A Roatanian who helped deliver 147 babies
Before Roatan Hospital opened its doors, every baby on the island was born with the aide of a midwife, usually at home. Prior to 1989 a hardy core of caring, knowledgeable midwives helped to bring many generations of Roatanians into this world. In French Harbour there was Elle Hydes, in Oak Ridge there was Truby Puchie. Coxen Hole had Bernadina Palmer, Grace Pryce, Estella Dilbert and Lizzy Lindo.
Genevra ‘Daya’ Brooks, 93, is one such special person. She was born on June 23, 1924 in Flowers Bay on an island that was completely different than today. “We slaughtered a cow on Friday and we ate it on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. People would take their sacks of copra and a few coconuts and paddled to the ship to trade for beans and rice,” Mrs. Daya remembers.
Mrs. Genevra has never met her father Peter Brooks who moved to Tela before she was born. She and her four older brothers were brought up by her mother Virginia Allen who was also a local midwife. “We were raised by God’s help, hard labor and help of family,” says Mrs. Daya who completed six grades at the local Juan Brooks school.
I delivered some by the foot. We say that ‘they stepped out of their mother’s womb
At 25, Mrs. Daya married and moved out of her mother’s house. She supported her family by cooking, baking and raised five children: “I was like a spider. When a spider is born it begins to work.”
Mrs. Daya also took care of several ailing family members. For 30 years she assisted a disabled brother, and for 31 years she took care of her son who was paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. When Daya’s mother began losing her sight, Mrs. Daya took her in and for 25 years tended to her every need until her mother Virginia passed at 102 years old. “I have no regrets, I am happy,” Mrs. Daya says.
It was her mother who taught her daughter how to deliver babies. Mrs. Daya delivered her first baby when she was in her late 30-ies. Her very first baby was Dr. Jackie Woods, a local girl who became a doctor. All-in-all Mrs. Daya has delivered 147 babies.
After each birth Mrs. Daya would massage the mother’s belly and push the stretched skin upward and then tightly wrap the stomach with “brown cotton.” This procedure would help in quickly tightening the skin. “You skin stretches. It takes nine months for baby to come out and it takes nine months for the skin to go in. That is the secret of the belly,” Mrs. Daya says.
Her wisdom comes not form medical books but from experience. “The best time to have a baby is in the first quarter of the moon. Everything is loose then. On the full moon everything is tight: hips, skin. We relate to the moon cycles,” Mrs. Daya explains.
Mrs. Daya would charge 45 Lempiras for delivering a baby and with the earnings she built a beautiful wooden house just across the street from the Church of God school in Coxen Hole. Today that house is full of visiting friends, neighbors, family and an occasional grateful child she helped into this world. “Jesus had no doctor. He was born in the manger ” says Mrs. Daya. “I am proud to be 93 years old and be able to take care of myself; proud of delivering all these babies.”
Even though she retired, in her late seventies Mrs. Daya delivered her last baby. “’Ms. Daya you stopped working, but for God’s sake help us out,’” she recalls a neighbor at her door asking for help. Ms. Daya rushed to the house and cut the umbilical cord. “I could still deliver babies today, if I had to,” she says opening her aluminum toolbox that contained all her tools needed in deliveries.