Wednesday, January 19, 2011

mini midwives

Phoebe and Lydia are becoming miniature midwives in training.  Lydia is with me almost everywhere I go.  Thankfully Phoebe agrees to stay home about half of the time. She likes being home and I like that I only have one needy, incredibly chatty, and super busy "helper".  

The ladies in the prenatal class seemed mostly amused by their belly rubbing and questions last Thursday. It might become less amusing for them as time goes on so we're working to convince Lydia she can stay home and play on Thursdays.

This morning she allowed me to leave to run without a single tear, this is progress!

Post-earthquake Haiti is much busier than we've known it to be previously. Monday through Friday the days start at 6 and we go many different directions much of the day. At about 4:45 everyone is back home. At 8:15 everybody but Paige is usually in bed and Troy and I reply to emails, read news, write something here, attempt to communicate intelligently with people and be organized for the next day, etc.  It is either that, or we lie down with Lydie to get her to go to sleep (as required by Lydie) and we fall asleep with her. It is somewhat surprising how much more tired you are at the end of the day here. 

The last few days have been so crazy we have had to hide from the kids in order to talk to each other; somehow they always find us before we're ready.

People sometimes ask how we can get it all done?  I think maybe they are assuming it is super orderly. It's not. There is not much margin. There is no margin. There are things we don't do.

We don't play games, we don't read books nearly often enough, we don't talk on the phone/skype much with friends and family in the USA (no time or no energy being the chief reasons - plus if we have not talked to each other we figure talking to other people makes no sense) and we don't have June Cleaver variety of organized meals together. Meals are definitely a place we skimp to save time/effort. We feed the kids as we stand and manage them and eat while fielding their questions and commands and it is usually pretty unimpressive.  After that we hurry through home-work and start thinking about bed. Tonight they were allowed to swim instead of bathing. Water and chemicals must be equal or better than water and soap. Getting them all to bed feels like its own little victory. We cut-corners and "degaje" whenever possible.  If Geronne did not help us with the kids and handle 90% of the housework we would never make it.  She is the only reason this operation is functioning at all. 

This week we're one kid extra. A sweet three year old named Melody is staying with us while her big sister travels for a funeral.  Today our friend Harold from Austin arrived. (John insists he be called Tex.) He is staying at the guesthouse for two months and hopefully among other things he will get the lay of the land and be able to drive and assist with some of the transportation issues we and others are having. If you like video games, you can drive in Haiti. Some of us are actually better drivers here. 

Today Troy said: "I think I know what Neil Armstrong felt like now that I have a working data plan on an iPhone in Haiti."  In theory this new development will mean he can multi-task in traffic (since he spends so much time sitting in traffic) but in reality it might mean that he simply plays his next "Words with Friends" move much quicker than usual and nothing productive will come of it.

Tomorrow night Jen comes back from Cazale and some of our favorite lards from MN (Marcia and Greg Erickson) come over to visit before they head to the south part of the island on Friday.

The election and politics dramas continue to unfold.  There are plots and subplots. We're not sure who's on first...  Or what the heck anyone is thinking or doing.  Some of the statements made by attorneys of a certain "exiled" dictator are mind-boggling.  It would be comical  -  if so many lives were not depending on the outcome.

Who needs television when you sit front row watching this stuff?

That's it from here tonight.

Phoebe on Sunday

Beth feeding Lydia Nutella for lunch

Lydia & Phoebe listening to heart-tones with Beth

Lydie "helping" yesterday at Women's Program


 HERE is a link to a piece (with photos) written last week for "BlogHer". 
(Pasted in without pictures.)


There are a handful of places on the planet that grab the heart of every single person that visits. The vice grip hold that Haiti has on ours is difficult to explain.

Difficult to explain that is, unless you have been here.

In 2002, my husband and I first visited this country of deep beauty, great suffering, abundant overcoming, and stark contrast. While it sounds cliché, from that day forward we have never been the same. At the time of the catastrophic earthquake our family of nine had lived and worked full time in Haiti for four years.

Wes Stafford, president of Compassion International, said, "Haiti was home to one of the worst disasters of our time. Then the earthquake hit."

January 12, 2010, at 4:53pm, forty seconds of violent shaking changed this land forever. Long ago known as the “Jewel of the Antilles,” Haiti stood in total ruin.

The hours, days, and weeks that followed the earthquake felt entirely surreal to us. It reminded us of the movies where things that don't make any sense happen and where story lines don't always match up with reality. On one corner bodies, were being stacked by the dozens for mass removal, and on another people gathered to pray, sing, and thank God for sparing them even as multiple aftershocks shook the ground violently.

The media this week has focused much on the mind-boggling amount of work that remains to be done. They quote statistics about slow rubble removal and lack of economic growth. We don't disagree with them, but we think they're missing the real stories.

As we mark the passing of this first anniversary since the devastating earthquake, the real stories are being told all across Leogane, Port au Prince, Petit Goave and the entire country. MSNBC and ABC must sell more advertising by focusing on the negative, because the positive is not very hard to find. It stands out all around us. It begs for us to notice.

The positive is Antoinette, who walks perfectly on her prosthetic leg and is so filled with joy and gratitude for her life that you cannot help but smile when she greets you. The real story is Collette, who went from the poorest slum in the western hemisphere with a life-threatening injury to the USS Comfort ship by helicopter. Doctors did not think she would survive the surgery to meet her unborn baby girl. They told her as much before they operated. Today she walks tall, holding almost one-year-old Ester confidently on her shoulder.

In the days after the earthquake, Haitians rescued each other; for hours on end, they dug by hand and with brute strength lifted giant slabs of cement with nothing but their will to see friends live and their faith. Yes, thousands of volunteers poured in a few days later, yes many big name NGOs responded, but the Haitian people were united and responsive first. In the hours of the greatest devastation and loss of life, Haitians helped Haitians.

Day after day, miracles unfolded before our eyes.

Our role in this epic undertaking was small. Each day we transported patients from the slums outside of Port au Prince to our makeshift field hospital a few miles away. When our medical volunteers could not meet their needs, we went to work networking with others on the ground. We acted as advocates in a place that often forgets the weak. We traded a patient that needed an amputation revision for a patient that needed tender loving care in a long-term recovery setting. We traded ketamine for morphine. We worked together with organizations from Israel, Miami, the United Kingdom, and even the United States Navy. These organizations worked together, and we did it without ego or concern for credit. It was not about us, nor did we want it to be. More than anything, we longed to see the people we so respect experience relief from their pain and feel both love and care in our touch. Each day, lives that would have been lost were saved. In a sea of 300,000 injured, our contribution was small, yet not insignificant.

As we reflect on the earthquake and the aftermath, we find ourselves focusing less on how much cement there still is to move and more on how inspiring the resolve of our tenacious friends has been. We think less about the questionable behaviors of the president and the international community and more about the strength of spirit and example exhibited to us daily as we work along side our Haitian brothers and sisters.

They are the reason Haiti has our hearts.

Tara Livesay
Port au Prince, Haiti