Thursday, January 22, 2009

Prenatal Day

As you know, Thursday is "Prenatal Day" for the Heartline Women's Program. I really like Thursdays because I feel like I have a better handle on the names and faces of the ladies that come on Thursday.

I have started handling the updating of files and that helps me to commit each lady and her information to memory. We've recently had about 8 new ladies join us as 8 have had their babies and moved onto the early childhood development class on Tuesdays.

Each Thursday the ladies filter in from about 11:30 until 12:30. As they arrive we get their blood pressure, their weight and their temperature. Every once in a while something will be way off with one of those stats and we'll know to dig a little deeper.

In the USA once a month is sufficient for these checks, but doing it every week is a way to stay better in touch with them. It has proven to be a wise choice. Most of these pregnancies would be considered high-risk as so many are undernourished and struggling to provide for themselves. Almost every week someone has a blood pressure or a weight loss that points out a need for quick intervention.

Some weeks pre-natal day is encouraging and fun. Other weeks are heavy and mind-boggling. Today was the latter.

We showed a movie to the ladies called "The Victim" - it is heavy material meant to point out how choices of one person can trickle down and affect many. The movie was made in Haiti and Beth first saw it when she was on a bus to the D.R. The film takes a look at AIDS and the way it spreads and destroys lives. A lot of it is shocking from a Western perspective - so much of the cultural way that men and women interact here is difficult to understand or accept for us. The room was pretty quiet and as near as we could tell it caused most to pause and think. Abstinence is the ideal, but pushing something that won't work in a culture or play out in real life is a lot like beating your head on a wall ... many choose to do that ... but we handed out protection. It hurts our heads a lot less.

Today was chock-full of heavy situations ...

The first was a new girl that showed up. She was 21 and frail looking. She had a baby and lost it when it was two months old last year. She said it died because a "werewolf killed it" and then she said she thought she might be pregnant again. We took her blood pressure. It was 153/107 - she was a tiny little 87 pounds. When we did the pregnancy test it came back negative. We took some time to try to get to the bottom of things, most of which we failed to do. She said she did not nurse her baby; she gave it bottles. We asked about the water she used and wondered if maybe the werewolf was not really just dirty water that caused diarreah, dehydration, and eventually death. We asked her to come back in one week so we could re-check her blood pressure and look into options for meds for that.

The second situation was with one of my favorite ladies in the program. Her name is Dicleat. She is as cute as can be and incredibly sweet. She is 41. She has five kids but has not had one for ten years. She entered the program back in early December, each interaction we've had with her has been so positive. There are some ladies that we easily connect with and get to konw. We think we hear two heartbeats. Beth checked and re-checked and kept feeling like we were hearing more than one. She was so visibly shaken and upset at hearing about this possibility that we backed way off and said we were not sure, we needed to send her for an ultrasound. The fear and worry was evident and I felt so bad for her. As we prayed for her when she left I just asked God to show us how to support her ... whether she learns there is one or two babies when she goes for her ultrasound.

The third and most troubling situation of the day involved Christianne. First of all, we did not expect her to be back today. She was due Jan 15 and measured 42 cm last Thursday. She came today and spent some time opening up about her situation and her past. Christianne has two kids with an ex that is a drug addict. The baby she is currently pregnant with is not wanted by this father. He told her that the baby was not his and she should get rid of it. She shared with us that for the first four months of her pregnancy she tried to abort the baby. She specifically mentioned taking herbs, drinking a lot of alchol. She said when it did not work she would do it more.

As she sat in front of us looking like she was about to burst with baby she said "But none of that worked." To think of the trauma this baby has been through and the possibility that it may be irreperably damaged was incredibly sobering for us today. Christianne lives in a house her brother owns, but she is $700 (Haitian) dollars behind on rent so he took her door off. If you cannot turn off the electricity or the gas, the next best thing is to remove the door. :(

I don't know what Christianne wants to do. Christianne does not seem to know either. She seems very peaceful and nonchalant about things right now - but she does admit that she does not know what is best for her baby. When Beth suggested that after all those failed attempts to abort the baby that maybe God has a big plan for the baby, Christianne smiled and nodded in agreement. We're praying that this baby is okay. We're nervous to find out if any defects or harm have been caused by the choices this mom made early on in her pregnancy.

As always, we appreciate prayers for these women as they face situations and hardship that most of us cannot easily imagine.