Today I perfected a phrase. I figured out how to say “my baby died” in Spanish.
I speak Spanish- sort of. I’m not fluent, more like conversational and I know all the key phrases for female body parts, pregnancy related terms and I can describe vaginal discharge like a boss. I took a year of high school Spanish, a semester in college and a medical Spanish course in grad school. That piecemeal gave me the basics, but I learned how to converse with native speakers. I spent a month in Nicaragua during nursing school, living with a family, working in prenatal clinics and getting Spanish tutoring. Once I was a full fledged midwife, I spent a week volunteering in the Dominican Republic at a poor public hospital. I perfected my obstetrical Spanish while working my first job in a hospital clinic that catered to a lot of undocumented immigrants. When I moved into private practice a few years later, my Spanish speaking population shrunk, but I maintained a small panel of Latino women who sought me out for my bumbling Spanish. I felt terrible at first because since I wasn’t fluent; I felt they ween’t getting as good care as I thought they deserved. But they kept coming back and I came to realize my clumsy Spanish was better than English to them.
Today, I had two Spanish speaking patients back to back. Each congratulated me on the baby.
“Tengo noticias tristes sober la Bebe,” I warned them. “Ella morio.”
I was unsure if my grammar was correct and I wondered is morir was a reflexive verb, but I got my point across.
Spanglish “I’m sorry”s followed and I’m pretty sure one said something along the lines of “trust in God; he has a plan.” I smiled a sad smile, nodding and moved the conversation forward.
Do you ever feel like you’re speaking a different language?