As we meet with women, some young and some not so young, we often hear stories that leave us speechless. The women of Haiti that we serve have often experienced pain, suffering, and trauma that we cannot easily imagine. One such young woman, "Rebecca" came to us early in her pregnancy. As Rebecca opened up about her situation we grieved with her over what she had lost and what she still needed to face. At the tender age of 15, Rebecca had been hurt. An older man forced himself on Rebecca and assaulted her right in her neighborhood.
The community was upset, the police were notified, and in a rather unusual turn of events in Haiti, the assailant ended up fleeing Haiti to hide in the Bahamas in order to avoid the consequences of the rape. Soon after, Rebecca learned she was pregnant. The day we heard her story we sat quietly listening to her resolve and her strength and her plan of action. "It is not the baby's fault that I was forced. I will love this baby," said the incredibly mature young woman sitting with us.
Rebecca came to our program at the Maternity Center faithfully all throughout her pregnancy. She missed only twice, but both times she let us know she had a counseling appointment and would be absent due to that important prior engagement. We had the honor of helping Rebecca through hours of labor and eventually welcoming a baby boy into the world.
Instantly Rebecca proved that teen-mothers often have the ability to bond, love, and serve their children every bit as well as an older, more mature mother. Rebecca's baby grew fast and became a very sturdy little guy. He looked even larger in his Momma's thin arms.
When Rebecca's son reached six months of age we hugged, talked and said our temporary goodbyes on the day she graduated from the program. Rebecca graduated in January of 2013 and asked about going back to school in the future. We encouraged Rebecca to spend the next six months focusing on parenting her son. We told her that if she would come back after his first birthday in July, we would discuss school for the 2013-2014 school year.
Just as expected, in July Rebecca came to see us. She held her giant one-year-old baby boy on her hip. In October of this year she returned to school. Her mother is caring for her son while she presses on toward the goal of finishing high school. This is no small task in Haiti. The testing process is difficult and the work load heavy. From the first day we met Rebecca, we knew she had a unique spirit, one that would allow her to fight the most difficult battles and not give up. It was clear to us that sending her back to school was the right thing to do.
Heartline doesn't budget for these situations. When we meet a pregnant woman we are thinking about the immediate health-related needs. We are thinking about nutrition and vitamins and blood work. We are thinking about education throughout pregnancy and building relationships. Later we are thinking about emotional support during the difficult hours of labor and delivery. We are focused on breastfeeding and helping make the immediate connections between mom and baby. Those things are the core of our program. They are the core of what we do.
When we enter into these stories with women, we often end up knowing that our commitment to encourage, advocate, love, and serve does not end on graduation day.
While we don't technically have a "send teen moms to high school" program and therefore had not budgeted for the more than $1,000 in fees to make it happen, we knew that Rebecca needed to be given this opportunity. We will continue to ask God for direction in the unique situations that He brings to our Maternity Center, and we will continue to ask God to provide for the needs of the women through your generosity and love.