Marshallese women suffer silently and differently from the men who were exposed to radiation. Our culture and religion teaches us that reproductive abnormalities are a sign that women have been unfaithful. For this reason, many of my friends keep quiet about the strange births they have had. In privacy, they give birth, not to children as we like to think of them, but to things we could only describe as "octopuses," "apples," "turtles" and other things in our experience. We do not have Marshallese words for these kinds of babies, because they were never born before the radiation came.
Women on Rongelap, Likiep, Ailuk and other atolls in the Marshall Islands have given birth to these "monster babies." Many of these women are from atolls the foreign officials have told us were not affected by radiation. We know otherwise, because the health problems are similar to ours. One woman on Likiep gave birth to a child with two heads. Her cat also gave birth to a kitten with two heads. There is a young girl on Ailuk today with no knees, three toes on each foot and a missing arm.
The most common birth defects on Rongelap and nearby islands have been "jelly fish" babies. These babies are born with no bones in their bodies and with transparent skin. We can see their brains and hearts beating. The babies usually live for a day or two before they stop breathing. Many women die from abnormal pregnancies, and those who survive give birth to what looks like purple grapes that we quickly bury.
Monday, February 13, 2006
The Dreams Of Reason