazon:
She was fifteen-years-old – an age when girls are dating, downloading music into their iPods, text messaging, and thinking about how much that upcoming history final is going to blow. But not here in the Peruvian Amazon. It’s a whole different life. Hell, it’s a whole different planet.
Our medical team arrived at a dusty village that hugged the
“Hey, want to help out with a birth?”
I looked up from the screaming scabie-covered three-year-old I was bathing. “Huh? Me?”
Patty smiled. “Sure, why not?”
We dried off my little charge, dressed her in her filthy clothes, and gave her back to her mother, along with a baggie full of medicated soap and instructions – knowing full well they wouldn’t be followed.
I followed Patty to the grass-covered hut that, had this been fortified with A/C and maid service, would have been absolute paradise. While removing my boots, I tried to mask my shock at the mother’s youth. Fifteen. Not that much younger than my daughter. She was in hard labor, scared, and in pain.
“I don’t imagine you have anything for her pain,” I said, staring into the young girl’s deep dark eyes.
Patty shook her head. “The money we get from donations doesn’t cover pain meds for labor and delivery.”
The baby was big and the doc was preparing to do the episiotomy. Having given birth to three kids, I knew those suckers could be painful. I asked if they could hold off for a bit. Sure, they said. Why?
I rubbed my hands together and smiled at the girl. “Let her know that I’m going to place my hands on her stomach.” My Spanish is limited to asking for a beer and directions to the bathroom.
The minute my hands touched her stomach, I felt a surge of energy leap out. It’s like the energy had sat poised, ready to spring like a jaguar at just the right moment. Almost immediately, the girl’s eyes fluttered and closed. I heard that oh-so-satisfying “Ahhh” Moment as she sighed and relaxed.
“Aiyeeee!” the mother wailed while watching her daughter slip into a meditative state. What was I doing to her daughter?
Patty quietly interpreted my explanation. The mother’s eyes widened, and she drew back and looked at me in awe.
“What the hell did you tell her?” I whispered through the side of my mouth.
Patty never got the chance to answer me. The baby’s head crowned, the doc did the episiotomy, and a healthy baby slipped out. Mom came out of her meditative state relaxed and seemingly pain free.
“That was amazing,” Patty said. “I’ve never seen Reiki used like this.”
I wiped my sweaty brow. “Me either. I’m a freaking author, not a midwife.”
The new grandmother pressed a beaded macramé necklace into my hands and thanked me. At least I think she thanked me.
Patty laughed. “She’s calling you a curandera. A healer. Pretty cool for an author.”
One of the smart aleck med students laughed and began bowing. “All hail the curandera!”
Honored beyond belief, I pulled out my best Spanish and ordered a beer.