Saturday, March 24, 2012

By Beth McHoul

Three Heartline vehicles went in different directions as we finished up yesterday.  Tara drove to two separate hospitals for pick ups and  then dropped one lady off her home.  Betsy and I went in one direction with a mom and baby and John took another mom and newborn in the other direction.  Both moms and babies went home to a tent.   The gal Tara brought home went home with  empty arms due to preeclampsia.  Heartbreaking.

The dry season switched  to spring rain right as the time changed (Haiti has decided for the first time in years to do daylight savings) and we have been having nightly downpours.  Mud puddles, impassable streets, traffic jams.  Rain.  I lay in bed last night thinking about the two newborns and their moms in tents.

We have the privilege in our mission to have close contact with our ladies.  When they have a successful birth and healthy newborn we rejoice with them.  We breathe a sigh of relief knowing the odds are against them.  We are also involved for six months after the birth.
 Beatrice lives in desperate poverty.  She and her husband stay in a well kept, almost empty tent behind a partially built house that fell in the earthquake.  I assume they are squatters on the land tucked away behind the fallen massive structure.  Beatrice comes across flat and disinterested.  Something made her come to program, and from the start her history, size of her belly, and pregnancy dates did not match up.  A tiny woman, except for her face, she looks like a preteen.  We accepted her immediately because of her history of neonatal losses.  Baby one died at 5 days, baby two at 7 days, baby 3 at a month.  No living babies save the one she carried within her each week to prenatals.

Thinking she had a preterm baby we rushed her to another hospital when she appeared at our door in late labor.    Turns out she wasn’t preterm at all – just tiny.  Then we find out she was coached to lie to us about her dates to get into the program.  Layer upon layer we try to figure this out.  Turns out she really doesn’t remember at what point the first three babies died.

So here Beatrice is with baby number 4, the only one alive.  We suggest she stay in our postpartum unit until the baby is bigger so we can watch, not knowing what might have taken the three previous lives.  We have our incredibly smart pediatrician Jen on call at a minutes notice over internet to walk us through this.  As we talk, dates of when babies died changed, so our guesses of what they might have had change as well.   She declines our offer, insisting she wants to go home to her husband and tent.  We have no choice but to try to understand her discomfort and bring her home.  We give detailed instructions for her to bring the baby at the first sign of illness or lethargy.  We wait, we pray.
Like a ping-pong ball, we went through yesterday bouncing from sadness to joy and back again.  A happy mom supported by grandma heading home to love and care for her new little one.  Another mom back with us from the hospital who lost her baby, never held or saw her little girl who came too soon and by doing so saved her mother who was preeclamptic.  Then we move on to Beatrice, seemingly disinterested and unwilling to help us help her.  We can only guess at the pain behind those flat eyes. Her paradigm  is so different than the majority of our ladies.

We deal with intimate parts of people’s lives.  Birth and death – sometimes on the same day.  In truth we understand so little about our adopted culture and our foundation is very different than the one our ladies’ lives are built upon.

So often we can’t relate to the pain or the lack of pain when we think it should be there.  We can’t relate to a mom who won’t stay so that we can hover over and track the progress of her only living child.  But we will continue to love and support.

Tomorrow brings a new round of prenatals, baby checks and dealing with women in desperate situations.  Like a tennis ball we will bounce to and fro and occasionally get knocked out of the court.  We pick up, go on and are there for more moms and babies.  We have a lot of wins, a lot of moms who internalize the program and make positive  growth in their lives.

These moms win and we cheer!   Our program works because of the intimate contact and health care we give these women.  This very closeness is what causes us pain and heartache.  Because we are close we love them, we agonize, we take their pain home with us.   They touch us with their losses and their wins.

Beatrice may yet be a win!  Please join us in prayer for her tiny 4 pound girl.

“ Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

Beth McHoul