Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year in review, Heartline Maternity Center

The end of year, a time all non-profit organizations try to draw your attention to their work in order to solicit your end-of-the-year donations.  

We would love if you decide to give now or in the new year, but this post is less about that, and more about making you aware of where we are and where we believe we are headed.  
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This year has been one of solidifying at the Maternity Center.  We have a staff that appears to be in place for the long haul.  After several years of turnover and training and shorter-term volunteers, we have in place a staff of women that consider themselves a solid team -  "ekip solid"  - as it is said in Kreyol.

During the calendar year of 2014,  the women we work with at the Maternity Center delivered 72 babies.  We accepted 94 women into the program between January and today. More baby boys than girls were born to the women in the Prenatal program this year. As is common in the world of birth, there were months of baby after baby after baby, and multiple weeks of little to no action.

Each month we graduate the women who have six month old babies, it is common for there to be tearful goodbyes and warm hugs exchanged.  Against the odds, a little community is being built here.

We have boasted a 15% transfer rate for the past few years.  This year our transfer rate was high, 29% of the women ended up needing to be taken to a hospital to deliver.  We aren't sure what that is all about, except that we had a streak in October and November where one complication after another arose and the average year turned into a high transport year toward the very end.

Always the statistic we pray and hope to report, zero mothers died as a result of complications of childbirth. We thank each of you that follow along and pray during the labors and deliveries, your prayers are a gift to the woman and each of us on staff. 

Two new things were added in 2014 -

  1. We began offering IUDs as a long term birth control option in addition to Depo Provera. Our family planning program on Friday has doubled in size this year, word of mouth advertising has made this our largest program.
  2. We began doing a Wednesday breastfeeding education and support "class" at the government maternity hospital. A song was written to enforce the truth about breastfeeding, see the video at the link above. Each Wednesday at the hospital is a new experience, as Haiti is not a place that one would ever label "predictable". 

This year we focused on team building and creating systems that will allow us to grow with excellence.  We now have a full-time staff of eight in place. Our size has allowed us to know each pregnant woman well and to connect with her personally. As we grow, we refuse to give up that important aspect of our programs. 

In 2015 we will be adding a second floor classroom to our current one-story Maternity Center. With the extra space, we will be able to take 60 to 65+ pregnant women at a time, rather than our current 40. 

Additionally, the larger Maternity Center (about three miles from our current center) is still in development and is being built section by section as the funds are raised and available. 

The highlights of a year can certainly be about statistics, but as we have shared before, the highlights for all of us have more to do with relationships that are built and the ability to see the program really work. 

Mothers that are materially poor are not placing their babies in an orphanage. Women that previous believed they didn't have milk to nurse their babies are now breastfeeding well past the six month mark. Statistically speaking, many babies die in the first six weeks of life in Haiti. We just aren't experiencing those statistics. 

The ladies learn and use what they learn to help their neighbors. They exit the program knowing that something unique happened and when their friends, neighbors, and sisters get pregnant they ask for a spot in the program for them as well. 

Rather than a list of statistics, I'd like to point you to three of seventy-two stories from this year. Each of us would likely highlight different stories and people. For me, these standout when I think about 2014.

bottom photo taken December 2014, 11 months old

  • Guerda -  After suffering unimaginable loss (after loss after loss) Guerda carried and delivered her daughter safely.  Baby Sophonie is now six months old. Beth McHoul wrote her story here. 

  • One woman that was pregnant as a result of a rape struggled greatly with depression and hopelessness.  She wondered frequently if she could ever love her baby.  Her delivery was incredibly complicated and she was one of this year's transports - complete with lights and sirens and all the intense driving you can imagine.  After delivery via C-Section she had every postpartum complication imaginable - plus Chikungunya, a mosquito borne illness that took Haiti by storm mid-year.  The hits just kept coming for this woman.  Today she is the mother to an 8 month old son that she proudly shows off at every chance she gets.  She pumps extra milk to donate to a mother that was burned badly and cannot nurse her own baby.  This woman writes songs and sings about breastfeeding with us and encourages other mothers as they labor.  

In the middle of these situations, we all hope and pray for a good outcome. The truth is, we often wonder if love and compassion will matter enough to change anything. It is not unreasonable for a woman in such a traumatic situation to give up on love, give up on herself. Sometimes, even as we are saying it, we have a hard time believing that love can conquer fear.  In this situation, and in multiple others, we saw love work.  

Fanm vanyan
ke nou konnen yo
ke nou leve yo
ke nou tankou yo

Strong women
May we know them
May we raise them
May we be them

To make a year-end donation to Heartline Ministries,  please visit this page. 

To follow Maternity Center news as it happens, find these options:

Beth McHoul blogs on occasion HERE
Beth Johnson blogs on occasion HERE
Heartline Facebook page HERE
Heartline Twitter HERE