Saturday, May 30, 2015

Why Everything does NOT happen for a reason - by John Pavlovitz

That phrase.
Photo: Esther Havens ~ Antoinette & Aidan post earthquake

We’ve all received it personally gift wrapped, by well-meaning friends, caring loved ones, and kind strangers. It usually comes delivered with the most beautiful of intentions; a buffer of hope raised in the face of the unimaginably painful things we sometimes experience in this life.
It’s a close, desperate lifeline thrown out to us when all other words fail:
Everything happens for a reason.
I’ve never had a tremendous amount of peace with the sentiment. I think it gives the terrible stuff too much power, too much poetry; as if there must be nobility and purpose within the brutal devastation we may find ourselves sitting in. In our profound distress, this idea forces us to run down dark, twisted rabbit trails, looking for the specific part of The Greater Plan that this suffering all fits into.
To read the rest of John's Post, GO HERE.
~          ~          ~          ~
In my faith journey I have struggled a lot to make sense of the day to day suffering in the country I reside. It absolutely pains me to hear "everything happens for a reason" as a response to my struggle to categorize and try to understand the experiences of those we know in Haiti.  The journey is ongoing. The understanding may never come. We continue to chase after God and try (sometimes successfully) to remain faithful in the muck and confusion of it all.  
This post of John's gets 10 stars from us.  Please read it. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

~ lovely ~

I heard her calling from the room she was resting in.  She called, "mis mis" ("nurse nurse") - I am not a nurse, but I knew she was calling me.

She had arrived three hours earlier with very heavy bleeding due to an incomplete miscarriage at 14+ weeks gestation.

After several interventions,  one of them quite painful, she was resting in the birth room.  

For Lovely- birth did not result in life.  

Mercifully, she was "stable" and the bleeding had stopped. 

No Midwife or Nurse will ever complain about "stable" after an hour or so of heavy blood loss and uncertainty.  

The thing is, stable is a medical word.  It forgets (or ignores) the emotional piece - and the trauma of loss. 

Stable does not apply to one's feelings.

I entered the room.

"Yes, Lovely? How are you?"

She looked at me carefully and paused.

"Was it a boy or a girl?",  she asked.

"Oh, Lovely. Mwen regret m pa ka konnen sa. Li two bone. Nou pa ka we ki sex pitit w genyen." -  "Oh, Lovely. I'm so sorry.  I don't know.  It was too early for us to know the sex of your child."

She nodded slowly, a tear rolled down her cheek.

Her husband came into the room to check on her.  "Can our older child come visit her mother? She's afraid because of the bleeding she saw."

"Yes, of course she can. Please, we want that."

*         *           *          *

It would be rare to find a Haitian man, woman, or child that doesn't know of at least one friend or family member that died as a result of complications from a miscarriage or birth.  Additionally, many women have lost babies late in pregnancy and in the early months of their little one's life.  It is common enough that the stories of these losses of mothers and babies are shared without a lot of fanfare.  

This is the norm on this small patch of land in the Caribbean Sea.  

Yesterday Lovely lost her third child early in her second trimester of pregnancy.  

Thankfully tonight Lovely herself is physically okay and starting the laborious process of emotional and physical healing under the watchful eye of the evening nurse, Winifred.

*         *           *          *

A whole lot of what happens at the Heartline Maternity Center can be labeled "Maternal Healthcare" - but we think what matters the most is the chance we are given to meet each woman right where she is, whether it be after a loss, during a loss, during an abusive relationship, in a time of great triumph, celebration, and joy, or in a time of fear and uncertainty.  

While providing maternal health care is of great importance to us, providing tenderness, love, encouragement, and a kind word - proves to be equally important.

The cost to meet women where they are and serve them during their pregnancies has a monetary value assigned. (The love, respect, and encouragement may very well be priceless.)

We are grateful to those that already help us with the cost of offering these things to pregnant women and new mothers in Port au Prince, Haiti.   

We are hoping to grow the number of women we serve in the not too distant future and are looking for several families or groups or churches that might be able to commit to monthly sponsorship of the Maternity Center's budget.  A monthly donation of $30, $50, or $100 can help more women like Lovely.  

(Go here.)

Sometimes the most difficult thing about growing is finding ways to share the message of what is happening with new people.  The asks and the pleas for your time and resources are many. We know wisdom is needed when choosing whom to support with your finances. 

Many of you that read our blog are well aware of the needs in Haiti. Heck, for you this is old news... But perhaps you can tell your friends, your book club, your rotary group, church, or employer???

(Please ask them to write us with any questions and Go Here.)

As always, we know many of you carry the families of Haiti and our little Maternity Center in your hearts and prayers  -- and for that we are infinitely grateful.  

Please don't stop. 

To follow the women due to deliver, this page is frequently updated. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

(today's) Soundtrack at the Heartline Maternity Center

Oh for grace to lay down all my dreams in Him be found 
O for faith to keep it true and never stop believing you 

Oh for grace to lay down all my dreams in Him be found
O for faith to keep it true and never stop believing you

And when it’s strong or when it falls through
Oh lord to know my answer is you

And oh for love to trust some more to fix my eyes on heaven’s shore
And for hope with every step every word my every breath

When it’s strong or when it falls through
Oh lord to know my answer is you

For your light I lose my all, cause I’m not staying here, I’m moving on
So give me strength to hold on tight through stormy gales ‘til morning light

When it’s strong or when it falls through
When it’s strong or when it falls through
When it’s strong or when it falls through
Oh lord to know my answer is you

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Lent has come and gone and therefore so has #lentwithclowns.  No longer are deep spirtual nuggets of wisdom being dropped on us by our clowns children.

That said, on occasion there is still a need to document clown behavior outside of the Lenten Season. Therefore, today we bring you edition one, installment one of #regularlifewithclowns

  • One evening last week I told the kids I would be going to the Maternity Center to paint for a while. Being the domestic goddess that I am I whipped up some cupcakes and put them in the oven before I left.  I usually make homemade frosting but was in a rush to get to the maternity center so I left a store-bought frosting container on the counter for them to use. I asked Troy to take the cupcakes out. When I got home I noticed that the frosting had not been touched but the cupcakes were all gone.  I learned from the children that the frosting was really weird, but also quite delicious.  I said, "but you never opened the frosting."  Domestic goddess turned detective, I figured out that they had used left-over cake batter that didn't fit into the cupcake pan. Cupcakes frosted with cake batter.  You won't find that idea on Pinterest.
  • After Caroline (was here four months to teach) left, we welcomed Bryan last Sunday. Bryan Tucker is a film/documentary maker. (Closure Documentary) He is considering doing a Haiti-related story. (And just for fun he made our kids a swimming video up above.) While he visited us last week he interviewed the kids about life in Haiti.  When Lydia was finished I asked how it went and she said, "Good, I didn't even fart once during my interview."
  • When Phoebe was asked to describe Troy and I, she said, "Daddy is really nice and kind and Mommy doesn't like to get out of bed in the morning."
  • Thankfully in my Mother's Day card Phoebe had said, "Mom, you are all the fruits of the spirit. (then listed them out) You are a piece of cake."  At least I got the card the same week she only had one thing to say about me to Bryan.
  • The kids finished up their school year Friday. They now have a month off before summer-school starts in mid June.  Isaac and Noah get to go to the USA for six weeks. The three girls will be staying in Haiti all summer. This is an odd thing to navigate - they are all getting older and summer in Haiti is long and without a lot of extracurricular activities.  Flying everybody to Grandma and Grandpa is too expensive. Being fair is almost impossible. We try, but it doesn't really work out "fair" very often. Like Homer Simpson says, "You tried and failed miserably, the lesson is, never try." 
  • Troy and I decided we need to have a birds and bees talk (age-appropriate with our different groups/ages) before the summer began.  Troy went camping with the boys and I kept the girls.  At the end of my explanation to Lydia and Phoebe, Lydia said, "Well great, now I have to think about these things."  The next thing she said, "I know one thing, penises are the weirdest thing since sliced bread."  At that point Phoebe said, "Can we stop talking about this now?" 
  • We have five voracious readers in our house. The plan for summer blues and boredom is to read books in front of fans.  If you have great book recommendations for the age groups 7-8 (they have and love Ramona Quimby) and 11-13 (they have and love Little House Series, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, Wings of Fire, Percy Jackson, Francine Rivers) we'd love to hear them.  We will also happily buy used books from anyone selling or purging books. 
On a ride with Mom to bring a new Mom and Baby home

With Bryan Tucker the morning he left Haiti 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fraud, Manipulation, and Heartbreak in Adoption

Adoptions across cultural and international borders are more difficult than I understood when I entered into my own adoption(s) in 2002.  Almost ten years of living in Haiti has taught me a lot about the culture and what parents and families that relinquish their children actually believe.

I believe that many Haitian parents that have relinquished kids do not actually understand what they are signing up for (not all, but many).  I believe from speaking with several of them that their expectations do not line up with the adoptive parent's expectations. Most of the crossed wires are caused by a middle man, the guy with something to gain financially.

I know that saying that adopting a "poor child" is not necessarily reason to pat yourself on the back or earn you any thanks makes folks that have adopted feel defensive and decide to label me cynical or anti-adoption.  I am not anti-adoption.  Cynical?  Yeah, probably. But I dare you to watch this system up close for a few years and try to to keep from landing in this exact spot. 

There are just far too many ways to manipulate materially poor folks. It matters not where they are located, they are preyed upon across the globe whenever there is money to be made. 

This is a link to an article on a community in NW Arkansas where a population of Marshallese emigrants have been taken advantage of by those in the business of adoption. 

It grieves me that this happens ANYWHERE, but the fact that it happens in the USA makes me want to lie on the ground and bawl my head off.  I recognize that accomplishes nothing, so in addition to doing that I am sharing this article and encouraging you take an hour or two to read it. 

My friend Seth Haines, an attorney in the NW corner of Arkansas, said this when we were discussing the article and the trouble with cultural differences:

"The cultural disconnect of international adoption is not something often discussed by either the relinquishing family OR the adoptive family. I think it would change the dynamic if it were. But who's going to do it? The lawyer who stands to make money? The organization? It's one of those gaps in the system where people need training."

LAST JUNE, WITHIN A SINGLE SPRINGDALE-AREA HOSPITAL, six Marshallese children were adopted in just three days. Making her rounds of the nursery the following Monday, the numbers struck pediatrician Stacy Furlow as impossible. “We wouldn’t have had six adoptions in a year five years ago,” she said. According to one person with inside knowledge of adoption proceedings, about 90 percent of the adoptions in Washington County now involve Marshallese babies.
Like everyone in the region, Furlow, a cheerful, animated mother of four, with a wavy blond bob and welcoming smile, had followed the growth of the Marshallese community with interest. When she was in high school in Fayetteville in the late ’80s, Springdale was so racially homogeneous that she sensed tension when Fayetteville’s multiracial sports teams traveled there to play. To Furlow, the diversification of the community—it’s now 40 percent Pacific Islander and Latino—was a positive development, evidence of a little pocket of progressivism.
Furlow, who has done volunteer health work in Haiti and has developed familiarity with conditions common to developing-world children, ended up building a practice where she sees many adoptive families. But as more and more adoptive parents began coming to her office with newborn Marshallese babies in tow, she was puzzled. Her corner of the Ozarks, it seemed, was becoming the new destination for international adoptions—and this development was bringing along with it some of the ugliest baggage of cultural misunderstanding. On one adoption blog Furlow stumbled upon, a would-be mother wrote of the Springdale Marshallese, “these people make babies.” An Alabama church that had sent nearly two dozen members on a mission to Springdale claimed to have returned home with promises from several pregnant women, according to one adoptive parent’s blog.
(By Kathryn Joyce)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It Is Good To Remember: Mica's Story

After a busy prenatal day we went to the file cabinet to search for Mica’s file. 

We quickly found it, organized by her son’s date of birth in the April 2014 section of the file cabinet.

“Let’s take a trip down memory lane”, we said.

“Come sit with us, Mica.”

We sat on the bed looking over her file together.  Her story is one that we are all a small part of, one none of us will ever forget.

She smiled and laughed as we recalled the first time each of us met her. 

She says her story is a picture of God’s healing and grace and she wants us to share His faithfulness with you.

* * * *

Mica arrived at the Maternity Center in late 2013 at the urging of neighbors and friends that knew she needed help.

Fifteen days into a dating relationship, the man Mica had just begun to get to know sexually assaulted her.

Very quickly after the rape, Mica was devastated to learn she was pregnant.

In her 9th week of pregnancy, we met a woman clearly hurting and suffering from depression and trauma. 

Not only had she suffered the assault and the trauma surrounding it, but she also had the weight of many decisions to make surrounding the baby she carried.  

Mica’s church asked her to step down from her position leading worship and singing. A single pregnant woman is something the church believed it should hide. The shame Mica took upon herself after that was unfair and heavy.

We began to work with Mica much the way we begin with each woman.  The Maternity Center is about community and relationship; both of those things take time. Each week we learned a little more about Mica, her history, her dreams, and her personality. 

She struggled for months wondering if she could love a baby that was a product of such a traumatic event in her life. 

Over the next several months we listened and tried to remain supportive of what Mica needed as she made her decisions for herself and her unborn baby.

The delivery day arrived. Mica arrived in early labor and worked hard all day to make progress. 

Watching someone dig deep and muster up courage to fight both physical and emotional pain is something we all consider a holy moment.  

That day we were in the front row for several holy moments, just as we have continued to be many times since then.

Mica’s baby was positioned in her pelvis with a “face presentation”.

Most babies who are presenting face first are born just as normally as babies who are in a vertex presentation (crown first).

Complications will generally only occur if the baby's chin rotates towards the woman's back rather then towards the front. The chin is referred to as the 'mentum', and this position is called a 'mentum-posterior position', it only happens with about 10% of babies in a face position. 

Thankfully, Mica’s baby had his chin rotated toward the front (‘mentum-anterior position’) and we talked with Mica and all believed we were safe to continue on with a delivery at our Maternity Center.

After several hours of labor Mica’s membranes ruptured. (The bag of waters broke.) When that happened the baby began to show obvious signs of distress and we quickly moved toward the ambulance for a traffic-filled and dramatic ride to the hospital.

Mica delivered her son, Cael, via cesarean section shortly after arriving at the hospital. 

We were able to visit Mica, but definitely felt sad to not be able to care for her immediately following delivery. We knew she would benefit from being loved and cared for by a staff that knew her history and could better meet her emotional needs. 

Once the hospital discharged Mica, she came to rest for many days at the postpartum room at Heartline’s Maternity Center.

There were several people praying for Mica in those days.  Maybe you were one of them. 

We prayed, observed, hoped, and wondered if a bond would be formed between Mother and child and we were thrilled as we watched it happen before our eyes.

The recovery was slow for Mica. She suffered from Mastitis and had the Chikungunya Virus in the weeks she was also recovering from a C-Section. She fought hard for healing and for her son. We learned a lot from watching her.

All women that wish to come for Early Childhood Development class for six months following their delivery are invited to come each Tuesday.  Mica faithfully attended each Tuesday for six months.

Not too long after Mica graduated from the program we asked her if she would like to consider joining us on Wednesdays at the state-run maternity hospital.  We were planning to teach breastfeeding and sing a song there each week and Mica’s voice and singing talent are unparalleled.  

Mica agreed to join us on Wednesdays and shortly thereafter she joined our team as a regular staff member, putting to use the skills she had learned in a nursing school several years prior.

One day earlier this year a couple of us had the same thought. We wondered if perhaps Mica would want to take her nursing assistant degree and use that base of knowledge to apply for training as a Certified Birth Attendant.  

The shortest possible version of that story is this:  Mica passed the entrance test with flying colors, was accepted into the Midwives for Haiti Birth Attendant class of 2015-2016, and a generous sponsor has agreed to cover the costs of her schooling. She will begin her training this summer. 

We are all incredibly excited to have Mica in the birth room with us. We know we will get to see her use her difficult experiences to love and serve other hurting women.

* * * *

Late last week in the month of April, on the one-year anniversary of the day Cael was born, we sat on the bed together remembering all that God has done, all that Mica has accomplished, all the grace and mercy we have been witnesses to this last year and a half. 

It is good to remember.

~From Heartline Ministries May Newsletter~

Thursday, May 07, 2015

By Marilyn Gardner, The State of the World's Mothers

photo: esther havens

Every year around Mother’s Day a report is released from Save the Children called the “State of the World’s Mothers.” And every year, I write about it.
Because it is so important to me. If I could spend all day every day with moms and babies, I would. There are so many reasons for this – but partly its because I have five of my own and I learned so much from those younger days. I know what helped and I definitely know what didn’t help. Healthy moms and babies are critical to a healthy world.
In the last 60 plus years, the number of city dwellers in the world has increased by over 20%, so that half the world’s population now lives in the city. While this creates incredible advantages for many of us, there are many others who live in extreme poverty where disease is prevalent, nutrition poor, and violence high. The World Health Organization (WHO) “estimates that nearly a billion people live in urban slums, shantytowns, on sidewalks, under bridges, or along the railroad tracks.” One of the worst places in the world for a mom and a baby to be is in a city slum. 
Go HERE to Read Marilyn's entire post, including her kind words about our Maternity Center in Port-au-Prince.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Midwife = WITH WOMEN

We believe that *every* safe birth in Haiti is cause for celebration. 

Today we celebrate the 400 ++ babies (and their amazing mothers) that have been born at the Heartline Maternity Center safely.

If you want to help women in Haiti deliver safely,  please DONATE here.   

More than anything, we need partners that will give $20, $30, $50 a month to help us with monthly operating costs. Please consider joining the effort to help Mothers deliver safely while we reduce orphans in Haiti, by supporting us financially. 

Key midwifery concepts that define the unique role of midwives:

  • partnership with women to promote self-care and the health of mothers, infants, and families;
  • respect for human dignity and for women as persons with full human rights;
  • advocacy for women so that their voices are heard;
  • cultural sensitivity, including working with women and health care providers to overcome those cultural practices that harm women and babies;
  • a focus on health promotion and disease prevention that views pregnancy as a normal life event. 

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Honor Your Mother

You know what?  
Not *just* your mother...
Three generations of strong women

...Actually, honor every woman that has spoken wisdom and love into your life.  

Maybe that is your mom, maybe it is another special woman.

For the second year we are offering you a chance to honor someone you love - by giving a gift to a woman in Haiti -in their name.  

Please know that your gift tangibly (for real for REAL) helps a Haitian woman come to our Maternity Center and receive high quality care in an environment most women in Haiti have never experienced or imagined.  Not only does your gift offer love and a safe place to deliver to a woman, it also reduces maternal mortality and effectively prevents orphans in the country of Haiti. 

To participate in this Mother's Day event,
please go to this link. 


With love and appreciation for the women who teach us,