Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three Years - You are not stagnant - but the advice remains the same


On the occasion of your THIRD Birthday, I am sending you this letter I wrote to you before I knew your face, once again.

To our first grandson, some thoughts on life

Dear little man,

It hardly seems possible that in four weeks you will be with us on the outside. Enjoy these last weeks in your mommy because being carried around in there is by far the easiest of all the options in life. Your old Mojo (that is me) sometimes wishes she could get back in the dark womb and hide in the warmth and peace for a bit.  (Don't be concerned about me, I won't actually attempt to do it.) I am not trying to scare you, I am just saying - enjoy it. That right there, inside your Momma, is the high life.

There are so many things I want to share with you.  Things about your Mom, things about this family, things about my mistakes and things I hope you can learn without pain. Learning is hard, it takes so many tries. To me it seems that most of us need to learn the hard way. We learn slowly, we fall, we stand up, repeat, repeat. 

I wish I could tell you ALL things that would help it be easier on you. More than that, I wish you could listen and truly hear me. The thing is, I know that you cannot.  I know you cannot  because I did not, and your Mommy did not. Because that is not a thing. We seem to be a gene pool that wants to get knocked around a bit as we learn.

Having said that I know I cannot save you from all pain or from making mistakes, there are just a few things I decided you might like to know before you come out into this boisterous and chaotic world. 

Love wins. Every time.

Now you might be saying to your baby self, what does that even mean, Mojo?  That is so abstract! You sound like a hippie or something. Let me tell you: As you grow up, you will find that sometimes things hurt you or make you angry.  Someone might misunderstand you, say something hurtful, or even intentionally lash out at you. When things hurt, when we hurt, we always want to curl up, withdraw, or strike back. That is just how we are, this gene pool.  

Your old Mojo wants to tell you that love never returns void.  I know you don't know the word void yet.  Let me try again.  When you are hurt, if you can try super hard to love yourself and love others around you, even the person that was mean to you, that will never be something you live to regret. A regret is something you later wish you could change.  The things I wish I could change in my life are all things that I did when I was very hurt or angry. We read that a soft answer turns away wrath, but a grievous word stirs up anger. That just means, when someone hurts you, you return their insult with a loving response. This sounds simple, but it is so crazy hard. It might take you fifty or sixty years to get it right.  I  know people that died very old that never quite got how important kind words and love are. Your Mommy and Daddy are going to teach you about love, watch them closely. I think they both know a lot about love.

Forgivness is so hard, but it is a part of love.  

This one is gonna be rough, there is just no way around it. I am sorry to hit you with so much before you even get here.  I just want it to be easy for you later, that's all. There is a man named MLK Jr. that I hope you will learn about that said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” That is a way of saying, forgiveness has to be worked at non-stop. People will hurt you, if you are able you will respond with love, but you will still have the work of forgiving ahead of you. If you try to continue to love someone you have not forgiven, you will get a big old smack of reality right between your blue eyes, it is basically impossible. Forgiveness just means that you don't allow that hurt to continue to cause you pain. You turn it over and cross it off, and it no longer acts as a weight you must carry.

One of my very favorite Dutch guys, his name is Henri, said it his way, “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”  

To simplify for you, Henri was trying to say this: Forgiveness is really just love, and you already know how important love is.

Nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

This is just something you figure out when you reach 40 or so.  I am telling you early, to save you the trouble.  Sometimes it feels like the pain won't go away, or the embarassment or shame is just insanely HUGE and earth-shattering.  It does feel that way in the moment, your Mojo knows it so well. This might sound silly to you, but just give it a few weeks.  After a few weeks things seem smaller. You are just gonna have to trust me on this one until you get a chance to see for yourself.

~           ~            ~

Now that I have shared those things, I feel like I should say one more thing to you.  Someday, when you are quite a bit older, you will learn about my reaction to the news of you.  You might hear that I cried and felt overwhelmed for your Mommy and Daddy.  You might learn that for a few weeks we had a bit of hard time. Then, like number three says, we woke up a few weeks later and realized that things were going to be okay. We figured out that it was not so big or impossible. Not only did we realize that things were going to be okay, we got quite excited about the prospect (do you know that word? it means the coming possibility) of meeting you, holding you, smelling you, and getting to know you. 

More than 30 weeks have passed since I learned about your little beating heart inside your mommy. In those weeks I have prayed for you, loved you more each day, and watched your Mommy's tummy grow and begin moving like crazy. (She sends me videos. What is it you are doing in there, exactly? Nobody expects you to produce work until you are a bit older, take a load off and get some rest while you can, because it is not nearly so calm and dark out here.) When I meet you in just a few short weeks I know I will be in awe of you. I hope you will show me some of those fancy moves once there is more space to perform. 

I need you to know, the time it took for me to get totally excited, was really just fear.  I was afraid for your Mom and Dad and for you, too. It was unnecessary fear, I know that now.  I guess you get your first chance at forgiving (which we already know is love), right away. Forgive me for being fearful about you, please.  

I am so excited to meet you. I think we are going to like each other a lot. 

all my heart,


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

What a Vas deferens you made in our life (a birth story)

Sometimes life is incredibly strange.  

Let it be said on this the tenth anniversary of the birth of Lydia Beth Livesay:  There is nothing stranger than stopping in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  
At least not for our family.

October 4, 2007 - Lucky No. 7 joined us

Let me take you back to the beginning.

In 2003 we were living in Zimmerman, MN. At the time Troy worked for the local phone company and I was mainly home with newly adopted Isaac and Hope.  I worked a part time job managing a banquet facility a few evenings and weekends a month.  We were waiting on the birth of Noah Livesay, our surprise after-adoption pregnancy.

In March of 2004 Noah made a huge deal of arriving while also simultaneously trying to die. His one minute APGAR score was a 1.  If you have ever read this weblog before, you obviously know he made it and came home to Zimmerman to make us a five kid family.   

Troy was 28 years old. I was 31 years old.

Troy **might** have had a total and complete hysterical meltdown over being the father of and/or responsible party for five children. I am not coming right out and SAYING he did. I am just saying it is POSSIBLE that he did. By "possible" I mean "probable" and by "probable" I mean, yes, 100% for sure. He was disoriented and freaking out about the financial responsibly and the cost of diapers alone for three children all in diapers at once. He had a panic filled month of March to May 2004.

In June of 2004 Troy turned 29 years old. That month, when Noah was only three months old Troy announced that he was going to get a vasectomy.  At first it seemed logical to me. Yes, of course, five kids is a lot.  Do it.  Never mind your age or our relative youthfulness. We cannot sustain this current circus so why risk more clowns on the tour. Chop that shit up and get us out of here alive, that’s all I ask.

Around the time that he went for his consult, I started to feel like it was not the right choice. I attempted to put the brakes on but Troy had long since advanced into the ‘no turning back’ zone and he wasn't willing to hear me out. We had three or four tense conversations about it and he was all, "Woman. You're not stopping me." 

I ended up refusing to help him get to or from his appointment on the day of the procedure because I wasn’t at all on board and had failed at talking him into at least waiting a few months to think it over more seriously. 

I have no idea who brought him or picked him up, but it wasn’t me.  I was wicked ticked off and I’m not sure I even brought him frozen peas in the days after.  I’m not big on sympathy for any variety of man physical pain anyway, but this was down right cold-heartedness on my part.

A few days after his procedure we had to drive to a Porter Family Reunion in Branson, MO and I was not nice about his discomfort on that ride either. 

Life was happening at a furious pace in those days. I was home with two two-year olds and a newborn and training for my first half marathon and getting a high-school-aged kid to and from school and swim practice as well as delivering the 4th grader to another school each day. Even though I only worked part time at night or on weekends, it felt like chaos to both Troy and I. Keeping all the balls (DOH!) in the air in those days was pretty mind-numbing.  With all that crazy-making the tiff about the severed vas deferens sort of faded into the background by the end of 2004.

Around June 2005, a year after Troy’s procedure, I started to be annoyed again and thought all sorts of super holy and self-righteous things.  I actually said, “You did this and we never even prayed about it.  What if we were not done with our family yet?!?”  Troy listened at that point but he was like,  “Yeah, well. What is done is done. So I guess we need to let that go.” 

I agreed with him but in the way that you agree when you don’t agree. Within moments I marched to the computer to use internet explorer and see what a vasectomy reversal might cost or entail.

I found all sorts of wonky info, as one can often do when searching the world wide web. Mostly I found that we would need many thousand dollars to do it.

I put my name into some group about the blessed arrows - they firmly believed that birth control was always wrong and that limiting your fertility was like flipping God the bird. I did not think that was the case and I have no issues with birth control or limiting the size of your family by preventing pregnancy.  I only had an issue with Troy and his decision and wanted to know what could be done if we desired to un-do the 2004 decision.

That research all happened in the same months of 2005 that we had started to strongly consider a move to Haiti.  Isaac and Hope were both close to turning four and Noah was 16 months old.  We had the big idea that we might want to move to Haiti, we just didn’t know when. We began to actively research what jobs were available in Haiti and we met John and Beth McHoul online that summer. We ended up visiting them in September of 2005 on a visit to see the place we planned to move.

Things back in those early years of our marriage were always a little bit out of control. Whatever took normal people a few years to do, took us seventeen minutes.  We bought a house fast, we bought new vehicles fast, we bought a boat (story of that purchase is excellent Troy mockery, saving for another day), we went from two manageable-aged children to five not-at-all-manageable kids in a matter of 18 months. We added a huge addition to the house. 

In October 2005 we started planning to move to Haiti and within 58 days the funds we needed in order to move had been raised and our house had been rented for 18 months.  Nothing was slow to happen. If people had not seen us in a year they were guaranteed to look at us like, “What is wrong with you people?”  It was much.  I see that now in hindsight.  

In December of 2005 we were having Christmas in South Texas with my family.  It was a big emotional deal and everybody was all stuck in feelings and drama because our tickets to move to Haiti were purchased for mid January.  I was sitting outside in the backyard of my parents house when an email came in telling me that we had been selected by the Blessed Arrow group to receive a free vasectomy reversal. You get those emails too I'm sure.

The details were such that we could only do it if it worked to go to the Doctor offering it at his location in Oklahoma. It would only work in early January 2006. 

I had never told Troy about the weird groups I had found. I never told him I put my name (his name) on any list for a reversal. I had only told him that we couldn’t financially swing the reversal.

I got Troy away from the family Christmas chaos and asked him if he wanted to have his sitch glued back together if it was free.  Always the good sport he was like, “Wait wait wait now. WHAT are you asking me?”

We had to drive back to Minnesota to finish up details with our house renter and pack our belongings.  We had already planned the road trip in early January to get home from the Christmas in South TX by vehicle.  The mapped route did not include a stop in Muskogee, OK but we decided it could in fact be changed.  Muskogee is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL in early January.  Everyone knows that.  PERFECT, RIGHT??

On a crisp day in January of 2006, Troy laid on a table in a outdated little strip mall in Muskogee, OK and Dr. W. showed me my husband's vas deferens and then proceeded to glue it back together.  Appalachian bluegrass music played in the background. Because of course it did. After the procedure Troy was in much pain and he wailed about how bad his boys hurt.  I put Brittany and 22 month old Noah on an airplane to Minnesota to make room in the Suburban for Troy’s giant swollen nuts to be as comfortable as possible.  I drove the remaining many hours back to the Twin Cities while attempting to be nicer than ever about man’s physical pain.

Troy moved to Haiti ahead of the kids and I.  He arrived in Haiti with drainage tubes coming out of his balls.  It’s pretty memorable really.

It was not until we had lived in Haiti a year (February ’07) that we learned that we were expecting a baby. 

Troy had gone to buy lumber and I was at home with the six kids. We had just taken Phoebe into our home only six weeks prior and we were already freaked out and getting used to having a baby again. 

Phoebe had a rough first ten weeks of her life prior to coming to us. She was neglected in those weeks. There was a lot of work to be done helping her bond with us all. While Troy was out buying lumber I thought, “Why do I feel weird?”  The possible answers were limitless really.  I decided to rule out pregnancy as one of the reasons for my odd floaty sensations.  It took three pregnancy tests in a row that were positive for me to sit with my hands shaking on the bathroom floor and say to myself, “Self. You are the one that went to Muskogee and just couldn’t pass up free. You did this.  Also, pull yourself together!”

When Troy got home I said, “We need to talk.”  We marched up some stairs on the back of the property where we lived and to this big goofy rock that they called the “prayer rock”.  At the prayer rock I told Troy he better pray for a good sense of humor.  

I handed Troy an envelope with my positive tests.  He looked at it and started laughing hysterically.  He laughed until he was basically sobbing. Tears ran down his face and he rolled around like a mad-man while he laughed and cried.

He was back to freaking out again  -  only this time he was 31 instead of 28 and it was about suddenly going from 5 to 7 kids in a few short weeks. Everyone in our close circle just shook their heads and said, “What the heck did they think would happen?” and “Idiots. Both of them.” 

On October 4, 2017 our little Vasectomy reversal baby is turning TEN YEARS OLD.

I thought it was time you all knew that it is all because of a stop in Muskogee, Oklahoma - It made a vast (Vas) difference (deferens) in our lives.  

The deferens is named Lydia Beth.

Happy Birthday Lou-Lou. Daddy says you are more than worth ALL that oddness and physical pain he endured and we have never been offered a free surgery prior to OR since this one so we think maybe you are supposed to be here with us.  We are forever grateful for your life and the gift of you, #7. 

Sunday, September 03, 2017

A New Month A New School Year

Monday morning, September fourth, our kids will begin again.

All five children remaining in our charge report excellent summers filled with friends and family and sugar and activity galore. Nary a soul complained that summer 2017 was lame.

Troy and I have appropriately congratulated ourselves on a plan made and executed that resulted in such pleased children.  The only parenting mistake I have made this summer was to eat a large portion of the candy they brought home from their USA trips.

SourPatchKids, Whoppers, and TootsieRolls are all still delicious, if you're wondering.

I have since repented and then went to buy and replace each item menopause and stress forced me to consume.

This is the beginning of their seventh school year in the little Heartline Academy School House.

On Labor Day of 2011 we stood in a circle and prayed God would honor the work of the teachers and students that entered to teach and to learn.  He has proven faithful year after year. Our kids love learning.  (I mean, within normal limits and not with 100% consistency.)

Of course, parenting is a lot of questioning if you are seeing all the signs and catching all the possible meanings and communicating well --- and then going back and trying to re-connect when you misstep or eat all the candy.

Seven individual personalities  -- and each one so different. Our brains buzz with all the variables involved in meeting each of them where they are.  Because of that we still enter into each new year feeling nervous for our kids and wanting their brains to be challenged in positive ways that help them grow into loving, kind, and productive adults.  That said, our prayers continue as children numbers three through five enter into their high school years and children numbers six and seven take on the tasks of the fourth and fifth grades.

The only graduate of Heartline Academy has gone on to higher education and parenting.  The little school that could has turned out to be a great place of learning and launching and I expect that the next group of launches will bear fruit as well.

Their teacher Stefanie Raleigh landed in Haiti a week ago, she is high energy and ready to go.   We feel like we won the teaching-profession lottery with her and thank God she chose to come in spite of a ginormous cut in pay and lifestyle.  Love does very crazy things, am I right?

I have not written much in months. I have joy and pain and stories to share for sure, I'm really hoping to get some time to put it all down for the sake of sharing and remembering myself.

Here in Port au Prince, the losses around us are great.  The work of open hearted communication can be draining.  I often catch myself listening to stories and thinking, "That's probably not true", and that makes me sad.  I would rather just believe people are truthful than switch over to being a non-stop skeptic.  The truth is, this is a sad and heavy place.  That is about all I need to know.

Until energy and attitude allow for writing a more thorough update, we hope and pray that you and yours are also ready to head into something new and hopeful ... a school year or a new thing that will bring renewal to your souls.


Tara for us all 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Wonder-Girl, Sophia

Many months ago we began to share the history of a young woman named Sarah.  At that time a decision was made to be careful to keep Sarah's identity private while sharing her story.

Sarah knows that her history and her rising are both being shared on the internet. She is aware that we do not post pictures of her face on-line, but that her 7 month old daughter, Sophia, is the most photographed and instagrammed baby in all of Haiti.

We (staff of the Maternity Center) met Sarah in the fall of 2016 when she was 13 years old and 22 weeks pregnant.  

At the time we were told that while Sarah's mother was out in the country-side tending to a garden, Sarah was left alone at home. A man came to work in the shared yard between their home and the neighbor/land owner's home.  That man raped her. We were told that he was not someone Sarah or others in the shared yard could name or identify. We were told nobody knew who or where he was.

Sarah and her Mother told us that many weeks prior to coming to our Maternity Center, they did the official work of getting an examination at a specialty-non-government hospital to prove the assault had happened and begin the paperwork for filing a report with the police. That hospital agreed to allow Sarah to choose to get her prenatal care and deliver with us.

Because Troy and I live near Sarah and her mother, we interacted or at least waved and greeted one another daily for most of the last half of her pregnancy.  

Some trust was built between us all before the baby arrived.

In mid January, Sarah's Mom knocked on our gate one morning to say that Sarah was in labor.  Later that day beautiful Sophia was born at the Heartline Maternity Center.

The trauma and pain caused by a sexual assault is a huge thing to work through.

Giving birth to a baby that is a result of that assault is an entirely new trauma, especially for a thirteen year old.

It took a lot of time and grace and miraculous love for Sarah to decide to let down her guard enough to bond with and breastfeed Sophia.  She did that.  She became THE 2017 hopeful story for us all.

Had she not been able to do it, not a single one of us would have judged or been disappointed.  More than anything, her ability to serve and feed her newborn daughter blew our entire staff away. It still does seven and a half months later.

Since January things about the assault and the circumstances surrounding it have become more and less clear  --  at the same time -- more and less clear.

A metaphor for Haiti. Things are always more and less clear. 

Stories evolve and as more of it is being revealed we feel a sense of duty to help Sarah navigate a culture that is not predisposed to protect her or Sophia.

*   *   *

In March we celebrated Sarah's fourteenth birthday. We sang and took photos and tried to make it special. Sarah's Mom was invited to the party, but did not come. Around that time there were some things said and done in an effort to try and get Troy and I to move Sarah into our house. I won't go into the whole detailed story, but Sarah's Mom decided to make up a detailed story about losing their home in order to try and pressure us into inviting them to live with us.

We initially believed they were homeless. Within a few weeks several lies came to light and we sat down and talked about it.  They still live in the same house as always, and they never lost their home. 

On the surface it might seem like a great idea to just move her in, "Yes! Move S & S into your house! Do that!"  I probably cannot cover the nuances of the situation and the culture in one post, but the bottom line was that we knew that there were several lies being told and that the goal was to transfer responsibility for Sarah and Sophia over to us.  We know taking responsibility for children is no small thing, it is certainly not a short game either.  We have learned some hard lessons in our years here and decisions like that are not made under pressure.

(I wrote several more paragraphs about that ^ and decided to take them out of this post.)

In June Sarah's mom left to go south for the summer to work in their garden.  Sarah stayed with an aunt downtown for a time.  For whatever reason, that did not work out long term and Sarah is now back in our neighborhood and hanging out each day at the Maternity Center or our house. She has been helpful at the MC and jumps in to do the things she has learned how to help with over the months. During the day she plays with and feeds Sophie, watches TV, reads or rests. At night she sleeps in her own house down the street.

Sarah's Mom is supposed to return to Port au Prince this week.  In her Mom's absence we have started the process of getting Sarah registered to return to school this fall.  Sadly, when a young woman is a mother (whether raped or in a consensual relationships with a boyfriend) she must hide that fact from the school. 

There will not be anyone at school that will know Sarah is carrying the heavy responsibility of Sophia too.

Heartline Midwives worked with another young assault victim that had a baby boy with us in 2012.  That young woman also returned to school when her child was a year old and recently graduated at the top of her class in June 2017.  Nobody in her school, not teachers, faculty, or students, know she has a five year old. This is "system Ayiti". Somehow the onus of secrecy and shame is on the person that has been assaulted. It is justice denied.

This month we learned that the man that violated Sarah is in fact known. He has a name and they know it. We also know he lives about 8 miles from us. Not only that, we learned that he is requesting to see Sophia.  He is an adult, not a teenager.

This man's mother wants to take Sophia and has told Sarah as much.  She says she can raise Sophia for Sarah.

The people that own the land Sarah's little house sits on and share the same yard are telling Sarah that she should let Sophia know her dad.  (It seems that he is an acquaintance of theirs and they always knew who was responsible for Sarah's assault.) They recently told Sarah that Sophia is going to want to know who her father is and she should consider that. 

A couple of weeks ago Sarah asked KJ (a Midwife at the MC) if she has to let the rapist see Sophia and shared what the neighbors are saying.  Sarah said she fears what people will tell Sophia when she is older and can understand.  She said everyone in our neighborhood knows about the assault and knows Sophia is the product of that attack. She wonders how she can deal with the heaviness of that when other people might not honor her and allow that to be something that **she** tells Sophie some day.

There is no happy "we solved this" ending for Sarah and Sophia.  Right now we await confirmation that Sarah can return to school.  Sarah is resisting the pressure of the neighbors and refusing to agree that the family of the rapist has a right to know Sophia.

Three donors have come forward to cover the cost of Sophia's daycare and the cost of school.  We are waiting to hear from the school, Sarah took tests two days this week in order to get correct placement into the right classes.

The story continues to be come more and less clear.  We are all taking it one day and one change at a time.

We know one thing:  

We want better for Sarah and everyone like her.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Unpredictable Sightings

The other day my friend KJ texted me to tell me that she had just seen one of the security guard's balls.

Because everything is random and weird here I wasn't totally shocked.

I just said, "Huh, lucky? you! What was the occasion?"

Turns out he had quite some swelling post hernia surgery and he thought she might be the one to comment on the swelling.

She informed him pregnant women were her specialty, not so much swollen balls.

A few days later I got a text from Troy.
He said, "Well, this is how my morning is going, I just saw ______'s (name of owner withheld) balls.

Sometimes life is like this. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our Team - Changes & Updates

Operating a Birth Center slash Maternal Health Program cross culturally is an every-single-dang-day adventure.

"Adventure" is similar to "interesting" -- these words are powerful blanket words that mean many things - alllll the things even - you say them when you are being careful and a bit diplomatic. 

Communication cross culturally is SOMETHING ... Yet another powerful blanket word.

At least weekly someone (client or co-worker) will tell me something and inside my head I will be saying to my head, "What is the point what is the point what is the point please what is the ever-livin' point?"  

About ten minutes in, the point will come out sideways.  
It's like that here.  
The points are made indirectly.  
Practice your deep breathing and wait on it.  
Eventually it (the point) will appear in a cloud of glory. 

As the guests in this culture, the onus is on the foreigners to learn language and culture and work within the constraints of cultural norms whenever and however it might be possible.

Screaming at the top of our lungs in frustration needs to happen privately, into our own giant pillows.  

In order to create team unity, and foster mutual respect, we all need to keep it together no matter how much the situations around us might make us insane or sad or just totally broken and hurt.

The Maternity Center (and ME especially) are grateful to God for the group of nurses and midwives that have gathered and come here to serve Haitian mommas and babes. 

Our staff has expanded quite a bit in the last two years. 

We now have 24/7/365 coverage at the Maternity Center. 

The number of women we serve expanded after Together Rising gave us a large grant to build a second floor and add more women to the program.

We are in a bit of another transition this fall. 

We are asking for your prayers. Please pray that we continue to work well as a group/team. 

Our staff is family. That has become important to the flow of things here. Trusting the people you work with is so important when dealing with life and death and intensely emotional situations. 

GREAT communication among staff is equally critical.  We continually ask God to help us communicate well at all times.


Meet Beth McHoul, founder and visionary of the Maternity Center as well as our Director of Education. 

Beth is currently in a life-transition - as she and her husband John set-up their home in Florida due to his changing health needs.

Going forward Beth will continue to serve at the H.M.C as a Midwife on a more part-time basis, covering the MC whenever she can be in Haiti. Her fingerprints and influence are all over our work and our Maternity Center. Her physical absence is something we are grieving right now. Prayers for Beth -and us- as we make these adjustments are appreciated. 

Beth is available to speak and share more about the work we do by phone, or in person, if logistics allow. If you have an interest in that, please contact Elizabeth Thompson, our Development Coordinator to request a meeting with Beth. Elizabeth can be reached at 

Nirva J. is a nurse of many years, with more than a decade of Labor and Delivery experience. She has been with HMC five years and oversees the Saturday teen-girl program called "Youth in Action". Nirva is a hard-working single Mom of two and a valued senior member of the MC staff.

Beth Johnson - AKA - "KJ" - is a Midwife and serves as our Clinical Director.  KJ brings many years of experience in the Philippines, Texas, and Haiti to our team. She has been with the HMC for four years.  KJ makes things beautiful wherever she goes. She works closely with Dr. Jen in writing and updating our protocols and keeps us all up to speed.

Islande V. is a nurse with a tender bedside manner. She joined HMC in February of 2016 and is the nurse you'll most likely find at the MC if you drop in on a weekday. Islande is a detail oriented person and handles many administrative tasks at the MC.

Mica B. was a former client of the HMC and is now a trusted and valuable member of our staff. She graduated from Midwives for Haiti's school/program last September and has been on our staff full time for almost one year. Mica was a nurse before she had her baby with us. Now that she has the Midwifery skills she is the perfect addition to our staff. 

Guerline L. joined our staff earlier this year, in February of 2017. She is also a graduate of Midwives for Haiti (she and Mica graduated together) and is yet another very tender and calm addition to our team. Guerline and her husband just welcomed their first child, baby Carla, to the world in late July. Guerline will return to work part-time in October and full-time in November after her Maternity leave is finished.

Stephanie D. recently finished nursing school and is hoping to pursue midwifery school in the future. She awaits her chance to officially sit for her nursing exam. Steph is waiting on a system that lacks organization and they need to OFFER the test so she can take it. Please pray she can get that done this year. She is the smiliest person on staff. Steph joined us in Feburary 2017 as well.

Today we welcomed a new Midwife to our staff for her first day with us. 

Jessica Williamson is an RN/CNM from Louisiana. She speaks southern and Kreyol and is excited to be back in Haiti, having lived here in the past. Jessica will check us out and vice versa for the next few months. We all assume that the trial period will prove we want to work together forever. 

Please pray for Jessica and her daughter Phoebe-Kate as they are settling into full-time life in Haiti (yet again). We are thrilled to welcome Jessica and believe she will be an awesome addition to our expat staff and our family.

Michaelle B, the clinic part-time administrative assistant, works Thursdays and Fridays to help keep some semblance of order on our two most chaotic program days.  She recently graduated from seminary and hopes to use some of her training to offer the women that are in our programs emotional and spiritual support. 

L to R - Clermitha, Gran R,  and Rosena

We are also **incredibly blessed** to have a housekeeping and cooking staff of three strong women with moxie all the way UP TO HERE.  

Rosena, Gran R. and Clermitha keep the place running smoothly by dealing with non stop questions at the front gate,  never ending linens that need laundering, as well as cooking for program days and the women recovering in post-partum. They also support the nursing/midwife staff in many other tangible ways each day.  

All three of these ladies are Moms, two of them are Grandmothers.  
They have LIVED LIFE and they KNOW THINGS. 

All in all our staff of twelve strong women includes five single moms and four grandmothers. That is just basically to say, nobody should mess with us. 

And me.  I'm here too.  
Hi - I'm Tara. I have been a Midwife officially for three years, I have worked at the H.M.C. in some capcity since mid-2008. I am honored and humbled and poop-my-pants-nervous to have taken on the role of Director about one year ago.

Please pray for us.  

We believe that the Moms and Babies served by HMC are being covered in prayer. We also believe it is KEY, I mean like GIANT ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT KEY, to our and their success and great outcomes.

Thank you so much for reading. For praying. For giving. For investing. 

With love,

HMC Staff

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Going Home

*Written by Tara Livesay, CPM, Heartline Maternity Center Director 
One of the most beautiful moments in the process of getting to know these strong ladies is the joy of being allowed an opportunity to take them home. It is my favorite assignment.
After spending months getting to know the women at the Maternity Center, it is a blessing to enter into their space and sit with them in their homes.  Sometimes we are rushed and we simply say a quick prayer and get back on the road. Other times we sit for a long while and get to meet the whole family.   
When we take the new momma home, we have overcome the inherent risk of pregnancy in Haiti, the large risks of giving birth, and we are past the initial days of learning breastfeeding. It is a joyous occasion, one worth celebration.
It used to be intimidating to me to wind deep into neighborhoods uncertain if I’d ever find my way out.  I remember averting the job of discharging and transporting in the beginning, leaving it to others whenever possible. Avoiding visiting their homes saved my heart from pain, their suffering and living situations are difficult to see. Truth be told, it’s much easier not to see it up close. 
Something changed once I recognized that sorrow and joy and pain and triumph all constantly dance together. They are a paradox far too intertwined to experience one without the other.  
While it might bring a measure of heaviness, I now know what an honor it is to be on their turf, to see and experience life sitting in their chairs, in their homes.
It can be culturally and socially awkward, but as we sit there all fidgety and unsure and we are willing to be a bit uncomfortable together and allow that awkwardness, it almost always builds relationship and trust.
I won’t ever fully comprehend the lives of these precious families – but they allow me to peek in, they allow me to see the paradox dancing, and that in and of itself is a gift.
Part of what we hope to do during our time with the women that pass through the Heartline Maternity Center programs is to offer them an unusual comfort and kindness. Bringing them home, instead of having them take crowded public transportation is one way we can love and comfort them.
The word comfort is from two Latin words that mean “with” and “strong.”  God is with these women and He makes them strong.  He is with us and He makes us strong.

Amy Carmichael said, “Comfort is not a soft, weakening commiseration; it is true, strengthening love.”  I hope that sort of comfort is what Haitian women are experiencing as they are brought home after giving birth.

Thank you for reaching out with love to comfort and strengthen families in Haiti. We are forever grateful for your support and partnership.
To learn more or consider a donation:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mid June Info Dump - Struggle Bus Edition

I wait too long.
Just long enough to feel more than Coo-coo and for there to be too much to process.
I tell Troy, "I'm crazy. I need to write this stuff out."
He says, "Please.Then. GO."

<MY GOODNESS, WOMAN. Have you learned nothing?!?>

I go to my laptop. I open it. This time I turn on a Selah / Christy Nockles song and toss it back to 2006, before life got so real.

I find no hope within to call my ownFor I am frail of heart, my strength is goneBut deep within my soul is rising up a songHere in the comfort of the faithful one

Certain lyrics are so raw, they force me to sob for two hours. After the sobbing I have fat eyes, am tired, and terribly ugly. I no longer feel the need to write.

This cycle repeats itself in varying forms with varying lyrics until I arrive at the day that some of the crazy hard stuff seems kinda funny and some of the stuff that made me angry becomes hilariously absurd.  That is when I write.

Painting Kids -
Summer is designed to kill all the Mothers (and some Fathers) with anxiety. What is the anxiety, you ask?  Well, the anxiety is about bored, unstimulated, and under-attended kids roaming around thinking about how to be on the Internet and play video games more than they are allowed.

Every summer, the months of June, July and August attempt to wreck my life. The lament over the situation is dramatic, although it mainly remains internal lament.  The messages being spoken from inside the crazy house (my head) are never positive. The tape replays. Certainly summer will win and we will all die of the sweaty-hotness and the lack of healthy distractions from said heat.  

Assignment number one of summer? Get the kids to paint cement walls that surround our home. Keep them occupied and away from Internet and evil.  Is this paint necessary?  No. Not at all.  Is this paint going to be an improvement to the feng-shui of the 10 foot cement walls with barbed wire on top?  No.Cement walls are ugly no matter what color, grey or white or candy-striped.  Painting walls will occupy several hours of time.

Someone suggested we change the color of the walls every two or three days.  We are taking that under dead-serious advisement.  If paint were cheaper this would be a done deal. It is basically what a lot of short term mission groups do anyway, paint the thing that was just painted.

Summer Travel for Kids-

The good news?  Travel begins on July 9 for the 15 and a half year old kids, Isaac and Hope.  Hope will go to Cape Girardeau, MO to be with the Ferguson family.  This is the family that gave us Walnut, our GoldenDoodle.  We met them in 2010 and have laughed a lot and been so well loved as we have grown closer. Hope will be going to art camp and classes and doing some singing and acting and dancing too. She will see what a family besides ours is like. Hopefully she still wants to come back to our family in mid August.  By hopefully, I mean, there is no chance at all that she will.

Truthfully,  I want to be Hope. I think her summer plans are the most exciting of anyone.

Isaac is also leaving July 9.

He and Hope have one flight together, the one out of Port au Prince. His seat was a wonky pricing situation and it was cheaper to put him in business class.  This means Hope will slum it like the commoners and Isaac will be sipping a Mimosa up front.

They part ways in Miami and Isaac is going to take Driver's Training in El Paso, TX.  I wish I could spy on the process of their transfer from flight number one to flight number two. That is going to be some great comedy.  You might believe that Driver's Ed in El Paso would be learning to ride a horse or a wild bull or something super Western like that.  Not true. We found out that there are cars in El Paso and he will learn to drive one from Michael (his responsible brother-in-law). Please don't bring up why we think Michael should teach and not Paige. I cannot tell why.  But it is because Paige is a wild distracted driver.

The classroom part of the education will be a few hours each day for a month.  If I know Isaac he will have every dang rule of Texas roads totally memorized and be able to repeat them in alphabetical order if you so desire that.  He will get to be with Paige and Michael and his two nephews for six weeks +.  He is awesome with those little boys and is looking forward to being with the Gonzales family. At the end of Isaac's time in TX, Britt and Gideon will go west to visit too.

On July 22 Noah goes to our friends Scott and April Salvant. This was a life goal of his because he desperately loves his friends, Jeff and Dave Salvant and he just about broke when they had to leave Haiti to help their Momma fight Cancer. He will spend two weeks in Virgina and then he and the teenage Salvant boys will get on a Southwest flight and fly to Dallas together.  Three teenage knot-heads free in the sky. I shudder. Noah told me his goal is to get dragged off the plane (like that guy we saw recently, he said) and have a video of it go viral.  I wish I thought that was a joke. Watch for that on August 4.  Once to Dallas he says goodbye to his buddies and spends a day with Britt and Chris and Gideon before going way further west to see the El Paso contingent.

Noah and Isaac will fly home together in late August. That will be another day to watch for viral videos.  It will be Noah stirring some pot, and Isaac will be begging him to behave and biting his nails off in the background.

On July 22 Lydie and Phoebe get two weeks in Florida with Grandma and Grandpa Livesay.  They are saying that Grandma and Grandpa Livesay give them ALL THE POP and ALL THE WATERMELON AND STRAWBERRIES and outside of those facts nothing else matters.  Pop and fruit equals LIFE MADE. Those two little fools are besties and I am guessing Troy's parents are going to laugh a lot for two weeks.

All of the above means that Troy and Tara have two weeks with zero children in Haiti.  The last time that happened was due to a dramatic-evacuation of our children after an earthquake in 2010.  This should be far more pleasant and hopefully a lot sexier.  What do people do when they come home to a house without thirty-thousand requests for any number of things?  I know this: Troy hopes they have "advanced romance" with that free time.  I hope they sleep and sleep and sleep.  Maybe we can find a way to compromise. Time will tell. Two weeks without kids.  We have been married 19 years and this has never happened without some terrible circumstance. Troy married himself into fatherhood. It will be wild to see what no kids is like.  My friends predict we will sit around talking to our kids on FaceTime.  I vow to do exactly that.

Sleeping Outside-
Eight years ago on a particularly hot as balls night, I asked Troy to please sleep outside with me. He said, "No not gonna."  I asked another 56 times in the following seven summers.  He always pulled his nose up and said, "No go."

One day in late May of 2017 he said, "Okay, I will".  We have been sleeping outside every single night since then.  It is easily 10 to 15 degrees cooler.  The normal fipping of sweaty pillowcase is no longer required.  The stars and the moon are overhead and the palm trees blow in the breeze near our bed. The only downside is the blood loss from mosquitoes, but we will ward off the anemia with vitamins and iron. In the morning it sometimes looks like someone murdered us by tiny stabs with little pin prick blood spots making our solid sheets appear to have a pattern.  After 8 years of asking, we now sleep outside.  If I hate it, I cannot admit it.  So I am not.

one of these two people won a decade long battle  - the other is the loser - or maybe both are losers

Sarah and Sophie-
Carline - Sophie's nanny next fall 
The summer is going to mean less Sophia and Sarah, but they should be back in our neighborhood by late August.  (You may recall some dishonesty with Sarah's mom and some confusion.  We are always confused, so that has not changed but the situation is a little less tenuous right now.)

 Sarah is going to be living with an aunt in Carrefour, about 90+ minutes away with traffic.   (So like 7 miles.) Her Mom will be way down south in an area where they have a garden.  The current intel we have is that everyone is back in Port au Prince by the time school starts up again.  Sophia will be cared for while Sarah goes to school starting again in the fall.  The nanny we hired is adorable (see her with her precious baby girl on her graduation day from the program).  Carline will come Monday to Friday to be with Sophie during school hours.  A job for Carline and a trustworthy daycare person for Sarah.  Hoping and praying this can be win/win.  Expecting any number of things to jack with us on the way to that goal.

Traffic -
I have been trying to make my kids leave the house to make them have a life. We went to buy paint one day. My kids claim that I outwardly show more aggression and anger about traffic things than their Dad. They say he holds it in better. As if.
That statement?  It's whatever.

Sustainable -
The way humanitarian type people in developing countries use this word is so much liar liar pants on fire.  I roll my eyes every time I hear it.  Not that many things are sustainable in practice.  According to websites and tag lines, all of it is sustainable. I always want to scream-quote Inigo Montoya:  "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."   (Also as an aside, Mandy Patinkin is my older man crush. Don't tell Troy.)

Midwifery is hard - Haiti is harder
We  (The MC staff) have had a rough go lately too.   I posted six photos on IG about Rebecca, a really amazing client of the Maternity Center. Check that out and feel the feelings with us.

My hormones are so jacked beyond belief. I'm wishing I knew how to tell you ALL about it in a way that would cause you to know I am dead serious and also about to go crazy and also totally fine - depending which minute you check in on me.

I forget what I am doing while I am doing it. I have a piece of bread with peanut butter in my hand with a bite out of it.  How did that get in my hand?  No recollection.  I already struggled in the kitchen, you can imagine how this helps not at all with those struggles.

Want to know? Throw an egg in a frying pan on medium flame and walk away to grab butter and forget because you see that the laundry fell off the line.  Then, remember the egg but forget you turned on the hose.  No worries, when your flipping kitchen is both on fire AND flooding, you'll scream, "WHO TURNED ON THE HOSE!?!?!"

My hormones are SO tanked, there is a strong possibility I can grow a beard better than Troy now. I'm not kidding.  That says very little for either of us.

Email and Technology Woes-
I talked to a nice young man on the phone.  (I know he was young because once my memory returned I stalk-found him, I saw he was born in 1990, which makes him 27.). We talked because he called me to ask adoption and Haiti questions.  I was honest and told him I suck at sending long detailed emails because I get too many requests and my response is to totally shut down and reply to nothing.  I tried to keep up and failed and the lesson was, never try.

So I said, "Call me."  He did, which I admit I never expect will happen.  I am sure he googled me and saw that I am an older person. However, he probably did not know about the perimenopause because that is not coming up in searches quite yet.

At the end of our call I said I would email him several links to more information and helpful websites and books.  I hung up the phone and went to my computer to do the promised things before I forgot, which allows me exactly 16 seconds to get it done. I realized I had no idea what his name was at that moment.  I asked Troy, "How do you search for the email address of a person whose name you do not  know?"

This sort of thing is happening all the time right now.  Refer to previous paragraph.

Five Clowns Dinner, just hours ago -
Our kids know things are hard.  They know we are stressed and transitioning and challenged and now they understand the word menopause too.  They are sweet to us at every turn. Last night they were helped by Midwife, Beth Johnson to create a romantic meal for us.  I was first call so the meal came to the Maternity Center.

new five clowns star restaurant in Tabarre, Haiti 

You know what? I love that Troy is "more and more into me".

Now, if only I could remember, WHO WAS IT that was more and more into me again?

That's that for this June struggle bus edition.