The time has come to write about something other than Chikungunya. The month of May and thus far into June have been consumed by fighting this virus and the feelings of depression that come with it. I know I am not alone in walking around thinking, "What tha!?!? Can't this place catch a break?" My fist shaking and abhorrent resistance to the reality of the virus has proven to be less than effective, so I'll lower my fist and let someone else take the indignation job today. (They won't be as good at it as me, that needs to be noted.)
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For many years I have been meeting Haitian women from varied backgrounds. Some arrive with unique stories, others share grief and trauma and all too similar stories. Most of the women we interact with are sitting in front of us because they are pregnant. Many of those women would say they did not try or want to get pregnant, but they did and they are.
Without reserve I embrace these women. After all, I understand becoming pregnant while not "planning" or "wanting" to and I also understand deciding to have the baby that you didn't plan for or expect.
My life experiences make me naturally empathetic to their stories. It feels right and even holy to sit with someone that feels they have made a mistake and is looking for the hope and the chance at redemption while also feeling defeated, embarrassed or ashamed. Something about hope is addictive, we grasp it wherever we can find a piece of it.
Occasionally someone will email or comment on a post on the blog making sweeping generalizations that lack cultural context and lamenting the fact that we "encourage women to have babies". I then get all whipped up and rant to Troy while eating way too many potato chips. I say, "Wait a minute? So because we will love them while they are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and will help them deliver in a way that preserves their dignity and possibly their life, we are 'encouraging women to have babies' ?!?!? They were already pregnant before we ever met them!"
Troy will stare back at me and nod with his concerned, 'Oh she's on the broom now' look.
It seems people that have never made THIS particular mistake have applied for and received their license to judge. Many of them, if they could be so honest, might recall having sex at a young age, and prior to their marriage, but because they didn't get pregnant and caught, they sit in the seat of judgment.
If I am a recovering alcoholic, I don't judge the struggling drunk. If I am former debt-ridden materialistic over-spender, I feel a little sorry for my neighbor with the insatiable appetite to buy happiness in the form of a new car or vacation they cannot technically afford. If I am a formerly pregnant and single 17 year old and 22 year old, I probably have no trouble loving on the habitually pregnant young women of Haiti.
The hard lesson for me has been realizing that what I feel empathetic about, is not what everyone feels empathetic about. Within the last week I had a conversation with a woman that wanted proof that we are sufficiently discouraged or sorry by (about) our family's current unplanned pregnancy. I have not stopped thinking about it or her.
Even with my own built in reasons to empathize, something interesting took place when I learned about my daughter's unplanned pregnancy. Some sort of giant exposing light was shining on us as we walked into the weeks of feeling the feelings and sorting through that news.
It became apparent that it is easier to love, serve, show mercy, grace, and kindness to a stranger than it is to ourselves our those we love most. The righteous "I cannot believe you would do this" indignation takes hold of us when we have a history and an investment in someone. The temptation is always there to try and be someones conscience, sin-barometer, or judge. Having lived under some of that back in the days of my two unplanned pregnancies, I know that isn't what draws anyone to Jesus.
Thank God for the people in my life that taught me forgiveness by offering it freely to me.
Thank God my unplanned daughters are a living testament to God's goodness.
Our unplanned and already cherished grandson is set to arrive in October.
May he grow up knowing kindness, love, and forgiveness just as his old Mojo has.