Play Date

I was at the dog park with Muppet and she was having her usual blissful time running around with the other dogs. The snow has begun to melt creating a large muddy patch at the park, which of course tends to draw all the dogs. Muppets fur soaks its all up and she gets crazy dirty, loving every minute. This day she found a couple of puppies that she played so well with. Coco was a brown and white dog (I am terrible at remembering breeds) just a few months older than Muppet and about the same size. They romped happily giving chase and play biting.

Dog parks are friendly places. Conversation seems to flow easily between puppy parents.

“Which one is yours?”

“What’s his name?”

“How old?”

“Where do you get her groomed?”

We exchange advice on boots for the snow, where to get a cheap light up collar, where there is a do-it-yourself dog bathing station near by.

On this day, Coco’s mom and I struck up conversation. She seemed about 15 years older than me and very friendly. She spoke with an accent and I soon learned she was from Columbia. She told me how she met her husband, an American, while she was vacationing here and ended up moving here for him.

“Our puppies get along so well!” she said. “If you ever want, we have a fenced in yard and live down the street. You can come over with Muppet and they can play!”

She told me how she works, but her mother is at home with Coco during the day.

“but she doesn’t speak English,” she warned.

“Esta bien. Hablo espanol!”

Her eyes widened and she smiled! “That’s great! She would love you! Even if you speak just a little Spanish.” She wanted to know what I did and I explained I was a midwife (“una partera o comodroma” I said when she wasn’t familiar with the English word. “pero en la hospital,” explaining that here midwives practice a little differently). I joked about how my obstetrical and gyn spanish was much better than general conversational Spanish, so hopefully her mother wouldn’t mind if I talked about vaginas! She laughed.

I left the dog park with her name and number to later arrange a puppy playdate. I thought, is this what parents with living children do? Would I be making similar playdates for Mabel, had she lived? Or not because she would have been sick?


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?