Friday, December 5, 2014

on culture, loss, and holding onto hope



This week we talked with one of the ladies in the prenatal program about her history of loss.  
Benita shared with far less detail than a midwife would like (or need to know) that her history includes the birth of two baby girls that never took a breath outside the womb.  

With both pregnancies (2011 & 21013) she felt fine, had a normal pregnancy and then around month 7 (as near as she can remember) she had a ton of pain, some bleeding, and within a half a day she delivered her placenta and her baby at the same time. The baby girls were no longer alive.

Both of these births happened at home, without a trained medical professional helping her.  

This December she finds herself about 25 weeks pregnant and unsure of what will happen with this third pregnancy.  This baby, should it stay inutero for 40 weeks, is due in mid March. We asked a lot of questions, most of them couldn't be answered in detail or with any sort of precision. Toward the end of our talk we asked, "Why do you think you lost those two babies?"  

Benita explained that she believes someone cursed her and caused the death of her babies. She is not all that hopeful that this third baby will live.

When KJ (photo) did an ultrasound she was able to determine that Bentia has something abnormal happening with the placenta.  We will do research and will try to refer Benita because it seems this abnormality is something that could be causing her to deliver early. We hope and pray it can be addressed in time to help her give birth to a living baby. 

As always, we ask for your prayers. The system is not easy or fair. Finding care is incredibly difficult and requires a lot of pushing, fighting, and pressing on.  Benita may not be able to hold onto hope. That is where we all come in, we can hope for her and hold her up until she is able to hope again.

***

When it comes to understanding a culture that is not your own, there is only one thing you need.

Infinite patience.

Scratch that -- TWO things - EARS THAT LISTEN & HEAR

It is not entirely uncommon to have people offer solutions to problems from afar. Recently someone suggested that we need to help Haitian women get out of bad relationships, rather than offering them birth control.

That's a nice idea, I really like it. But I live in reality and I understand the volume we are speaking  of when we talk about dysfunctional relationships.

This post (below) was written by a more naive me in 2008.  

It shares a few cultural realities that we have been learning and relearning for several years...

(Cut and pasted in original post below.)
***

The last few weeks of Prenatal and Early Childhood Development class have proven to be eye-opening.

Each week there is a lesson. We often try to do role play and get the ladies involved in the lesson in some unique way.

Our topic last week was domestic violence. Beth read a story about a woman who suffered at the hands of an angry, controlling man. At the end of the story the room was very quiet. Beth asked the ladies if that happens in Haiti. The answer given by several of the ladies was, "chak jou" - or every day.

We went on to do the role play in which I played the man and beat up a lady and told her that she took too long at the market and that I did not want her gone so long ... that I deserved better. 

After the skit Beth asked what sort of advice the ladies would offer the woman who had just been beat. They all said, "Get up and go to the market earlier so he won't be mad." We questioned them further and learned that they almost all believe that there are things they should try to do to keep from being beat. We asked them if they might consider leaving the abusive man. They all said, No - he has the money, they cannot leave. Sometimes they call the police, but the police don't have gas in their truck and don't necessarily respond. We asked them if they had a job, a way to make money, then would they leave? The entire room raised their hands indicating that if they had the economic ability to feed their kids, they would not put up with beatings.

To question these findings further, I had Troy ask Jeronne if her ex-boyfriend ever beat her. Without one second of hesitation she said, "Yes, he liked to hit." Troy asked her if she thought it was odd that he does not beat me, she laughed and said "oui!"

We try to avoid making generalizations. But the fact is, on a large scale, not much can be done for a family trapped in a cycle of poverty. Government won't respond. Culturally men hold the power over women and violence is ignored. Women have no power to leave. Children are at the mercy of these realities. Women accept abuse as a normal part of their existence in order to keep their children in homes and fed, even at very minimal levels.

The prayer, the hope, the desire of a program like Heartline Women's Program is to begin to empower a woman. We meet many of them during their pregnancy when they enter our program to receive basic prenatal care, vitamins, and education. Our belief is that if a woman learns to take care of her child better, learns to read, learns about child-spacing and family planning options, learns to share what she knows with her friends ... she has power - she begins to believe in herself. If she has that power she might consider further education, such as sewing or another professional school. Should she learn to sew she might be in a position to say NO to an abusive boyfriend. She may be in a position to feed her own children.

Once, a couple of years ago, a man came to Troy and asked him to fire his girlfriend. Troy said, "Why would I do that? She is a great employee." The man went on to say that she no longer respected him because she had her own money. Translation: She no longer put up with being beat. Troy refused and rumors circulated that the man was going to kill her. Eventually his anger faded and she went on with her life without him. But this is no isolated story. 

This is the reality of many poor women in Haiti.