Graciela Kavulla visited StoryCorps in Houston with her husband, Timothy Kavulla.
Graciela Kavulla visited StoryCorps in Houston with her husband, Timothy Kavulla. StoryCorps
Graciela Kavulla grew up in Texas near her grandmother, Adelaida. Graciela remembers her grandmother being determined to become a midwife — a vital role in her community.
"She was 44 when she started delivering babies," Graciela said. "Before they would see a doctor, the families in the community would come see her."
Graciela recalls that at any hour of the day or night, an urgent knock on the door would bring Adelaida away from her family. Brought out of her bed on some nights, she would quickly change clothes and rush out to help — turning down the coffee her husband would try to make for her.
"Take care of the child," she would tell him. "You will see me when you see me."
It wasn't until Graciela got older that she understood how difficult it had been for her grandmother to become so important in their community. A doctor in McCoy, Texas, had given her some medical books, but there was one problem: She couldn't read.
Adelaida was in the kitchen cooking, and Graciela's grandfather was at the table, reading to her. He was reading a medical book aloud — and Adelaida had to ask him to slow down and repeat what he'd just said.
"And that's when it first occurred to me — she has learned to deliver babies just by what he has read to her," Graciela said.
From that education, a woman who had never attended school worked for more than 30 years delivering babies.
"She was so brave and so strong," Graciela said. "It has felt very powerful to me that she wanted to do this — and nothing was going to stop her."
Produced for Morning Edition by Vanara Taing and Nadia Reiman. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo. Recorded in partnership with Discovery Green and KUHF.