Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Arrival of Abner Emmanuel

As with pretty much ALL the THINGS, there is disagreement and debate about women choosing to give birth at home. I am trying to think of something we all agree on and I have been sitting her for four days and have come up with nothing so it feels like it is time to stop trying. 

To quote the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology -  'The relative risk versus benefit of a planned home birth, however, remains the subject of debate.' 

It does.

There are those that are highly opposed to any and all home birth and there are those that think if criteria is met, home birth is a truly safe and lovely thing. Some people think hospitals are for sick folks and healthy women don’t need to give birth in a hospital. I actually fall in the middle of those schools of thought so with this post I can likely tick off either of the far ends of the spectrum. 

When you can make all of the people mad at once, that’s good times. 

I’m sharing for the sake of sharing, not in order to convince anyone of anything. This is a personal choice and I think each individual has the right to choose wisely.  I'm not making a judgment about hospital birth or any other non-home-birth option. 

The goal of labor and delivery is a living mom and living baby. Well, at least that is our goal at Heartline Maternity Center in Port au Prince. It is also my personal goal at any birth I am invited to attend.  As trained and experienced midwives working in a high risk country, we get very very good at knowing the signs and indications for a hospital birth. 

Some people really should never ever consider home birth.  Other women could have a baby all alone in the Alaska wilderness without a single medical tool or human being around and use their teeth to cut the cord and a strand of their own hair to clamp it and do just fine. 

There are enough angry polarized arguments on the interwebs, let us not add to that noise. If you feel you MUST send your horror story or your oh-my-gosh-awesome, please know that I live in grey area. I cannot go black or white with you on this, or most things. I will simply say, I would never participate in something that was not well planned and prayed out, nor would I do so without a transport/emergency option. I think Paige made the right choice for her and I was giddy to help support her decision.

I approached a few folks in the Maternal Health field to run it by them that I was considering being Paige’s primary midwife at a home birth. It was risky, in that putting myself in a position to need to make emergency decisions for a family member and remain objective can be (and is) difficult. Had any of my trusted co-midwives or OB friends told me that they thought I was unwise to agree to a home birth for Paige, I would have reconsidered. 

With all those caveats, I bring you the beautiful SHORT story of the birth of Abner Emmanuel.  His mother also delivered Graham in October 2014. You can read about that utter chaos at this link.

Paige decided for several very respectable and valid reasons that she wanted a home birth with her second pregnancy.  Paige has zero risk factors and is the perfect candidate to consider a home-birth. She and I talked and prayed about it for a couple months. We made back up plans (I was not going to be in TX until late in her 39th week so she needed to have a plan). We found our midwife friend, Betsy, to ask if she could attend too if the baby waited until I could get to Texas.  

In the room at the time of Abner’s entrance into the world was his mom (her role was fairly crucial), his dad, his aunt Britt, his grandma (me), his uncle Isaac, and Midwife Betsy.  Isaac stayed off in the corner and got some photos. His words, "That is something I will never forget (literally)."  When I asked him what he thought about it all he said, "Well, the placenta was very red and blue." 

If at this point you’re thinking, “These people are strange”, that is okay.  We know it is not typical for a 15 year old boy to see his sister give birth. We are not so much aiming for typical.  I figure we were all born and birth is an everyday event and there is no reason to make it a scary or taboo thing. 

Paige is a cervical ninja warrior.  I don’t even understand her way of being female human.  It is astounding.  Her first birth was a wonder. Her second birth just the same. I did not give birth this way.  I know very few people that do. 

She basically started the game at 4cm on December 27th with zero pain and made it to 7cm over a 30 hour period of very little pain.  She went for long walks, she took care of Graham and her house, she did lunges and drank a Castor Oil smoothie, she slept when she wanted.  

On the 28th of December she started having a pattern of not too painful contractions at about 4pm.  We decided to call the other midwife to head to Waco and we played Monopoly and found ways to distract Paige.  Graham left to go to a play date for a few hours. Paige finished up a three mile walk and decided she would go lie down around midnight at the end of December 28th.  

At 1:45am I was in her room checking the little man's heart-tones and woke her up while doing it.  She got up and asked if we could check to see if her power nap had gained her another centimeter.  At 2am she was 7cm, totally effaced, and baby had moved down quite a bit. She had been sleeping soundly for an hour and thirty minutes but once she woke up it was go-time.  At 2:20 she was vomiting. At 2:25 she was yelling at us that she changed her mind and was not interested in having the baby after-all.  

At 2:30 I had to switch from empathetic Mom to bossy midwife when Betsy said "I see the bag" - We moved her (told her she did not have a choice) from the bathroom to her bed and the moment she laid down she said, "I can't this hurts too much to be like this". In the same 30 seconds Abner's head emerged, at that time his amniotic sac tore a bit right at his neck, while still covering his face. All of that happened without much of a push on Paige's part.  That is the part that I find utterly confounding. Oh, Hi, no pushing, here, have a head. In less than one minute another contraction and one push from Paige and we all joyously officially welcomed Abner to the world at 2:35am on December 29th. 

After Abner was dried off and handed up to Paige she said, "Well that did not even hurt that bad."  I think she said that before he was two minutes old. 

For his first hour of life he stayed on his Mom and began to nurse. Michael and Paige announced his name for the first time after his arrival. 

Abner Emmanuel Gonzales was born early in the hours of December 29, weighing 8 pounds 13 ounces, he was 20.5" long. 

Once the adrenaline high wore off a bit, Paige and Michael and Isaac caught a nap while Britt and I went to get pancakes and Betsy headed home.  When Graham woke up he found this other small human being in his house and he is working hard at making sense of how life has forever changed.

The births and adoptions of my own children are key memories and moments of my life. The specific and sharp memories that surround each special day are a part of our family story and a part of me. Not surprisingly, the joy of assisting with the birth of these grand-babies ranks right there at the top, with the other sacred events. I cannot believe how special and holy it was. 

I am so grateful. 
Thank you God for another healthy baby boy. 

 "There days and deliveries where I couldn't believe it either! Birth was and will always be the most commonplace of miracles. An event at once familiar and phenomenal, timeless and immediate, briefly making angels of us all."

Jenny, Call the Midwife

Friday, December 23, 2016

Isaac's Update

my sisters and their babies
Texas Trip:

As you may or may not have heard, I am leaving for Texas on December 26th with my Mom. I was told about this trip just the 16th of Decmember, so it was a big surprise. My biggest job for when I arrive will be taking car of my vigorous nephew, Graham.

Anyway, when we fly into Austin my brother in law, Michael, will be there to pick my mom and I up from the airport. We will not be staying at Paige's house at first. We are staying at an AirBnB place that some friends of friends are letting us use to give Paige and Michael some space without company since Michael is not home very much right now and he heads back to work on January 2nd. By this time, Paige will have had her new born baby boy. For the next seven days Mom will be with me helping me take care of things with Graham and the dogs while Paige is very busy with the baby. On the ninth of January my Mom is going to head back to Haiti. A lot of what we did together to help Paige out will be shifted over to me since Paige will be profoundly engrossed to taking care of her new baby. So I'll be hanging out with Graham and taking him to the park and on walks and playing with him. I'll also be in charge of things around the house, like doing the dishes and cleaning and folding some laundry and whatever else Paige says she needs help with.

Over all I am psyched for this trip it will be awesome.

But wait, it doesn't end there.

On January 19th I will fly home to Haiti with my Grandpa and Grandma Porter. A few days later we will start back to school.  I am thankful for the few days I have between the day I get back and the day I start school. It will be good to be with my Grandparents in Haiti. Noah will be leaving with my Grandparents to go to Texas to help Paige out and take a turn too.  It is very fun that we are able to help our sister.

By late February we will be all done with traveling to Texas and we will all be home.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

O Holy Night

Every direction you turn, images of Christmas..You need not look far to find beautiful and thoughtful displays, tastefully decorated homes with glowing trees, and rows and rows of symmetrical twinkling lights. Step into one of these homes and the warm fire will greet you as you breathe in fresh scents of pine and cinnamon. It is beautiful and clean and so.very.pristine. 
Looking upon these exquisite arrangements one senses order and peace.
O Holy Night

I’m reflecting on the untidy disorder and chaos in the lives of so many celebrating Christmas around the world this year. They experience vastly different surroundings and a much more simplified version of the annual celebration of the Christ child. 

It looks nothing like the photos in the magazines and has not even the tiniest hint of Martha Stewart. There are no smells of fresh-baked cookies or hot apple cider to entice them. They don’t string lights around a tree, pile colorfully wrapped gifts high, or build gingerbread houses; yet meek and mild – they celebrate.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,’Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth

How did our celebration of this day become so clean and crisp and utterly tidy? Where are the smells and  sweat and tears that were most certainly a part of Mary and Joseph’s journey?
It begs the question:  Do ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ scenes with sparkling lights and gorgeous perfectly placed decorations reflect the Christmas story best? Are the experiences of a frightened and ashamed teenage mother-to-be anything like that?

Do the marginalized and suffering in our world experience Christmas more like Mary and Joseph did – or do we?
A thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices

I’m reflecting on these two extremes.  I LOVE the exquisitely ordered and the beautifully arranged. 
While yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
I long for a day when disparity and injustice ends. I dream of a Christmas were no child is enslaved, abused, and sold. Where no refugee is left to sleep another night without clothing and food or a place to lie down. I pray for the glorious morn, where the oppressed are free. I long to wake up to learn that no child is suffering or slowly starving to death. I dream of a day when people from every continent and every nation can freely celebrate Jesus and His birth surrounded by love, joy, dancing, singing and immeasurable peace and beauty and justice.

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace

Truthfully I also find great inspiration in the simple, dingy, gritty, humble celebrations of those who struggle and toil without access to our unstained images of Christmas. I long for their stripped down total dependence on God. I pray for spiritual wealth like that of the materially poor. I want their depth. I want their undying hope. I want a Christmas less like Oprah’s or the magazines and more like theirs.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease

Our youngest daughter Lydia has been struggling with choices. When offered a choice of two things she’ll often reply, “I want two ones.”  When she says that, she means I want them both.

As I soak in Christmas this year I find myself wanting two ones.  I want the perfect looking, delicious smelling, pain-free and unpolluted Christmas and I want the dirty, stinky, humble, difficult, but miraculous Christmas that Mary and Joseph and the rich in faith experience.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name

While I attempt to reconcile two very different Christmases, the celebrations only make sense to me in the context of good overcoming evil. God coming to earth in the form of a baby, to live a sinless life, to clear our debts for us, to teach us how to love one another … In His resurrection the promise that one day there will be beauty and justice for all.

The end of death. 

The end of suffering.
O Holy Night

(originally written December 2010 - republished at A Life Overseas)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I See You

I was in a fluffy white robe sipping high-end-fancy-people flavored coffee and looking out over a beautifully decorated and manicured neighborhood in Dallas when Beth M. and KJ texted and said, "There is a dead man in the street in front of the house, he stole something and was stoned  by a crowd of people right outside earlier this morning. The body is just lying there in the street."  

They went on to tell me that they would guard our kids from seeing him and take a long back road to avoid driving right past his body.

In Haiti, crime increases around Christmas. 
Every year it is the same. 
Reports of theft and mayhem rise as the 25th of December approaches.

Perhaps it is the encouragement of active waiting at Advent, but December always feels more difficult.  We are following the directive and actively waiting and purposefully hoping and it seems to magnify the brokenness all around us. 

A man is stoned to death, a pregnant 20 year old with HIV is homeless and hungry and crying in front of us, a 13 year old across the street is due to deliver a baby in a few weeks, a devastated mother who has already lost one child goes into premature labor with her second pregnancy, a large portion of the country sleeps without a roof two and a half months after a hurricane wipes out their homes. 

Existential anguish is not strong enough a descriptor. It doesn't begin to cover the confusion of the season.  The disorder of our world and the incongruity of drinking a $5 beverage while someone is stoned to death for a petty theft of approximately the value of my cup of coffee is more than impossible to reconcile.

Yesterday we (we, the Maternity Center) drove yet another emergency situation the 35 miles over the mountains because in Port au Prince we must ignore 6 hospitals that are closer in order to arrive at a hospital that gives consistent and kind quality care.  Without advocates, most folks don't get the care they need and don't arrive at the hospital far far outside the city.

Bryan A. Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and the author of Just Mercy.   Bryan says the broken, materially poor, and marginalized desperately need us to see them and to be hopeful. He says there is a need for us to choose to be in their hopeless places and situations and be a witness.

I wonder if he is right.  I wonder if bearing witness and fighting against hopelessness is of value. Is it acceptable to fake hope until it actually comes again? It must be. 

In South Africa, there is reportedly a Zulu greeting where upon greeting one says,

"I see you."

When you want someone to know you have taken the time to notice them, that you honor their position, presence, and uniqueness in this world ... And you even celebrate it, you say, "I see you."

Jan Richardson says, "This seeing, this recognition, is the stuff that joy is made of. And heartbreak, too, for seeing comes with a cost. But that place of seeing -- that place where we know, where we refuse to be content with appearances, where we resist the impulse to take things for granted: this is where God lives, and where Christ is born anew.

~           ~~          ~           ~~          ~

To those of you that read the stories and keep up with the work of Heartline Ministries  (sometimes filled with hope, other times filled with lament and pain)  - we understand that you see Haiti, that you see Heartline, that you see  -- and your seeing and giving and praying is what sustains the work and propels it forward.  

This update was from Troy yesterday ... 

Monday at Heartline: 
Nadia transported to hospital for pre-term labor, a beautiful baby girl born to Jolina at the Maternity Center, Discipleship class men leading a worship service, sewing and cooking classes overflowing into the yard at the Womens Education Center, thousands of pieces of bread made by the Beltis Bakery, and Mirana picked up from the hospital for continued care at the MC after her C-Section. 

All of this made possible by your love, prayers, and participation in this Kingdom work in Haiti. Thank is a joy to behold and participate.

We are at 60% of our year-end giving goal to sustain this work in 2017, and generous donors have offered to match your gifts through the end of the year!

Please consider joining and supporting the Heartline Family with a gift and double your impact in Haiti. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

let us find our rest in thee

Come, Thou long expected Jesus 
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, 
Let us find our rest in Thee. 
Israel’s Strength and Consolation, 
Hope of all the earth Thou art; 
Dear Desire of every nation, 
Joy of every longing heart. 
Born Thy people to deliver, 
Born a child and yet a King, 
Born to reign in us forever, 
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. 
By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; 
By Thine all sufficient merit, 
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

December Anxiety Report - Part I

The tree lights are on, several candles are lit. The city power just came back on, meaning automatic and instantaneous joy - BECAUSE - Electricity is life, people! The kids have all gone to pizza with Troy.

Because my head is filled with so.much.snot and aching - and - the last four days 100% kicked my butt, I opted out of pizza or socializing.   I am supposedly attempting to "process" and "integrate" the insanity of the last week. I am attempting "quiet" and "solitude".

I am alone on the front porch with the next door neighbor's music blaring,  in Kreyol the singer says, "This country is sick, Haiti, what is going on? Haiti, Haiti how do you feel?" - That along with Sarah Mclachlan singing "Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright",  on the speaker next to me...  It's really quite something.  Appropriate incongruity. You should be here to experience it with me.

I got back from a 9 day trip to Texas on Tuesday. I arrived in Haiti with a GoldenDoodle puppy and I am VERY famous with my kids and well loved because of it.

I shared this on Instagram  - but the short version if you missed it is this: After Peanut died I was sad and acting like a weirdo and I started begging Troy to get another little dog.  (Big dogs are SO SO expensive to feed  - even when weird and emotional, I am frugal.)  Troy thought I was emotional and dumb (because true) and he said no to another little Chestnut type dog.  (Our 6 pound ShihTzu is Chestnut.)  Troy said he liked Golden Retrievers or  medium dogs.  I quickly wrote my friend in Missouri about her GoldenDoodle to ask about the breeder she used and in like six minutes she was informing us that she was going to buy us a GoldenDoodle.  She took care of our new puppy for us for two weeks and I flew from Austin to St.Louis and picked up our new dog on the first day I was back in the USA. It was a lot of crazy making and fun.  People in airports love Goldendoodles. He was very popular. One lady took a selfie with him.

My trip to TX had been booked months and months ago when Britt told me she would be due to have a baby and ALSO be graduating from UT Southwestern - all at the same time in early December.  

Britt and Chris lost that first baby in May.  It was rough.  Mercifully a lot of grief and pain turned into joy in July when they learned they were pregnant again.

I decided not to cancel my trip because I wanted to see her tummy and I wanted to see her graduate after so SO much hard work. (She is a PA-C now!)

While in TX I managed to get my CPR and NRP stuff updated (required for Midwifery licensing) and it was a trip filled with much joy.  The new puppy, the graduation, the time with my family and with Britt's Dad's family was all so wonderful.  Troy came  to TX for three nights. We got to see Graham and Paige too.  It was so beautiful and encouraging and fun.

The dog needed paperwork to be able to fly to Haiti. (Or SO THE PEOPLE SAID.) Britt and I pretended to be totally fluent in French  -- and pulled it off  -- at the Vet office. We were laughing our buns off at the rules and just decided that we would prefer to claim French fluency over paying someone to translate the dog paperwork.  We were given the Vet Office computer and some time and we translated a French document into English like total bosses.

Stupid and totally predictable thing????  No human person ever ever ever ever asked to see any of the paperwork we paid for to "legally" import the dang dog.  Not JetBlue - not anyone in Haiti. Flushing money down the toilet is our new hobby.

After we left Texas Britt got in a car accident.  That is something my pregnant daughter girls seem to do.  It's a thing I guess.  Thankfully she and baby boy are okay.

Paige is super duper pregnant.  She needs to wait to deliver until December 22 if she wants Michael there and December 27 if she wants me (Tara) there.  I have high high high anxiety over the thought of missing this event, but it is pretty likely I will, in fact, miss the event.  If it seems appropriate, I will film the nervous break-down when it happens.

I have a billion more things to write that are spinning in my head. It needs to wait until my spaz level calms a bit.

Tomorrow is our Maternity Center Staff Christmas party.  It is so so much fun every year and while I tend to be annoyed at the long Christmas parties we have for the ladies in the programs, I truly LOVE the staff Christmas party.  More when sanity levels allow.

Three nuts and their five humans.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Hear the Angels Sing

I don't even need to wonder. I know that lots and lots of us need this word this Advent Season.  

It seems to me that many are at a dark intersection... Like most of the entire planet.

Enjoy our annual posting of Hear the Angels Sing ...

By Rick Porter (Uncle Rick)

Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.

A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?

He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.

As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often. 

Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.

Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Midwives of another world ...

Advent, which means “the coming,” is the season before Christmas when we wait expectantly. Christians began to celebrate it during the fourth and fifth centuries. Like Mary, we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, what God has already done. And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do.

But this waiting is not a passive waiting. It is an active waiting. As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. It is called labor for a reason. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world. 
-Shane Claiborne

Link to 2016 Birth Story - Jesus Born under the watchful eye of Midwives.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bethlehem Birth

(Suggested reading, after watching.)

A WATCHING GUIDE for Tenth Annual Christmas Extravaganza: 

  • The Bethlehem Birth Center - Perhaps you've not heard of it? History is a bit sketchy due to poor record keeping & storage methods, but most trustworthy sources and historians list it as an established birth center sometime between 7 BC. and 3 BC -  right next door to a stable and an Inn (sold out).
  • Mary and her Midwives knew the importance of laboring in several positions.
  • SROM = Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes - A fluid-filled bag called the amniotic sac surrounds and protects the fetus. When a hole or tear forms in the sac, it's called a rupture of the membranes. Most women describe this by saying their "water broke."  Membranes can break by themselves. This is called a spontaneous rupture of the membranes - as declared by Midwife, Lydia. It most often happens after active labor has started.
  • Delayed Cord Clamping was requested because Mary did her research and knew it improved neonatal outcomes; Mary did not want Jesus dealing with iron deficiency anemia in his early months/years of life.
  • Baby Jesus was expertly played by Jamesly Bellevue, born 11/12/16 at the Heartline Maternity Center in Port au Prince, Haiti  - In an effort to keep things authentic, he pooped all over Hope during the filming of his (second/fake) birth.
  • Song written by Amy Grant & Chris Eaton, 1992 - Sung by Hope Livesay
  • (Unpaid) animal guest appearances by donkeys, Yolanda and Ella & and some sheep. Our thanks for your uncooperative participation. 
  • To watch this on YouTube:

We thank each of you that read, support, pray, give, and/or follow along with the daily work happening at Heartline Ministries in Haiti. Please receive our humble gratitude and love this holiday season.

T & T
Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe, Lydia

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Culture Trumps All

The longer we are in a place that is a second/alternate culture to us, the more we recognize the power of culture. 

When I think back to our first months and years living in Haiti.  I always want a do-over with *THIS* experience level and THIS slightly better understanding of cultural norms and language.  Oh my word, the heartache we could have saved had we known what you cannot know until you sort of kind of know it.

My paradigm is different than the paradigm of the women we are working with at the maternity center. The communication required to hopefully end up understanding one another is always "challenging" and oftentimes frustrating.

Just when I think I kind of sort of get it, it becomes apparent that NOPE, I don't.

*  *  *

A few months back a teen named Nadege delivered her son and because of the extra support she needed she stayed in our postpartum room for a week or more. When it was time to bring her home I asked if she could commit to come for visits each Tuesday to be sure her son continued to gain weight. She told me she wanted to come every Tuesday but her aunt wasn't going to allow her to stay any longer at her house.

When we dropped Nadege off we asked Nadege's Aunt if there was any way at all that Nadege could stay with her until the baby was about three months old. We explained wanting to be sure they established solid breastfeeding habits and that the help to a teen mother would be invaluable. The Aunt convincingly assured us that it would be no problem to allow Nadege the three months before asking her to go live elsewhere outside the city. 

Four days later, on a Saturday, there was a knock at the Maternity Center gate. Nadege  was stopping by to say goodbye before heading into the countryside to live with other family. She said her aunt agreed to keep her to get us to leave but that her aunt immediately asked her to make her plans to leave after we were gone.  My preference is always truthful communication, I would have dealt with the real answer had it been offered. We have no word from Nadege and hope she and Emmanuel are doing well.

*  *  *

Recently we announced a requirement for staff at the M.C.  If horrid traffic or any host of things will cause an employee to arrive more than five minutes late for their scheduled shift, they are required to call and let us know so that one of us living nearby can run over and cover for them until they arrive. (Being late is allowed - because Haiti. But, please, just call.) Everyone nodded in agreement that calling when late was a fair request. Three days later a nurse was 30 minutes late to her shift and that evening another nurse was 20 minutes late. Neither of them called. They were presented with written warning and another explanation that not calling when late is not acceptable and could lead to loss of wages or termination. 

It caused defensiveness and upset but we managed to deal with it and clarify that the rule of calling when late was actually going to be enforced. (Rules without enforcement are pretty much the way of the world in these parts, so human nature says - TEST IT.)  After the little bump in the road, life went on and everybody seemed good. 

Last week (a month after the incident) one of the two nurses asked to talk about that day of being written up. She said that she felt it was unfair and not right that I did not make it clear what would happen if the call was not made. She said, yes, I asked for a call but I did not clarify what would happen if the call was not made.  I was so confused. I said, "Ok, well... Now you know what will happen."  

She shook her head and said, "No, you don't understand. I should have known what consequence would happen prior to it happening."  We went round and round discussing my American way of being and her Haitian way of being and that we would likely see things differently quite frequently.  

In the end I agreed that if some rule is put into place in the future it will also be made clear what happens if the rule is ignored.  SIGH. 

*  *  *

One Thursday earlier this year, I walked  in and was immediately greeted by Marilene and her Mom.  Marilene was a very memorable expecting Mom.  We tend to quickly know the young women with a strong Mom or Aunt in the picture.  I greeted Marilene's Mom and she told me she came along with her daughter to ask why she had not delivered the baby yet.  I said, "Because she is only 28 weeks pregnant." She immediately disagreed and I asked if we could please wait and talk after class.  

Nirva is the most experienced nurse on staff, I asked her to meet with Marilene and her Mom to hear them out and then help explain how long pregnancy lasts and why we believed Marilene was 28 weeks.  Because Marilene had been spitting, (spitting is the sign of pregnancy in Haiti) Mom believed she was much further along than 28 weeks. Nirva couldn't get anywhere and brought them to KJ.

For thirty minutes every staff member tried to share facts and ultrasound results and measurements and information but Mom said she saw the signs of pregnancy longer ago and that the baby should be coming at any moment. Nirva (nurse standing in the doorway with white skirt) laughed and said, "Uh-oh - KJ nan GWO match" (KJ is up against a tough opponent.) 

Education is everything but beliefs (mine too - yours too) are held tightly and it's difficult to trust others. It appears to be difficult to listen too. This can become a problem if Mom decides to go find (and pay) a country doctor or midwife to induce labor based on bad information. Premature babies don't do so well.

One of the challenges of providing care in a materially poor country where folks don't and haven't had access to excellent care and excellent education is convincing said folks that what we are sharing is true.

*  *  *
In November we have had a bit of a butt-kicking.  Several difficult cases have arrived in just a short time.  One of those cases is a 37 week - 16 year old with text-book Pre-Ecclampsia.  The "mother-in-law" (they are teens, not actually married, but she gets this title) has the power in the family and seems not to believe that her son's girlfriend is in need of bedrest. The last two weeks have been spent begging two area hospitals to take this case. Using the expert advice of the two OB/GYNs that consult with us on difficult cases, we attempted an induction, but if failed to produce contractions. The hospitals have protocols and criteria that they don't follow when they are overworked and too busy. It  then becomes a game of chess deciding what move to make next.  The only problem is, the game is not fun and the game involves the life of a baby and a young mother.  The game suck and we don't enjoy playing it.  GRACIOUSLY, last night, on try number THREE, one of the hospitals that had previously turned us away, took the young girl into care.  We are hoping and praying for a phone call today with news of a good outcome for her after many many days with classic Pre-E blood pressures.   Hope and pray with us, please.

*  *  *  

The RE-DO Haiti election was held Sunday. How it went, depends upon whom you ask. We await official news  -- and unofficial news.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Excited Beyond the Acceptable Level (Pa Cool)

Lately all of our Kreyol speaking Haitian friends are using the English word "cool" semi-regularly -- it makes us very happy.  Kreyol with an English word thrown in is our fave. 

'PA COOL' is NOT COOL - and that is what we are right now.  

But we don't care.

We are so excited about our Christmas Production this year...  
An UNCOOL  / PA COOL level of excited.

Hope recorded the song today.  It is so UH-MAZING to me that she can walk in and sing a song perfectly without practicing.  I feel like I need to be figuring out how to help this child get connected to the right places to use her gifts. If anyone knows how to go about that - while in Haiti -please tell me. 

Last year we were very late to release the final product.  

This year, for our TENTH ANNUAL PRODUCTION, we are ready early.  

We are excited to share it with you on Friday, November 25, after Thanksgiving.

This year might be our favorite since 2009 (or 2011).   

*          *           * 

Last Year (9th annual) is here ...

If you want to see other years,  you can go here ( years 1 to 4) and here (years 5 to 8) to find all of the previous ones.  

We don't have fancy real professional video, editing, (like these funny people) and sound people to help us.  The productions each year are just what we have been capable of doing ourselves.  

(Fast fact: 7 years have been filmed in Haiti, 3 in the USA. One in MN, one in TX, one in TN.) 

Happy Thanksgiving week from Port au Prince, Haiti!

Until Friday ...
ALL our PA COOL excited love,

T&T and Tribe

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

(Sometimes Quiet) Persistent Work Changes History

Growing up in the ’70s, I had brown corduroy pants, a black-and-white TV, feathered hair, and a Trapper Keeper notebook. The widespread cultural turmoil of the civil rights era had largely subsided, and—other than the occasional school bully and a vague concern that nuclear annihilation might come any day—the cultural space I inhabited felt fairly calm and predictable. 
I was born three weeks to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. By the time I entered middle school, it had been a generation since Rosa Parks’s famous arrest in 1955. Her story had aged enough to feel safe for textbooks. Parks was held up as a hero, a seemingly powerless little, old African American lady who had made a spontaneous decision not to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus and literally changed the world with her courage. So the story went.
I was inspired by that story, as I still am, but what I didn’t know as a young student is that the version I was being taught omitted much of the truth. What I wasn’t taught changes everything.
No one told me, for instance, that Rosa Parks had been the secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 12 years by the time she was arrested or that she had traveled to the Highlander Center in Tennessee for a 10-day training in voter registration and nonviolence shortly before her arrest.
On the day of the arrest, December 1, 1955, she was 42 years old, hardly a “little, old lady,” and her decision, though it wasn’t planned for that particular day, was rooted in years of undramatic daily work for change. 
No one on the bus with Rosa Parks tweeted the news of her arrest; no one reached hurriedly for a cell phone. Fellow passengers instead started making phone calls when they got home, and word quickly reached JoAnn Robinson, head of the Montgomery Women’s Political Council (WPC). For years, the WPC had been pressing the city and the bus company over abuses that “colored” riders (in the language of the day) were subjected to by bus drivers, who were all white.
Robinson made a few calls of her own, and late that night she made the decision to call a
one-day boycott for the following Monday. From midnight until seven, Robinson and two of her students made copies of a flyer and distributed them around the city. 
By the time local pastors arrived for a previously scheduled meeting at 10 on Friday morning, more than 50,000 flyers had blanketed the black neighborhoods of Montgomery. The pastors had little choice but to get on board, as it were.
Don’t miss this: JoAnn Robinson, a college professor and civic leader whom almost no one has heard of, called the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which had been organized and ready to launch for at least 18 months before Rosa Parks’s arrest.JoAnn Robinson did what Rosa Parks also did: she gathered with others who shared her concern, and together they plotted a way forward, undramatically and over time, fitting those efforts into already busy lives in ways that were sustainable. We carve away facts from that story until it fits the lone-hero narrative, but, in truth, it is a movement story.

~~       ~~      ~~

Want to be a person that helps change the world?
For people of faith, "What’s most important?" is the wrong question. Instead, it might be better to ask: What is mine to do? What work is God calling me to in this moment?
Once again, we have to be careful to bring this into scale. We are not discussing your life’s calling. I honestly don’t think you have one. I think you have thousands. Big ones and little ones—a conversation you are called to have tomorrow morning, a smile you are called to offer in a particularly difficult moment. These can change, well, everything. 

Instead of asking, What should I do with my life?  ASK - What should I do next? 

(Shared from/ Written by- David LaMotte)