Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Morning Bells are Ringing

Written By Dr. John Carroll
Princess--May 8, 2014 (Photo by John Carroll)
Princess–May 8, 2014 (Photo by John Carroll)
I can now talk to you as an adult. You are not a precious little baby any longer.
This is Mother’s Day in Haiti and your mother Fabiola is grieving greatly for you. She just texted me that she wants to play with you…but she knows that she cannot.
As you remember you were born with complex congenital heart disease and were hospitalized four times in Port-au-Prince during the first three months of your life for congestive heart failure and pneumonia. You somehow recovered each time and were discharged to the care of your mom and grandma. And they both fed you all day long one to two ounces of Enfamil at a time with a syringe because you were too weak to take milk like “normal” babies do.
After many attempts we finally found a medical center to accept you and you charmed the people there just as much as you charmed your family and neighborhood friends in Port. People were fascinated with your face and your intelligence and your beauty. During our trip to the States people in the airports would just stare at all 10 pounds of you and marvel and wonder about you. And your nurses in the medical center fell in love with you quickly.
Princess, you went to heart surgery last Wednesday morning with Fabiola carrying you while we walked to the hospital at 6 AM just before the sun came up. Many people in three countries were praying for you that morning. You were indeed a little rock star and you seemed to know that.
And you came through surgery well and went to pediatric CVICU in stable condition. You were monitored with every known baby monitor and given the best care in the world. Your doctor teams that rounded on you and your nurses literally watched every heart beat and breath you took. And your mom was given a slow and in-depth explanation of every monitor and lead and tube placed on or in your tiny body so she could understand what it was all about. All of your medications that you were receiving in the vein were also explained to your mom.
I was asleep when your dad Lolo called me from Haiti at 1:30 AM on Thursday morning. He told me that you were not doing well. I wondered if I was dreaming. I tried to read my cell phone texts from your mom who had sent them to me before your father called. The texts said that they were pumping on your chest and that she needed to be strong but that she could not stay at your crib-side any longer. I wondered if this could really be happening.
I got to your ICU bed as quickly as I could but it was too late. The code was called. The doctors and nurses had done everything humanly possible to “reanime” you. Your chest was being closed. All that could be done to bring you back had already happened. Your life here was over.
Princess, you felt no pain and gave us no warning as your pulmonary blood vessels clamped down all of a sudden and deprived your heart muscle of oxygen and your heart simply slowed down and stopped. The great medical team caring for you could not win the battle against your resistant pulmonary blood vessels that had too much muscle in their walls for the team to overcome. We simply did not get to you soon enough in Haiti to operate your heart and win this war.
I walked down the hall and found Fabiola on the phone. I didn’t want to look at her. But she looked at me and asked me how you were and I said not good. She asked me if you were breathing and I said no. She asked me if you had died and I said yes. Your 23-year-old mom didn’t blink and showed no emotion whatsoever. She simply spoke into the phone and told your dad Lolo “she’s dead” and hung up. However, when your dad called back he was hysterical and I could hear your grandmas wailing in the back ground. I could see and hear and feel the misery and anguish during this dark night in your little home in Haiti.
The attending doctors came and explained things clearly to your mom in soft voices. Fabiola had no questions for them and thanked them for all they had done to try to save you.
During the next hour in the waiting room your mom and dad continued to Facebook Message each other. I don’t think Message was created to hold this amount of sorrow contained in these texts.
At 4 AM your mom told me she was tired and wanted to sleep. So I led her back across the quiet and vacant medical center campus to her room across the street from the hospital. After this I returned to see you one last time, pick up the plaster cast mementos of your hands and feet, your pink blanket, and a little doll the nurses had given you.
At 5 AM I left the hospital. The morning air was clean, all was still, and the eastern sky was becoming a little brighter. As I walked alone I felt hollow…like I had nothing inside of me.
I had your doll in my right hand and I must have accidentally hit a button on it somehow and it started playing music that sounded like choir music. (I didn’t know it played any type of music.) I stopped and tried to turn it off but I couldn’t. So I put in my black knapsack on my back but it continued to play. The second song was “Frere Jacques”, the song we all know from childhood.
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, daing, dong. Ding, daing, dong.
The song is traditionally translated into English as:
Brother John, Brother John,
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
I have to say that I was not surprised. Princess, I knew it was you, no longer as a little baby with your knowing grin, but as someone with infinite wisdom in a real good place, and you were assuring me that you were fine. And you were also telling me that you understood that we are humans and forgave us for our very slow and bumbling pace in Haiti trying to save your life. The morning bells are ringing indeed and we need to do better.
Princess, you touched many of us while you were here. Don’t forget your mom and dad and grandmas and your three-year-old adopted brother Prince and any other brothers and sisters who decide to come. They and all the rest of us will always need your help.
Bye for now.
Dr. John
www.haitianhearts.org

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Welcome. (I loathe you.)


I am on a quick trip to 'Merica take a (1 of 2) midwifery test and see my big girls and pick up Hope to bring back to Ayiti. I've been here very few hours and have enjoyed two hot water events.  I'm nervous and anxious and happy and also a bit sad to be here while the Maternity Center is facing big hurts. (See Chikungunya posts.)

Pretty much the usual amplified feels tortured soul routine. I don't often stray from it. 

Six minutes in the USA and I managed to annoy an American.  

Why why WHY do those U.S. Customs/Border Patrol people hate everyone so terribly much? 

Their training MUST include something about growing an impassioned disdain for the human race. Here is what happened: I went to that automated passport machine, a newish thing, it flags me to go see a live customs person because I have a hyphenated last name and they tell me that anyone with that, or who is a Jr. or a the third will always get stopped because your airline ticket rarely exactly matches your passport name. If the two last names are there with no hyphen you are flagged as a different person than the passport.  

I stood in line like any good American can (sometimes) do. The counter in front of me cleared, the person left. It was straight ahead, only a distance of about six feet. The overhead speaker announces what station is open.  However, my adept little eyes saw it was open faster than the lady at the speaker was notified and my foot fell across the yellow line right BEFORE the speaker said, "Agent Four is now available".  By the time I took three steps and got to agent four, the whole announcement was out.  

Agent four said, "You have to wait until the speaker says to come."  I don't know what my face did, but it was probably a mixture of confused and witchy.  I said, "Yeah, the speaker said it." He said, "You came before it said it." I said, "Are you serious right now? What's your deal?" He waved his hand at me to go back to the line.  

I muttered under my breath, "America, the land of the free to be rude..." He didn't hear me. He sat there in his elevated booth in his swivel chair all smug in his victory over me. I realize that in actuality, this phenomenon crosses international borders, so probably their training program has been translated into all languages.   Had Troy been with me, he would tell me to simmer and say, "It isn't worth it, Tara."  So, I pretended Troy was with me and stepped back to line. 

The overhead speaker said, "Agent eight is now available".  With absolute gratitude to the speaker voice, I went to line eight where I met a person not as far along in their abhorrence training. 


Friday, May 23, 2014

An Illustration

Doing for someone, what they have the ability to do for themselves, steals their dignity.




Chikungunya in Haiti - Part II

Emma and Fritzlene
Edit:  To read a great article that explains in detail how the virus is spread and is likely in the USA at some point, see this article.  This also explains why it is impossible to tell you if visiting Haiti is "safe" or if you'll get this virus. 

 ~     ~      ~       ~

The NPR story on the Chikungunya virus in Haiti can be heard here. Emma is interviewed in the story. She is quite pleased to be the voice for Haitian Moms on this report. (Sunday she asked me if the white guy with the microphone put her on the radio yet. At the time it hadn't been published yet.)

Since 8 days ago when I first wrote about this nasty new (to Haiti) virus, we have seen more pregnant women and more babies with the virus.  Thinking back on things we believe we saw our first case on May 6th. Since that time many more have come with the exact same symptoms. Each new day has turned up new cases.


For newborn babies it seems much more difficult to tolerate.  Emma's baby had it at two weeks of age, but we now have two five day old babies with it. New babies that have not established a solid nursing pattern are at a higher risk. Tonight the Maternity Center transported a baby girl (born early morning last Saturday) to three hospitals.  Thankfully, the third hospital was able to take baby Anna.  At least three of the Maternity Center staff-members have had it and there is a collective holding of our breath as those of us still doing fine all hope to be the ones that don't get it. 


It is rainy season, our area is low lying and we frequently have standing water and thicker mosquito population. We don't know what to expect long term, but in the short term we are so sad to see pregnant women and babies suffering from this disease and we feel a lot bit helpless as we watch it spread so quickly. 


Today multiple people wrote to ask about bringing their group to Haiti (specifically asked about certain areas of the country) and asked, should they still do that.  I am notoriously two weeks behind on email, I want to publish my thoughts about that question here in case I don't get to emails in time.


If you are wondering if you can avoid getting Chikungunya in Haiti this spring/summer, I would answer you the same way I would about Malaria or Dengue Fever or even diarrhea caused by contaminated water or food.  Many people will likely come visit and be fine, they will leave Haiti without a rash or fever or pain. Some people are going to get sick.  There is no way to avoid it. There are precautions you can take, but I saw some of the most cautious and careful people I know with Chikungunya, so I don't think bug spray and hyper vigilance alone is a guarantee of staying free of the virus. 


The only difference between the other things I mentioned and Chikungunya - is that Chikungunya is spreading quickly and many, many people are getting it right now. We are hopeful that it will slow down but right now it is only ramping up.  


I don't have a deep well of knowledge to draw from to bust out any statistics for you, but when asked "Do you think I will get sick if I come next month?"  I can honestly only say, "possibly, yes/no."  It is similar to me asking you to tell me if I will get the flu or a bad cold if I visit you in your state/country during the high season of viral illness in your land. People get sick sometimes - and other times they don't. 

Many here live in conditions that are difficult and at times deplorable.  As DokteJen struggled with pain last week, she and I both thought about how miserable sparse electricity, no running water, and very few options for pain relief must be.  


While we that visit this island or call it our adopted home have reason to be careful and concerned for ourselves, we aren't the ones with the huge challenge of facing this virus without basic conveniences or adequate resources.  


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Exposed


One night we were getting ready to pray together. When we do this, Troy has the kids share if there is anything or anyone on their heart to pray for and we chat a bit before we pray.  Sometimes it goes really well and other times it is a competition of who cares the most about the most people and can come up with the most random requests. If Noah names six things, Isaac will name name seven and Hope can surely think of at least eight. 

Prayer requests as fodder for sibling rivalry, who knew? We openly admit to saying "alright, enough already with the prayer requests - stop!"

On that night, before we prayed we read James Chapter 1.  We read the first 18 verses without any commentary from the peanut gallery. Sometimes with the two littlest ones around nobody is really even listening, for that reason we read for just a short time.  Normally we would have stopped long before a 19th verse but Isaac had gone to the bathroom with a tummy ache and Noah said "keep going".

At Noah's request we read more.

We read this:
Listening and Doing
 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  

20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.  

21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

After verse 21 Noah raised his hand to stop us and said, "Mama that's me. I get angry quickly. That is for me."

Troy and I looked at one another.  Did a stinkin' little kid just recognize his own tendency toward quick anger? Did he just call himself out?  Did he just own his issue? Did he just show up two-thirds of the adult population? We high-fived with our eyes across the room. (An "eye five"!?!)

We went on to discuss our anger issues for a few brief minutes, listing recent events wherein we were all "quick to anger"  - and then just as quickly as the deep moment of introspection came, someone farted and the moment was gone.

We were grateful for that short conversation with Noah. We know he comes by his tendency toward quick anger quite honestly. (ahem.)

Marc Cohn wrote this in his song "The Things We've Handed Down":


You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Some feature of your father's
That you'd gladly sell or trade
And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed
By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we've handed down 

I come from a long line of feisty people. Feisty is just a nice way to say "hot-headed".  I know the truth about my natural tendencies. I know the truth about Noah's too.

Troy, on the other hand, seems so very calm.  But inside he is not as calm as he often appears. That is probably also a 'thing that's been handed down'.  Troy has frequently said, "I had no idea I was angry until I got here to Haiti."

After many months and years, Haiti has a way of bringing out whatever ugliness exists in our lives.

If pride is your issue, in this not to be controlled place, called Haiti, you become prideful times ten. If you had a small anger problem before you got here - your anger problem is now amplified under bright light. If you struggled with judgment, dishonesty, fear, control, or any number of normal-human-things, you can try to fool yourself but you'll never fool anyone watching.  It will be on display as you face it in the frying pan or in the fire.

This is a hard place.

It has a way of exposing things.

So much of our struggle working here has been to keep from becoming permanently angry. (Or getting stuck in whatever might be hiding beneath the anger.) The simplest things such as driving, buying groceries, or helping a friend with a medical need at a local hospital will test every ounce of your patience. The real and perceived lack of change, lack of progress, lack of truth, lack of trust, lack of convenience, lack of compliance, lack of integrity, lack of justice ... It all tries and tests.

Things  happen every day that bring your heart rate up and cause you shoulders to meet your earlobes. Much of that anger can feel quite justified and even righteous ... and a lot of it probably is ... but walking around angry doesn't really change anything.

We found out while talking with Noah that we all desire to work harder and to successfully be- "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." As we read from James we had to say to our son: "Buddy, that is us. That is for us too."

Perhaps it's for you as well?




Photo of a quick Maternity Center visit to meet new babies.
This post was edited and republished - Originally posted June 2011

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Brand Spankin New Little World Changers

(Three babies in 18 hours at the Maternity Center yesterday.)

Grateful to report they are all doing well, as are their Mommies.  

Left to Right:  Abigail - Anna - Marvens 

Interested in praying for the women that are due soon and our staff?

Interested in helping sponsor a pregnant woman join our program(s)?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Strong in the Broken Places







Today's Events at HMC-

Baby girl, Abigail, born to Brunette this morning.  7lbs9ounces 21" long

 Brunette and Abigail 


  • Two women currently in early-ish labor.
  • One baby acting not normal, not eating well. Had Chikungunya this week but had gotten better, now acting lethargic. Baby Fritzlene needs to get well.
  • One Momma (also on staff at HM) who has lost multiple pregnancies being put on bed-rest in hopes her baby will wait another three or four weeks before coming and she will not go pre-eclamptic.  Prayers for Guerda, please. 
  • Dokte Jen is saying the worst is over and is doing a bit better this evening. NPR hasn't published the story yet, but we will let you know when/if they do.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Maladi Chikungunya an Ayiti


Emma's interview with NPR

Dr. Jen interview with NPR

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  There is no predicting tomorrow on this half of this island in this part of the Caribbean. 

One day you are stitching up wounds and placing IUDs and taking care of very sick babies and being interviewed by NPR while celebrating your birthday and the next day you are in pain, in bed, a victim to the newest mosquito borne illness.

Dokte Jen went from all of that activity to having a fever and pain in a matter of hours. Not a very nice post birthday hangover at all. 

Jen comes in an out of Haiti, as all long time readers know.  Some years we get her for five months, others for three. No matter what, we have learned that when she is here, she will deal with some big things that we are not necessarily totally equipped to deal with on our own. (Although, Jen will take issue with this and say that we are doing great and have come a long way in our skills and nursing care and that we don't need her. She lies like that.) 

The only emergency C-Section ever done at Heartline, Jen was here. When Phoebe decides to have asthmatic crashes, Jen is here (or Jen is on the phone with us all day). The only time my kid had bacterial meningitis, with a seizure, in a hospital without doctors, Jen was here. The only time Chikungunya was hitting our staff and clients like a storm, Jen was (is) here.  I could carry this list on ad infinitum; suffice it to say, when big #%*# goes down, she seems to be here. I am over the top about appreciating her because she is one of my very best friends and because she saved the life of my kid one day in 2008. If it seems like too much fanfare, let me say, it's not. 

In the next day or two you can watch the NPR feed for a story on Chikungunya in Haiti, you will likely hear Emma (first photo) speaking about her case and her baby, Fritzlene.  You will also very likely hear Jen's concerns about the virus that now has her lying in bed in  a lot of pain. 

Suturing Class
I want to share one other thing with you.  Emma is a rock star Momma.  Life has dealt her an insanely unfair hand. I so want her voice on NPR and I want people to know she is an incredibly smart woman with more moxie than most of us dream of having.  This 25 year old is tougher than tough.  Right now she is pulling herself up and out of her unfair circumstances. She knew Fritzlene was sick before a single symptom showed.  She is a Mom in every sense of the word. We sometimes hear that poor folks shouldn't have babies and people make comments that are disrespectful and hurtful.  I know for many that sounds absurd. I wish I was exaggerating. There are some that think forced sterilization of the poor makes perfect sense.  There are some that believe material poverty equals stupidity or no right to a free life. We watch materially poor women provide for and love their babies well every day. Like us, they are not perfect mothers, but they are doing the very best they can with what they have and that in and of itself earns my respect and props.
It is safe to say we are all nervous about this virus. Thankfully it is not fatal. Unfortunately it cannot be treated (Malaria can be treated) and only supportive care can be done to try and make patients more comfortable. We don't have time to be sick and we hate seeing the mommas and babies that already have so much on their plate forced to add yet another thing to overcome.

~               ~               ~

Yesterday a friend was in a moto accident and Dr. Jen taught the midwives of Heartline some advanced fancy suturing techniques while we fixed him up. I don't know if this was annoying or funny to him, but we compared this poor guy's knee and heel to female anatomy multiple times.

Today is a new day, who knows what it will bring?!? We always ask that when Haiti comes to mind, that you please toss up prayers for this wonderful little island nation.  Today, please add Chikungunya and Dr. Jen and the ladies we work with and serve to your prayer list.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

weird(er) days

I sat down to write about the last couple days.  I started writing rapid fire.  Then I went and read it and realized it cannot be explained.  It sounds way too freaky odd when typed out with details and explanations and names.  It sounds like I believe it is normal because I am explaining it. Instead, I have decided to spit it out with zero context because the context only serves to make me seem like I should be institutionalized.

Some pieces of stories from this week:
  • thigh level flood water - two flat tires -no jack - Costly. 7 hour commute
  • pooping on a kitchen floor (screaming that a baby is coming) (nope - no baby- just poo) to quote Beth McHoul: "many ladies poop while having a baby - this is normal. What happened yesterday was not that. It was a giant labor for a poop not a baby"
  • fainting/unresponsive for ten minutes some sort of psychological seizure with perfect vital signs and coming to because (not any expat staff) someone does this to wake you up. don't ask. we don't understand either.
  • high fevers everywhere we turn (Chikungunya is the talk of the island) Chicken - Goon - Yaaah if only the symptoms were as tame and nonthreatening as the name sounds ( Hear it here)
  • false labors - two of them - both very convincing at times 
  • getting so mad you become unconscious (that's a thing apparently?)
  • very high blood pressure caused by righteous anger
No two days alike. 
None of it can be predicted. 
One minute you are innocently leaving a hardware store and the next you are watching cars float by you.  One minute you are conscious, the next you are not. One minute you think a baby is coming, the next you realize there is poop to clean up.  

~              ~               ~

Unrelated photos from last week - a (busy) four baby week ...











You still have time to honor YOUR MOM - A FRIEND - A PERSON THAT STEPS IN AND HELPS AS A MOM - A SINGLE DAD - or any other brilliant idea you have ... See this post for directions about helping a Haitian Momma while also honoring someone you love on Mother's Day. 

(Orders must be placed by Saturday night in order to guarantee Western Hemisphere Sunday delivery.) 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

stand up




~             ~             ~

Having trouble finding a great 
Mother's day gift for your loved one?



Friday, May 02, 2014

A Way to Honor Your Favorite Women This Mother's Day




Because we treasure the gift that our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and girlfriends are to us, we would like to give you the opportunity to honor them in a unique way this Mother's Day. 

Mother's Day is right around the corner, if you are anything like us, time has gotten away from you. We are excited to offer you a beautiful way to honor those you love. This is the perfect honorary gift for future moms, friends, adoptive moms, sisters, fostermoms, stepmoms, single-dads, or those that are longing to be a mom.

With a donation in honor of your favorite Momma, we will send her a personalized card letting her know you are thinking of her this year.

A donation of $15, $25, $50, $100, and $2300 will do the following:

$15 - Provides the  basic medications needed at a birth for mom and baby

$25 - Provides for a day of post partum care for one woman

$50 - Provides for the supplies (and upkeep of equipment) for one labor and delivery

$100 - Provides for one month of early childhood development classes and support  OR it also fills the ambulance tank with gas 

$2,300- Provides for one woman entering the program in the first trimester, lab-work, necessary monitoring, medicine, prenatal care, educational classes weekly during the entire pregnancy, labor and delivery at Heartline (with a reliable transport option if an emergency dictates transport), 48 to 72 ++ hours round the clock post partum care, six months of weekly classes and scheduled post-partum monitoring of mother and baby

With your donation of $15 or more, we will send the woman you wish to honor a personalized card  (similar to the example above) via email.

To donate in honor of your favorite woman, please go to this page:

http://heartlineministries.org/product/general-donation/

You may donate by PayPal or Credit Card.

After you have donated, you will immediately receive an email confirmation of your donation. 

Complete the following steps:

  1.  Make a donation at the link above
  2. When you receive your email receipt forward it to tara.livesay@heartlineministries.org
  3. Include:  The name of the woman you want to honor (My sister, Tina got the example card above) - The email address you would like us to send the card to.  (We will blind copy you when we send it.) All cards will be sent on May 10 or 11, if you have a preference please note when you would like the email to be sent. Please also include the name of the donor/gift giver if you wish to disclose that information.  The subject line will say, "Sarah wanted to honor you this Mother's Day" if you share your name, please share it as you want it used in the subject line.
Your donation makes a difference in the life of Haitian mothers.  Your donation honors the work and sacrifice of the woman you want to recognize.



~           ~           ~

To meet and/or pray for some of the women in the program, you can go here.

Heartline Maternity Center and our programs are unique. Yes, we offer a incredibly needed and valuable (life-saving) services. More than that though, we offer love, relationship, friendship, and time. 

We meet women early in their pregnancies. We meet women that are living in a country with thehighest maternal mortality rate in the western hemisphere, where 2 out of 3 of their friends deliver at home without a skilled birth attendant. Because of that, we meet women in a country where the risk of dying during child-bearing years is unusually high and the chances of losing the baby are just as daunting. 

We are able to spend 7 to 9 months of a woman's pregnancy getting to know her story, her needs, her unique situation. Prenatal care is rare for Haitian women, we are thankful to offer the same quality prenatal care in Haiti that our friends and relatives in North America are receiving. By the time a woman delivers her baby with us we know the details of her biggest challenges in life, and we know how to support her in a personal way as she delivers a new life into what oftentimes amounts to hardship and chaos. 

During labor and delivery a woman is able to do the miraculous work of bringing her baby into the world in a calm environment where people offer nurture, gentleness, kindness, and love. If you have visited a Haitian hospital or walked through a crowded neighborhood in Port au Prince, you understand the vast difference our birth-center environment offers a woman.

After delivery we are able to walk with her as she does the work of bonding.  In cultures of poverty this doesn't come as naturally as it does for those of us living with material blessings galore. We love, encourage, and stand with the new mother while she begins to nurse her baby and bond to him or her in the process. We encourage mothers that God has given them the skills and heart they need to love, serve, and raise their children. 



We offer education and ongoing support for the first six months of her baby's life.  We teach about child-spacing and safe and effective methods of birth-control, in order to empower each woman to take the lead in their own health and future.

We are human and we make mistakes, we are not perfect, but we try hard to get it right when we're walking along side our Haitian friends. We work diligently to withhold any judgment and simply offer a place of safety and love and grace to a woman that is coming to us from a life of difficulties we will never fully understand. 

We are so grateful to have never lost a mother in our delivery room - but we are even more proud to share that the women that enter our doors feel valued and honored and loved --- and that is the reason you want to consider supporting Heartline Maternity Center when you give in honor of someone you love this Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Better Than a Light and Safer Than a Known Way


This year began for us when we headed home in January to Port au Prince after settling our second oldest daughter, Paige, in Texas to begin college. Technically speaking, all years begin for everyone in January. Clearly, I am a calendar expert. We returned home after taking five months away from life in Haiti at the end of 2013.  

As we flew toward the island we love, I declared this portion of a poem my prayer and hope for the year:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” 

And he replied:Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

... And just like you, off we went into the unknowable year of 2014.  


* * * * * * * * * * *

Not unlike years past, we entered 2014 with hopes and goals and earnest prayers. My weightiest prayers and concerns are usually for content, healthy, growing, and safe children. Because I have seven of them, and two of them are now very far away, my prayer life can sometimes get hyper focused on them.

I have been parenting for twenty-four years. There are things I would love to go back and re-do and things that I know I got right. In all these years nothing has surprised me quite so much as the change that takes place in our role as parents when we transition children from living under our roof to living on their own. 

It seems like people do this regularly and they even live to tell about it. I don't know how you did it, but my hat is off to each of you. You are truly ninja hero-warrior-let-goers - all of you! 

Troy and I travel in circles of friends that are all mainly 33 to 40 years old, none of the closest friends in our age group have grown up kids yet. We are going first and they are all looking at us for advice and a "how to" guide.  We are glad to be done with diapers but we are far from being able to provide them help.

Friends, we don't know anything. There is no guide. Stop looking at us.

My friend Jamie wrote about this big-kid stuff recently. She was pointing out that all the quotes and blog posts written by mommies are about little kids. She said:"There's a reason there aren't very many blogs from Moms of teens. It's because as they grow, they become like a magnifying glass to all your fatal flaws and the myriad ways you screwed them up as children. Who wants to read about that?It's depressing." 

I think she is onto something, here. 

Our kids become us, the very best and the very worst of us.  

Maybe that is why letting go is so hard, we are letting go of the unfinished work of ourselves. 


The fact is, we have to let go before it is finished  - because it is NEVER finished. I am not finished. You are not finshed.


Many years back Paige coined a phrase that simply meant "wow, that sucks".  In the weird and unique words of the six year old Paige,  this never being finished thing, "is a LarryGeorge Bummer." 

I find that the line between letting go (that whole give them roots and give them wings song and dance) in a healthy way, and offering too much advice, guidance, cautionary warnings, etc, is a razor thin line.  

Razors cut if you aren't careful.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sharing life on the Internet is risky business. It is also a LarryGeorge Bummer at times. Choosing how vulnerable you want to be is tricky. People assume that they know everything there is to know if they simply read a blog or follow a Twitter feed.  As if sharing one deeply personal thing means all writers share all the things going on in their lives. 

One criticism of all social media is that it gives us a false sense of the lives of others. People don't use their 140 characters to say, "My spouse is being a crazy person and we are fighting this week." There is not a lot of, "I don't have money to pay my bills and I am afraid", or, "My kid has stopped communicating with me and I feel really sad and scared." There are some that put a bit of that variety of "real" out there but after a while they learn to regret being vulnerable in the unknowable endless space such as the interweb and they pull back.

People want to find connection. We are people that want to be heard and understood. I think the discontent with social media stems from the truth that there is more connection to be found in hearing that someone you know is experiencing a similar struggle, than there is connection to be found in seeing a perfect, airbrushed life filled with humble brags about the latest house project, perfect family vacation, or job promotion.

I figure sharing the highs and the lows, the celebration and the challenges, while risky, is still a worthy endeavor. Life is not easy for most of us and perfect is not a thing either.

As I started reflecting on these first months of 2014, I looked up the rest of the prayer that kicked off our year. I found that these words followed what I had previously read ...

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. 
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.   
So heart be still  
What need our little life  -  
Our human life to know, 
If God hath comprehension?
(the beginning of the poem,"God Knows" - by Minnie Louise Haskins) 

* * * * * *

"So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night."  

The "gladly" part may be a bit of a big stretch.  

We went forth though, right? 

That's something.

* * * * * *

One night early this year  I had a long layover in Dallas on the way home from a midwifery class I took. My oldest daughters and my Mom came to spend the night with me in Dallas. As I climbed into bed in the darkness, Paige said, "Mom, I need to talk to you." I asked, "Oh Paigey, why did you wait until I turned out the light?" She replied, "Because I don't want you to see me." She went on to share with me the fresh news of her pregnancy. 

I can share this now, because we have all worked through a lot. This news took time to digest. We were afraid for her.  At the same time, we were so thankful for her honesty in telling us. We were happy and we were sad. We were upset and we were relieved.  We vacillated between sane and not so sane. 

Mercifully, in the last few weeks most of the fear has lifted and hope and joy have replaced those initial reactions.

In this year that we prayed, "Give us a light that we may tread safely into the unknown", but instead we were told to go forward without the light, simply placing our hands in His, we have experienced something pretty remarkable.  

Even in the darkness, when we cannot see or anticipate what is coming next, we have been able to plod along, step by step, waiting for each unknown thing to be illuminated and known as we need it to be. When we turn and look back, we are able to see God's provision and Goodness to us on the mysterious winding path.

I was surprised by how long the grief had me in its grips. I recognized that I thought I could save Paige from ALL pain or choices that would make her life more challenging. I identified that it felt like failure that I had not saved her from it. Guilt consumed us. The grief had so much to do with things that were and are not even true. I wanted there to be protocols and steps to follow to immediately know what to say, what to do, what to feel next. 

I am here to tell you, no protocols exist. Walking into it, begging God for His grace, is the only way through. 


Paige deserves all the mercy and grace and understanding and support we can offer. She will fly. She has been a foster momma to many little ones in Haiti and she will be a spectacular mom to her little one. I needed to stop being afraid for her and harness the energy I was wasting on fear. We are all throwing our energy into walking along side her and giving her our support and love, that she might tread safely into the unknown ...We are going into the darkness with our hands clasping hers, and our hands in His

That shall be to us better than a light and safer than a known way.

* * * * * * * * 

We are excited to share with you, coming October 2014, a wonderful little baby person to the world outside and to our family.

Pray with us for our first grandchild and for Paige and her boyfriend Michael as they prepare and pray and plan and for their future.

With less fear and more love, anticipation, and hope,

Mojo* and Tito* 
with Uncles Ike ** and Noah - Aunties Hope and Phoebe and Lydia


Postscript
*While we were in Texas for those months last year we spent a lot of special time with family. Being near Brittany and Christopher (our oldest daughter and her husband) and getting to do some vacations with our extended family were the highlights of those busy months in the USA.  One night we sat around playing games and discussing the prospect of becoming grandparents. Together we determined that better names than Granny and Grandpa needed to be sought out, chosen, and made our own long before we ever needed them. We are too young to be called those names, or so we decided. We began the long and laborious Internet search for the perfect names. I may not have accomplished some of the midwifery study goals I had for the time in America, I didn't read enough books or memorize enough medical terminology, but we chose our future grandparent names and that is obviously SUPER-DUPER important, and as it turns out, we needed to accomplish that task.

**Sharing this news with the younger siblings was so interesting. Each once responded as we might have expected. While Noah was grieving and worried Paige wouldn't be a sister anymore because she would be too busy being a mom, Isaac was saying, "EPIC, I want to be called only Uncle IKE, not Isaac. Doesn't that sound SO cool!?!?"   Hope was asked how she felt about things by a friend of ours and she said, "I am a little worried for Paige but our family does second chances." If we cannot save our kids from consequences or pain, we can at least teach the grace of second chances. Maybe that is the entirety of the "How-To" manual we will send to our friends.