Thursday, May 21, 2015

(today's) Soundtrack at the Heartline Maternity Center

Oh for grace to lay down all my dreams in Him be found 
O for faith to keep it true and never stop believing you 

Oh for grace to lay down all my dreams in Him be found
O for faith to keep it true and never stop believing you

And when it’s strong or when it falls through
Oh lord to know my answer is you

And oh for love to trust some more to fix my eyes on heaven’s shore
And for hope with every step every word my every breath

When it’s strong or when it falls through
Oh lord to know my answer is you

For your light I lose my all, cause I’m not staying here, I’m moving on
So give me strength to hold on tight through stormy gales ‘til morning light

When it’s strong or when it falls through
When it’s strong or when it falls through
When it’s strong or when it falls through
Oh lord to know my answer is you

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Lent has come and gone and therefore so has #lentwithclowns.  No longer are deep spirtual nuggets of wisdom being dropped on us by our clowns children.

That said, on occasion there is still a need to document clown behavior outside of the Lenten Season. Therefore, today we bring you edition one, installment one of #regularlifewithclowns

  • One evening last week I told the kids I would be going to the Maternity Center to paint for a while. Being the domestic goddess that I am I whipped up some cupcakes and put them in the oven before I left.  I usually make homemade frosting but was in a rush to get to the maternity center so I left a store-bought frosting container on the counter for them to use. I asked Troy to take the cupcakes out. When I got home I noticed that the frosting had not been touched but the cupcakes were all gone.  I learned from the children that the frosting was really weird, but also quite delicious.  I said, "but you never opened the frosting."  Domestic goddess turned detective, I figured out that they had used left-over cake batter that didn't fit into the cupcake pan. Cupcakes frosted with cake batter.  You won't find that idea on Pinterest.
  • After Caroline (was here four months to teach) left, we welcomed Bryan last Sunday. Bryan Tucker is a film/documentary maker. (Closure Documentary) He is considering doing a Haiti-related story. (And just for fun he made our kids a swimming video up above.) While he visited us last week he interviewed the kids about life in Haiti.  When Lydia was finished I asked how it went and she said, "Good, I didn't even fart once during my interview."
  • When Phoebe was asked to describe Troy and I, she said, "Daddy is really nice and kind and Mommy doesn't like to get out of bed in the morning."
  • Thankfully in my Mother's Day card Phoebe had said, "Mom, you are all the fruits of the spirit. (then listed them out) You are a piece of cake."  At least I got the card the same week she only had one thing to say about me to Bryan.
  • The kids finished up their school year Friday. They now have a month off before summer-school starts in mid June.  Isaac and Noah get to go to the USA for six weeks. The three girls will be staying in Haiti all summer. This is an odd thing to navigate - they are all getting older and summer in Haiti is long and without a lot of extracurricular activities.  Flying everybody to Grandma and Grandpa is too expensive. Being fair is almost impossible. We try, but it doesn't really work out "fair" very often. Like Homer Simpson says, "You tried and failed miserably, the lesson is, never try." 
  • Troy and I decided we need to have a birds and bees talk (age-appropriate with our different groups/ages) before the summer began.  Troy went camping with the boys and I kept the girls.  At the end of my explanation to Lydia and Phoebe, Lydia said, "Well great, now I have to think about these things."  The next thing she said, "I know one thing, penises are the weirdest thing since sliced bread."  At that point Phoebe said, "Can we stop talking about this now?" 
  • We have five voracious readers in our house. The plan for summer blues and boredom is to read books in front of fans.  If you have great book recommendations for the age groups 7-8 (they have and love Ramona Quimby) and 11-13 (they have and love Little House Series, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, Wings of Fire, Percy Jackson, Francine Rivers) we'd love to hear them.  We will also happily buy used books from anyone selling or purging books. 
On a ride with Mom to bring a new Mom and Baby home

With Bryan Tucker the morning he left Haiti 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fraud, Manipulation, and Heartbreak in Adoption

Adoptions across cultural and international borders are more difficult than I understood when I entered into my own adoption(s) in 2002.  Almost ten years of living in Haiti has taught me a lot about the culture and what parents and families that relinquish their children actually believe.

I believe that many Haitian parents that have relinquished kids do not actually understand what they are signing up for (not all, but many).  I believe from speaking with several of them that their expectations do not line up with the adoptive parent's expectations. Most of the crossed wires are caused by a middle man, the guy with something to gain financially.

I know that saying that adopting a "poor child" is not necessarily reason to pat yourself on the back or earn you any thanks makes folks that have adopted feel defensive and decide to label me cynical or anti-adoption.  I am not anti-adoption.  Cynical?  Yeah, probably. But I dare you to watch this system up close for a few years and try to to keep from landing in this exact spot. 

There are just far too many ways to manipulate materially poor folks. It matters not where they are located, they are preyed upon across the globe whenever there is money to be made. 

This is a link to an article on a community in NW Arkansas where a population of Marshallese emigrants have been taken advantage of by those in the business of adoption. 

It grieves me that this happens ANYWHERE, but the fact that it happens in the USA makes me want to lie on the ground and bawl my head off.  I recognize that accomplishes nothing, so in addition to doing that I am sharing this article and encouraging you take an hour or two to read it. 

My friend Seth Haines, an attorney in the NW corner of Arkansas, said this when we were discussing the article and the trouble with cultural differences:

"The cultural disconnect of international adoption is not something often discussed by either the relinquishing family OR the adoptive family. I think it would change the dynamic if it were. But who's going to do it? The lawyer who stands to make money? The organization? It's one of those gaps in the system where people need training."

LAST JUNE, WITHIN A SINGLE SPRINGDALE-AREA HOSPITAL, six Marshallese children were adopted in just three days. Making her rounds of the nursery the following Monday, the numbers struck pediatrician Stacy Furlow as impossible. “We wouldn’t have had six adoptions in a year five years ago,” she said. According to one person with inside knowledge of adoption proceedings, about 90 percent of the adoptions in Washington County now involve Marshallese babies.
Like everyone in the region, Furlow, a cheerful, animated mother of four, with a wavy blond bob and welcoming smile, had followed the growth of the Marshallese community with interest. When she was in high school in Fayetteville in the late ’80s, Springdale was so racially homogeneous that she sensed tension when Fayetteville’s multiracial sports teams traveled there to play. To Furlow, the diversification of the community—it’s now 40 percent Pacific Islander and Latino—was a positive development, evidence of a little pocket of progressivism.
Furlow, who has done volunteer health work in Haiti and has developed familiarity with conditions common to developing-world children, ended up building a practice where she sees many adoptive families. But as more and more adoptive parents began coming to her office with newborn Marshallese babies in tow, she was puzzled. Her corner of the Ozarks, it seemed, was becoming the new destination for international adoptions—and this development was bringing along with it some of the ugliest baggage of cultural misunderstanding. On one adoption blog Furlow stumbled upon, a would-be mother wrote of the Springdale Marshallese, “these people make babies.” An Alabama church that had sent nearly two dozen members on a mission to Springdale claimed to have returned home with promises from several pregnant women, according to one adoptive parent’s blog.
(By Kathryn Joyce)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It Is Good To Remember: Mica's Story

After a busy prenatal day we went to the file cabinet to search for Mica’s file. 

We quickly found it, organized by her son’s date of birth in the April 2014 section of the file cabinet.

“Let’s take a trip down memory lane”, we said.

“Come sit with us, Mica.”

We sat on the bed looking over her file together.  Her story is one that we are all a small part of, one none of us will ever forget.

She smiled and laughed as we recalled the first time each of us met her. 

She says her story is a picture of God’s healing and grace and she wants us to share His faithfulness with you.

* * * *

Mica arrived at the Maternity Center in late 2013 at the urging of neighbors and friends that knew she needed help.

Fifteen days into a dating relationship, the man Mica had just begun to get to know sexually assaulted her.

Very quickly after the rape, Mica was devastated to learn she was pregnant.

In her 9th week of pregnancy, we met a woman clearly hurting and suffering from depression and trauma. 

Not only had she suffered the assault and the trauma surrounding it, but she also had the weight of many decisions to make surrounding the baby she carried.  

Mica’s church asked her to step down from her position leading worship and singing. A single pregnant woman is something the church believed it should hide. The shame Mica took upon herself after that was unfair and heavy.

We began to work with Mica much the way we begin with each woman.  The Maternity Center is about community and relationship; both of those things take time. Each week we learned a little more about Mica, her history, her dreams, and her personality. 

She struggled for months wondering if she could love a baby that was a product of such a traumatic event in her life. 

Over the next several months we listened and tried to remain supportive of what Mica needed as she made her decisions for herself and her unborn baby.

The delivery day arrived. Mica arrived in early labor and worked hard all day to make progress. 

Watching someone dig deep and muster up courage to fight both physical and emotional pain is something we all consider a holy moment.  

That day we were in the front row for several holy moments, just as we have continued to be many times since then.

Mica’s baby was positioned in her pelvis with a “face presentation”.

Most babies who are presenting face first are born just as normally as babies who are in a vertex presentation (crown first).

Complications will generally only occur if the baby's chin rotates towards the woman's back rather then towards the front. The chin is referred to as the 'mentum', and this position is called a 'mentum-posterior position', it only happens with about 10% of babies in a face position. 

Thankfully, Mica’s baby had his chin rotated toward the front (‘mentum-anterior position’) and we talked with Mica and all believed we were safe to continue on with a delivery at our Maternity Center.

After several hours of labor Mica’s membranes ruptured. (The bag of waters broke.) When that happened the baby began to show obvious signs of distress and we quickly moved toward the ambulance for a traffic-filled and dramatic ride to the hospital.

Mica delivered her son, Cael, via cesarean section shortly after arriving at the hospital. 

We were able to visit Mica, but definitely felt sad to not be able to care for her immediately following delivery. We knew she would benefit from being loved and cared for by a staff that knew her history and could better meet her emotional needs. 

Once the hospital discharged Mica, she came to rest for many days at the postpartum room at Heartline’s Maternity Center.

There were several people praying for Mica in those days.  Maybe you were one of them. 

We prayed, observed, hoped, and wondered if a bond would be formed between Mother and child and we were thrilled as we watched it happen before our eyes.

The recovery was slow for Mica. She suffered from Mastitis and had the Chikungunya Virus in the weeks she was also recovering from a C-Section. She fought hard for healing and for her son. We learned a lot from watching her.

All women that wish to come for Early Childhood Development class for six months following their delivery are invited to come each Tuesday.  Mica faithfully attended each Tuesday for six months.

Not too long after Mica graduated from the program we asked her if she would like to consider joining us on Wednesdays at the state-run maternity hospital.  We were planning to teach breastfeeding and sing a song there each week and Mica’s voice and singing talent are unparalleled.  

Mica agreed to join us on Wednesdays and shortly thereafter she joined our team as a regular staff member, putting to use the skills she had learned in a nursing school several years prior.

One day earlier this year a couple of us had the same thought. We wondered if perhaps Mica would want to take her nursing assistant degree and use that base of knowledge to apply for training as a Certified Birth Attendant.  

The shortest possible version of that story is this:  Mica passed the entrance test with flying colors, was accepted into the Midwives for Haiti Birth Attendant class of 2015-2016, and a generous sponsor has agreed to cover the costs of her schooling. She will begin her training this summer. 

We are all incredibly excited to have Mica in the birth room with us. We know we will get to see her use her difficult experiences to love and serve other hurting women.

* * * *

Late last week in the month of April, on the one-year anniversary of the day Cael was born, we sat on the bed together remembering all that God has done, all that Mica has accomplished, all the grace and mercy we have been witnesses to this last year and a half. 

It is good to remember.

~From Heartline Ministries May Newsletter~

Thursday, May 7, 2015

By Marilyn Gardner, The State of the World's Mothers

photo: esther havens

Every year around Mother’s Day a report is released from Save the Children called the “State of the World’s Mothers.” And every year, I write about it.
Because it is so important to me. If I could spend all day every day with moms and babies, I would. There are so many reasons for this – but partly its because I have five of my own and I learned so much from those younger days. I know what helped and I definitely know what didn’t help. Healthy moms and babies are critical to a healthy world.
In the last 60 plus years, the number of city dwellers in the world has increased by over 20%, so that half the world’s population now lives in the city. While this creates incredible advantages for many of us, there are many others who live in extreme poverty where disease is prevalent, nutrition poor, and violence high. The World Health Organization (WHO) “estimates that nearly a billion people live in urban slums, shantytowns, on sidewalks, under bridges, or along the railroad tracks.” One of the worst places in the world for a mom and a baby to be is in a city slum. 
Go HERE to Read Marilyn's entire post, including her kind words about our Maternity Center in Port-au-Prince.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Midwife = WITH WOMEN

We believe that *every* safe birth in Haiti is cause for celebration. 

Today we celebrate the 400 ++ babies (and their amazing mothers) that have been born at the Heartline Maternity Center safely.

If you want to help women in Haiti deliver safely,  please DONATE here.   

More than anything, we need partners that will give $20, $30, $50 a month to help us with monthly operating costs. Please consider joining the effort to help Mothers deliver safely while we reduce orphans in Haiti, by supporting us financially. 

Key midwifery concepts that define the unique role of midwives:

  • partnership with women to promote self-care and the health of mothers, infants, and families;
  • respect for human dignity and for women as persons with full human rights;
  • advocacy for women so that their voices are heard;
  • cultural sensitivity, including working with women and health care providers to overcome those cultural practices that harm women and babies;
  • a focus on health promotion and disease prevention that views pregnancy as a normal life event. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Honor Your Mother

You know what?  
Not *just* your mother...
Three generations of strong women

...Actually, honor every woman that has spoken wisdom and love into your life.  

Maybe that is your mom, maybe it is another special woman.

For the second year we are offering you a chance to honor someone you love - by giving a gift to a woman in Haiti -in their name.  

Please know that your gift tangibly (for real for REAL) helps a Haitian woman come to our Maternity Center and receive high quality care in an environment most women in Haiti have never experienced or imagined.  Not only does your gift offer love and a safe place to deliver to a woman, it also reduces maternal mortality and effectively prevents orphans in the country of Haiti. 

To participate in this Mother's Day event,
please go to this link. 


With love and appreciation for the women who teach us,


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Labor of Sisyphus

When my friend, Dokte Jen was here a couple weeks ago, we were talking about the State run Maternity Hospital in Port au Prince. We were lamenting the difficulties there and discussing why it is so hard going there and seeing what happens (or doesn't happen) there.

Jen wondered if maybe it was a little bit like the character from Greek Mythology, named Sisyphus. The story of Sisyphus varies a bit. As a punishment the gods required that Sisyphus roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again, he repeated this action over and over again. 

The phrase "labor of Sisyphus" refers to any hopeless task that must be repeated endlessly.

For whatever the reasons, (mostly just lack of facts and training) going into this hospital and suggesting (to mothers, aunties, nurses, and doctors) that new mothers should in fact hold their babies (skin to skin!) and can also nurse them and do not (not not not) need to wait two or three days until the milk comes in to offer the baby the breast, it does feel a bit like rolling a boulder up a hill every Wednesday. 

This morning a smaller than usual group from the Heartline Maternity Center headed to engage in some Sisyphus-like work for a couple of hours. 

The hospital is sometimes filled with patients. On other occasions we find it mainly empty. Sometimes strikes or protests keep the Doctors from coming.

Of course while there, there-are several other challenges too. 

Observing the way the educated (Doctors, Nurses, Med Students) often-times treat the (mainly less educated) patients and the lack of respect and kind-attention the patients receive is its own separate (boulder) difficulty.  Most people are given almost zero information about their own health.

Any attitude with them (the providers at the hospital) or perceived disrespect of their methods or "their turf" could mean the patients we hoped to advocate for are treated even worse (in retaliation). We are the guests, after all. 

When I feel my anger and throat punchyness rising up at the shoddy care-(not)-providers, I have to mentally (inner dialogue tape - on repeat) remind myself that when we are not leading by loving, or serving while offering genuine kindness (to all), we become as guilty as those we wish to throat-punch. 

A long-dead atheist named Nietzsche said it like this, "Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster..."

That is fair warning, and I want to beware. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Put a Heart on It

Our youngest child loves to stand over our shoulders and tell us what she approves of on various social media sites.   As we scroll through things on our phones or computer she will shout out, "Put a heart on it!" when she likes what she sees.

Lydia gives out hearts fairly freely, pushing us all to "like" and love with a similar seven-year-old abandon.

Here are some things I want to 'put a heart on' and remember...

  • In March of 2015 we welcomed a bunch of people into the mosquito-filled guest room. Britt, Paige, Graham, Vince, and Dr, Jen all arrived in the month of March.
  • The last couple weeks are a blur of activity.  I close my eyes and see babies crowning. After so many nights of interrupted sleep, the entire staff stops speaking their second language, remembering names of their children, or how to find their way to the grocery store a half mile away. As you can imagine, things get very hilarious. Freak laughter turning into tears is one of many warning flags that a looooong sleep is needed.
  • The kids have been enjoying the temporary addition of Caroline at their school.  Their teacher, Jimmy, has been juggling five grades and a lot of curriculum and Caroline has proven to be especially helpful in the Mathematics department.  She leaves for her new grown-up life in TN in less than a month and Troy and I are bracing ourselves for sad kids.
  • Easter Sunday was good, even sans Troy-boy we enjoyed the day. At our little house church we had communion. Because I was seated right next to the table it was being offered, I saw an opportunity to serve each of my kids their communion without disrupting anyone else. I served Lydia and Phoebe, then Hope. To each of them I whispered, "This is Christ's body, broken for you. This is Christ's blood, shed for you." They nodded in agreement and solemnly and took the bread and juice from me. I motioned for the boys to come to the table. Noah arrived and I handed him his bread and said, "This is Christ's body broken for you." He looked at me with an expression of disgust and insult and said, "Yeah. I know that." OkkeeeDokee. Noted.  If you want to see how that makes the folks that serve you communion feel, I suggest you try that response for yourself some time.
  • Troy went to Peru for 9 days and had an amazing time with two friends. Collectively they left 13 kids and 3 wives (one per) behind to have their little faux mid-life crisis adventure.  It sounds like they were fairly responsible and had epic fun motorbiking through the Sacred Valley beneath the Andes Mountains. Troy said it was breathtakingly beautiful.
  • Kids know when they have parents at their wits end.  When my kids are being blind, and don't seem to recognize my dwindling patience, I usually just announce that they are all at risk of having their entire head removed in one swift bite.  The last night Troy was away I instructed kids to go shower. We usually have a little negotiation over who will use which shower.  It's dumb, I don't know why we do it.  Anyway, they all took off and I sat in the kitchen chatting with Jen and KJ for a bit.  When I went upstairs to tuck the two little ones in we chatted and tickled (a favorite thing to do right before sleep because stupid parenting) for a few minutes. As I said goodnight - Lydia said, "Oh dang, we hurried up to shower and get ready for nothing. I thought you were in a bad mood but you're not." 
  • Hope got to go to the Dominican Republic with friends this weekend. Three teenagers and three brave 20-somethings took the border by storm and went off on a girls weekend. With Hope away and the boys gone at a sleepover, Troy and I had one night with only the last two children.  We asked them what they wanted to do with the special night of just the two of them?  They requested to drink Sprite and go buy ice-cream at the grocery store. We jumped in the car quickly and made sure to enjoy a chance-evening with the "baby" girls. We let them choose their ice cream and served gargantuan bowls of it.  Phoebe noted that, "Some day when the big kids are in college, we will party like this and eat ice cream with Mom and Dad every time we want!"  Possibly feeling bad for enjoying the absence of her siblings she added, "The big kids will just be able to buy Sprite for themselves whenever they want and drink it all day long."
  • Our friends (John Dols and Josh Dwyer) from Minnesota brought a group from the High School they work at for a week in Haiti. They were hosted by another ministry. We met up with them once for dinner and once for a beach day. On the dinner night the kids were asked questions. "What is your favorite fast food to eat when you go to the USA?" was one question that left five kids staring like deer in headlights.  Hope finally came through with, "PeiWei".  Then we determined that fast food is not our favorite at all and the question itself was flawed. Our kids had been invited the previous year to the beach day and had expectations based on the group from last year.  Sometime mid-day Noah informed me that this year's teenagers were much less interested in hanging out and rowdy housing on the beach. He said, "I guess they only brought introverts this year."

Hiking above Cazale in late March 

double date with Caroline and Vince
Jen was here 12 days to help with kids and driving 
Easter Sunday 

four of the six babies from April babystorm week 2015

Hope making chocolate in the D.R. this weekend

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Birth & Whispered Prayers

The staff at the Maternity center unanimously agrees, we love our jobs. We love the vision and mission of the Maternity Center. We adore the women we work with. We are in the trenches together and our bond is one that can only be formed by the deep knowing of what is at stake each time we enter that birth room.  

Practicing midwifery in a country where giving birth results in more maternal (and infant) death than any other country in our hemisphere - means practicing acutely aware of the possibilities and even more aware of our need for provision.

When thing get tense in the birth room, whether it be a stuck shoulder, a floppy baby, a hemorrhage, or the threat of a seizure, the language in the room changes.  Prayers are quietly uttered, usually simultaneously. 

"Jesus, bring this baby out."

"God, help us."

"Breathe baby, BREATHE."

"Make this placenta come"

"Please stop the bleeding"

Of course all sorts of actions are happening along with the prayers, but the prayers are a love language and the moments are holy. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Us

In some seasons there is time and space for deeper reflection than others. The Lent Season of 2015 was not one of reflecting, soul searching, or figuring out what the core of me believes and celebrates. It is a choice to slow down enough to reflect. Not unlike a lot of folks, I choose to stay busy enough to avoid reflection more often than not. 

I don't know how life on this difficult little island changes my experience, but I know it changes my experience.  Life and death are very real in the day-to-day here. In a matter of hours I may witness both.

The other night on one short drive I saw two young men in two separate locations injured and dying on the side of the road. (Nobody in those two vicinities expected a 911 call to equal a rapid response. They stood by while the injured men suffered.) 

Last night I again witnessed the birth of new life as a beautiful and brave young mother asked us several times to pray for her; then confidently pushed her little baby girl into my hands.  

I loved what my friend and midwife said about that birth:
"What a beautiful, middle of the night birth. We entered just as mom was ready to begin the pushing process. This young woman had already birthed trust, love for her baby, and a true knowing of what she had to do. It was holy. The rain had finished, the night was still with us, the moon red (or so I heard tell) and this first time mom reached into that confident place, grabbed her believing, grabbed us and grabbed God and delivered a baby girl. It was art. It was how it can be done."

As a follower of a crucified and risen King, I often times struggle to "grab my believing" - to focus on the hope of resurrection and the promise of new life while surrounded by the weight of death and injustice. 

I need to learn how to better grab my believing and celebrate Easter.  

Walter Brueggemann wrote a poem for Ash Wednesday called "Marked by Ashes" and in that poem he says: 

Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.Come here and Easter our Wednesday withmercy and justice and peace and generosity.

In my desire to learn to be better at hope and better at resurrection, I am praying. Today, may the Resurrected One Easter us to joy, hope, mercy, justice, peace and generosity. Easter us, Lord. May The light defeat the darkness. May Your hope overcome my grief. May unusual peace reign in my heart prone to chaos. 
He is risen means death does not have the final word. Easter us, Lord. Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Metaphors for March

topography təˈpɒɡrəfi/ noun 1. the arrangement of the natural and artificial physical features of an area. "the topography of the island"

If life is like topography, than Haiti is the perfect ground for experiencing *all* that life has to offer.

This land we love and sometimes always struggle to understand has beautiful mountainous regions, a (central) plateau, and a large (Artibonite) valley.  

Those word pictures and the emotions they evoke can easily be used to describe a week of life in Haiti.  

One month and sometimes even as little as a few days can deliver a mountain top high, a valley of despair and a bit of a frustration plateau. 

In just a couple of weeks time, some topography at the Maternity Center: 

  • Three seven pound babies are born safely in a clean, loving, calm environment
  • A soon-to-be first time mother loses her confidence in her care-providers and opts to go in search of an unwarranted Cesarean section - we do not hear from her again after many months of working together weekly
  • Another first time mother suffering from preeclampsia has her labor induced and works hard and believes in herself and her ability and the care-givers and delivers a healthy baby - a high risk birth ends successfully in a vaginal delivery - good news for a first time mother
  • A woman cries in despair over the news of her pregnancy
  • A woman cries with joy and wonder as she watches her baby move on the ultrasound screen - she has lost two other babies, this baby has made it further than any other
  • A woman explains the thick scars all over her arm and chest as something that happened in a ceremony when she was a child, the explanation is given as if she were saying, "I fell and skinned my knee"
  • A woman joyfully explains her first born child is 17 and for 17 years she has used birth control, now that she happily finds herself pregnant she believes she is having twin girls - we tell her it is too early to know for certain and she says emphatically, "Pray for me. I will have twin girls" One of us prays and she laughingly demands that the other pray too - she makes us all hope for answered prayer
  • A first time mother and her newborn are dropped off to their corrugated tin shack that sits along a river filled with trash - no one welcomes them home or greets them upon their return
  • Another mother is dropped off to a clean block home - greeted by her proud husband - she shows us the beautiful crib her mother bought the baby
  • A woman with a eight week old calls to say she went "andeyo" (to the countryside) and her baby is not well, the doctors say they cannot do anything for her - to try another hospital
  • We get news that Mica, a graduate of our program turned staff member, and the voice behind the songs that are sung on program days, was accepted into an Midwifery/Birth Attendant program in Haiti - a victory of giant proportions
  • A woman whose baby has died during delivery at the local hospital is engorged and in excruciating pain, staff members, KJ and Mica, hand express milk into a towel to relieve a frustratingly insufficient portion of her suffering
  • A nurse runs up to hug and greet us at the hospital, happy to see the breastfeeding-singers arriving yet again
  • Mothers with living babies lie close enough to reach out and touch mothers with dead babies in a post-operative room at the same hospital
  • A woman joyfully bounces out of the consultation room, happy to have a spot to receive prenatal and postnatal care even though she will travel 30 miles on public transportation that will take several hours to transport her to our doorstep each Thursday
  • Several woman learn that we do not have space to allow them into the program
  • A mom brings her son back on his first birthday to see us and take photos together to celebrate

While we always traverse unpredictable terrain in Haiti, we rest in the knowledge that we never walk alone. 

Your friendship, your prayers, and your stubborn care for this little island are profoundly evident to us in the day-to-day.  
Thank-you for walking with us.  
Let's keep going. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

the babies are in town

Saturday Britt arrived.  She lived in Haiti from right before her 16th birthday until she was about 17 and a half years old.  She is turning 25 this month and is in school and on her way to becoming a (PA) Physician Assistant.  

One of the gifts Haiti gave Britt was the recognition of her love for patient care and all things medical at a young age.  Thanks to some really solid Nurses and Docs, she was able to do a lot of wound care while she lived here. We are appropriately proud  (which is to say we are very proud) of her and the way she is chasing her dream.  

Related: Middle age has hit us like a ton of cement blocks, we need her to usher us into our arthritic years with free flowing cortisone and daughterly PA love.

Paige and Graham arrived on Monday the 9th and have been drawing crowds of excited friends at each place they visit.  Paige wasn't very impressed with me at the airport because I greeted Graham before her.  "Mother! Hug me first." 

I hadn't previously realized there were rules in place about that. 

I fully understand now.

I am annoying everyone with my constant photo requests.  My obsession with having them all in one place may also drive my obsession to photograph the togetherness frequently. Thankfully, Troy has a tripod and a timer and no other unsuspecting person is forced into being involved in the photo shoot.

Paige led a breastfeeding support/discussion group at the Maternity Center last Tuesday and Thursday. It went really well.  Graham was a perfect (because Graham IS perfect) visual aid with his thick thighs. Paige confirmed for the ladies that yes, even though she has the financial ability to buy other foods, Graham is five months old and has only ever been breastfed. 

Tomorrow Britt is going to teach on sexually transmitted infections/diseases - not nearly as fun to chat about as breastfeeding, but equally important information.  

It is wonderful to have the "big" girls "home" for a few days.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

a lesson from Mikerlange

May 2013

Much can be said about the birth rate in developing world countries. There are multiple systemic and cultural issues at play. It doesn't take more than a couple comments on any given Haiti news story to see someone commenting something along the lines of, "Why don't they just stop having so many babies".  

The answer to that is completely and totally complicated and nuanced, of course.  There are far too many things at play to quickly answer those questions.  It is much more difficult to truly learn and understand the nuances of a culture of poverty, than it is to criticize and judge. Bummer fact, the world is overflowing with people sitting in high places casting down the oh-so-simple-answers and the quick judgment. 

Today I'm sharing a couple photos for the sake of changing paradigms - my own paradigm included.

The first photo in this post is of a brand new first time Mom, Mikerlange, that delivered her little one with us after many months attending Prenatal classes.  She lives in what would most likely be described as "abject" poverty and is fairly cognitively delayed/challenged. 

To be utterly honest with you, I really thought "that baby probably won't live" as we drove them home after weeks of postpartum care and snapped this picture one day in May 2013. 

The second photo is from Tuesday of this week.  Pictured here is that same Mom. She is (with help of her community) raising her daughter. Her daughter appears to be well cared for and healthy. She will turn two in May. 

March 2015

Most of us that are economically more secure tend to think that we automatically (because bank account) have a better skill set for raising children.  

At times we have seen this play out in really sad ways.  It is a quick hop, skip, and jump from "Wow, she is poor and raising children" to, "I could raise them better than her". We watch people make those leaps frequently. Sometimes it leads to abuse of power and heartbreaking treatment and marginalization of people. Orphanages are filled with kids with living mothers who believe they are too poor to raise their child well. I recognize now that technically speaking, when we showed up here to adopt, we unknowingly reinforced that idea.

Multiple years working directly with new ("poor") mothers has proven to me that material poverty doesn't disqualify anyone from being a good, and even excellent parent.  There might be reasons some women don't do as well as mothers or struggle to bond, but it is not necessarily tied to one's material wealth. 

Today I say congratulations to Mikerlange for proving me wrong.  She nursed this baby girl for many, many months. She cared for her daughter well and she deserves our prayers and all the props available to her - for a job well started.  

Go, Mikerlange, go.