Saturday, June 27, 2015

Open Letter to Babies & Links for Saturday

Dear Babies,
Greetings from Waco, TX.

I am a 42 year old grandmother that has truly underestimated all of you.  

I write you today to apologize, repent, and mostly to lament on behalf of your mothers and fathers who really cannot and do not rest

Your parents are AMAZING-SUPER-BEINGS.

As it turns out, I myself had several babies - seven to be exact.  Now, for the sake of clarity it should be known that one of the seven came to me at 14 months of age and one at 9 months of age. That means that I technically only had five babies from the very beginning.  

Suffice it to say, I felt like I understood babies and had a very sharp memory of what caring for a baby entailed.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I forgot everything about you little people.  My memory is short. Perhaps God intended it to be so, or how would grandparents ever say yes to babysitting?

I guess maybe when I was 18 and 22 and even in my early 30s I had what it took to deal with all the ridiculous things you expect.  The list includes but is not limited to, picking up the toy you toss down seven million times, staring at you, not looking away at anything but you, making faces that are funny for you, talking in a high annoying voice for you, bouncing you, keeping you in CONSTANT motion while in stores procuring expensive items for you, and of course controlling the temperature of your surroundings as well as the dryness of your butt, etc. etc., ad infinitum.

Babies, I am here, at 42 years of age telling you that you are excellent at your craft and I am no match for you.  

I write especially to one, Graham Porter Gonzales today.  You seemed sweet, perfect, easy, and fun from the photos your mother shared of you on social media. You are in fact fun, and you are sweet very often. Let it be noted, you are not easy and not being easy means you are not perfect in that particular way. Those are the lies of social media. 

Your Mother gained super-star status in my eyes this week.  Waking up three times a night, Guantanamo Bay sleep-deprivation-torture-style, is incredibly taxing. Your Mother has done this for eight months without complaint.  I salute her.  

I loved kissing you and holding you and staring at you a lot.  I loved snuggling and smelling your baby head. I loved that people were surprised I was your Grandma but then upon further reflection they said, "Oh, yeah, you do look very fatigued, I see the creases in your eyes now that you say it." 

I loved all of that so much ... But I also love sleeping more than two or three hours in a stretch - and that, Baby Graham, is why today I will return you to your Mother and Father.   (And the angels sing.)

When I reflected on my 42 year old fatigue this week I spent a lot of time contemplating Sarah and the baby she had in her 90's. 

Sarah Laughs at the Promise12Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" 13And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?' 14"Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son."…

Nothing is too difficult for the Lord, but babies in old age are too difficult for me. I am guessing Sarah was mentally ill because laughing at having a baby after about 43 is not a sane response. Sarah also placed an ad and hired a 21 year old nanny that handled everything for her.   

(For all you older Moms of babies, don't be offended - just know I bow at the feet of your strength and moxie. Is this print too small for you to read? Yeah. I thought so.)

Here is a PARTIAL list of things I had forgotten (and relearned this past week) in the several years that have passed since my last baby grew up and into a seven year old girl.

1. Babies don't respond well to "give me two minutes" or "wait".
2. Sleeping several hours in a row is a gift. The world is SO MUCH lovelier 
3. The speed at which baby shit travels from a diaper onto your favorite white shorts is lightning fast. Logic-and-physics-defying-poop, is a baby specialty. 
4. Getting teeth is no joke. Teeth don't mess around. 
5. Young Moms (must) develop bladders of steel when they continually meet the needs of their baby and never freaking urinate. Mom bladders don't play.  (For fun, sometime today hold 25 pounds of moving human in your arms and try to use a public toilet while holding the child. Trust me, peeing down your leg is a better option.)
6. Disposable diapers ruin the earth and cloth diaper ruin a grandmothers life. (Who do you love more, the earth or your grandma?) 
7. Car seats make running errands the most ridiculously annoying task ever. Has anyone ever tried to successfully count how many flippin times you fix those straps in one day? 
8. Mushed up crackers in chubby little baby hands is better than mushed up crackers in chubby baby hands that are pulling your hair. 
9. Baby nostrils don't allow for easy removal of baby boogers. (Thus the photo above.)

*     *     *     * 


For friends raising kids abroad, the longer we've been doing this, the more I see what our kids gain and what they miss by being raised in Haiti.  Having the boys in the USA and realizing that they are intimidated by basic things, like going to the counter and asking for a ticket to a movie, or dealing with spending their money and making choices in stores has me feeling a bit stressed out for them and the future. 

The boys and I went to go see the new Pixar movie, Inside Out.  We truly loved it. I am one that tires easily of the silly, boring, over told story line wherein the princess needs the dang prince to save her. SO.OVER.DONE.  

This movie had none of that and I loved it.  I highly doubt Pixar needs any help marketing this movie, but I offer mine none the less.  GO SEE IT.  I found it especially helpful because we have one kid in our house that feels EVERYTHING and feels all of it big.  We have another that really refuses to feel sadness and will push all the hard things down and away. (Kay is an internet friend that I got to have lunch with this week, so I'm sharing several posts of hers that I loved.)

Read more about the movie here:

The boys got to see and hear and have an educational lesson on a 3 million dollar pipe organ this week. Because they don't know how much a candybar or a shirt or a meal out should cost, they did not necessarily understand the 3 million price tag --- but they did understand that it was an amazing opportunity to hear a talented organist play for them. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Common Denominator

Graham is the center of pretty much all the things.

Michael had his graduation and was sworn in as a TX State Trooper yesterday. We celebrated his huge new cowboy hat and his accomplishments with a picnic in 98% humidity.  Nothing says congratulations like sweating your balls off with a group of your closest family and friends.

Sunday Graham's Mommy and Daddy finally get their Honeymoon. I know that Paige will cry, leaving G for the first time.  No judgment. I remember the first time I left each one of my seven, it never got prettier or easier. 

I am hoping they can truly relax and rest for several days ... maybe even try to take a deep cleansing breath or two after 8 very insane months.  (Baby born, heart surgery, intense interview process, sleep deprivation, job-offer, travel, wedding, intense training process with separation for five months, relocation plans, etc. etc.)

The three boys and I plan to find the perfect balance of fun-summer-things and packing-up boxes for P and M (they move near Houston, TX right when they get home from honeymoon). 

I am super excited for the six days I get with these three fabulous guys. 

 ~             ~              ~

In Haiti the Maternity Center and a beautiful Momma named Micheline suffered its first loss of a full term baby during labor.  We've for sure lost some babies that came early or died in utero somewhere between weeks 18 and 35, - but this was a first in that the Momma was laboring normally without any signs of stress or infection.  At around 5cm the baby's heartbeat was unusually slow so they immediately transported for a C/S.  When they arrived at the hospital the baby had passed away.  

I know from chatting with my co-middies that the prayers offered have been helpful and that continued prayers for the births that are coming up are very appreciated.  See this tab for information on upcoming due ladies.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mr. Amelia Bedelia

God love him.

Paige said, "cut the English Muffin in half to toast it, Isaac." 

So he did.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A blur ... Meanwhile in Tejas

uncle noah's got game

Things at the Maternity Center have been hopping. 

The adrenaline we have used since last Saturday is quite a bit more adrenaline than we even knew we had for one week. 

We've had several higher-stress situations of late. There were two deliveries Saturday, one of a tiny little 20 week old boy that is now buried at Heartline's property. Later that night, we had the birth of an almost 9 pound boy with an unusually (like 20cm extra) long cord wrapped tightly around him several times ... Glad to report he is healthy and doing great!

On Tuesday a postpartum mom came to class with a BP of 184/120 and had to stay and be put on MagSulfate for 24 hours. (This is a terrible and necessary thing. It keeps mom from having a stroke while making mom wish for death because she feels so awful.) 

Yesterday we had regular program day with 45 ladies coming for prenatals along with a mom with SROM  (her water broke) that needed transport because she was in labor too early and her little one would possibly need help breathing, and also another intense labor & delivery for a mom named Judith.  They both ended up needing to go to a hospital a few hours after delivery due to some sort of infection and two high fevers. They are now on their way back to us for further care here.

That's a lot of intensity for five days.  The flurry of activity makes the days one giant blur. 

However, the blur of days doesn't apply in one situation. When I think of the 21 days that have passed since the spunky boys of our household boarded a Jet Blue flight and flew away from the Caribbean, that time feels like an eternity.

We have never had the boys leave for any amount of time surpassing a night or maybe two at their friends' house. We have learned that we rather like them to be at our house. They are good for our house. They are good for us.  In the future I will think long and hard about signing them up for such a long trip.

The new uncles working on their uncle skillz have mainly been with Paige and Graham in Waco - but have also spent a weekend in Dallas with Britt and Chris and a weekend in Austin with Joel and Gillian. Friends they met in Haiti have taken them on outings. They got to see the Hendrick boys, and teachers Caroline and Brooke. I heard they went to a Country Club to lounge one afternoon (like ya do). Life is a party for these two gentlemen and they are having a blast.

I will head to Texas early next week to see Michael graduate from the TX State Trooper Academy and then to babysit the most adorable Graham-son in the world while Paige and Michael honeymoon in New Mexico.  

They got married in early January and then within 48 hours he started school. For the last five and a half months they were apart Sunday afternoon until late Friday night.  To say these two need a week away together is an understatement. I am so proud of the way they fought through this weird way to start a marriage and that Paige single-Mommed it like a boss. Hurray for honeymoon week for them.

While they are away the three boys and I will be visiting every playground and wide open grassy space we can find in central Texas. 

Britt is heavy into another intense semester of PA school but I plan to invade her Dallas space at least once during our babyGrahamwatching days.

If Paige returns from her honeymoon to find that I have eaten this adorable baby, nobody will blame me.  LOOK AT HIM!!!!!

*         *         *

Last night the ladies took Troy out for a nice dinner in Petionville - Lydie gave Troy 250 gourdes and everyone wrote him super sweet cards.  My favorite part in Phoebe's card: "I am so glad you are alive. I know we had a hard day yesterday but now its over. And I am glad its over and I think you are too."

After a week like this most recent one, I sit down to think about the highs and the lows and the teary melt downs over silly things and I realize that there most certainly is an army of people that pray for Haiti, for Heartline, for the Maternity Center, and for us.  I am so grateful for that and right now I am heading to lie face down on the floor to have a good cry of gratefulness.  

Happy Friday to us all.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015


"Okay, I am going to need to put you through a few security questions to confirm your identity", she said.

"Which one of these streets did you once live on? 156th, Powell, 49th, or Central?"

"What model year was the car you most recently purchased or leased 2001, 2003, 2008, or none of these?"

"Which of these license plates belonged to a car you owned, VXY764  JRZ459, or QLA229?"

I stumbled and guessed at each question and finally said, "I know you are trying to make sure that I really am the person on this bank account and that I am not sending $200 to a person (verrrrry suspiciously with the same maiden last name as me) as part of a scandalous and evil plot. The thing is, I don't remember where I put my keys 45 minutes ago. I cannot tell you any of these things you've asked me because that is all ten or more years ago.  

"Okay Ma'am, well, here is another set of questions then."

"Which of these digits were the last four digits of a phone number of yours?" (Lists several sets of numbers one after the other.)

Which loan amount did you once carry with our financial institution? (Lists several dollar amounts.)

At that point, I had all but decided that Paige would not be getting $200 from me.  

If the lady asked me where I first kissed Troy, what we had our first huge marriage fight about, or when and where Noah was conceived I could have passed that bank security test in a hot second. She missed all the important questions.

Finally, on the third round of the test, she gave me two questions that I could correctly answer.

"Okay Ma'am, what phone number would you like me to text the code to that you will enter in order to initiate the transfer?"

"Well, that's the thing. Haiti phone numbers have an extra digit and that jacks things up. I don't think you can text it to me."

"Okay then, let me keep you on the line and get that for you."

Ten seconds pass.

"Okay Mrs. Porter-Livesay, the code is  ----  "

Dead line.  


 Hello?  Helllllo?

I spent an eternity passing her identity test only to lose Internet on my Skype call the minute she was going to give me what I needed in the first place.

I marched upstairs to the Maternity Center Midwife apartment to find Troy installing new batteries in KJ's apartment. "Did you just unplug the Internet?" I asked.

"Tara, meet the new guy here to help for a few months",  John said as he directed my attention away from Troy and toward a bearded new guy.  

I shook the new guy's hand and said, "Hello, nice to meet you".

"ARGH. Troy, I would like to strangle you right now."  

I turned and marched down the steps.

Once back in the lab/prenatal room I decided to bawl my head off.  Dumbest thing ever. But that's what I did.

I had passed DEFCON 5 security only to have Troy unplug the call at the very moment that I had reached the pinnacle of my ascent up security-question mountain.  

If that is not a reason to lie down on a prenatal exam bed and sob, I don't really know what is. 

<insert ^ sarcasm ^ font>

Later in the day I easily identified the four or five other reasons that I needed a good cry. All five were more legitimate than a disconnected Skype call.

When Troy was chatting with the new guy late in the afternoon, the new guy said, "Oh, I have never had a chance to meet your wife."  

Troy said, "Oh yeah you did. That red-head that threatened to strangle me - remember her?  That's my wife." 

  *          *            *

Because he lived through today, it seems likely that we will all be able to celebrate Troy's 40th Birthday on Thursday.  

We will all miss having the boys and biggest sisters here for the celebration. The three girls and I plan to take him out for a nice dinner and celebrate his love, his kindness, his cuteness, and his strength.

In many ways, it feels like 40 has waited on Troy to arrive for a very very long time

Fifteen years ago a neighbor kid came up to Troy while he worked on a vehicle repair in the driveway and said, "My Mom says there is no way you are old enough to be those girls' Dad."   

He smiled and said, "She did, huh?" 

So, the babyDaddy (a Dad that is a baby) that has walked two girls down the aisle and even carries the BA grandfather title of, "Tito", is finally Forty.  

Happy Happy 40th Birthday to the most supportive and stable force in my life, and the best friend I have ever had. I am the luckiest girl. Whatever mess of failure, success, emotion, pain, or joy we encounter, I have a sense of peace and security knowing I walk through it all with you by my side. I love you, Troy.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Beauty Will Rise

January 2010 

New Papa ~ January 2010

January 2010, during the days following the catastrophic earthquake, a vast number of unbelievable and supernatural events were taking place on this tiny little piece of land. I don't think it will ever ever be known, understood, or quantifiable.  I believe this to be true because even the few hundred stories that I am aware of are just a teentsy tiny representation of what was happening all over the island.

Most everyone that lived here at the time was very busy getting on with the business of living and helping the injured live.  There was not sufficient time to think about the miraculous or reflect on the incredible things happening.  Occasionally we stopped to record things, but the recordings lacked detail. Time did not allow for a full recording of the tragic and beautiful things happening.

Yes, the devastation was life-altering, mind-numbing, and beyond compare. Equally significant was the will to rise from the ashes. 

"Out of these ashes beauty will rise. We will dance among the ruins. We will see it with our own eyes."  
The profound lyrics to a song that played out before us.

One of the things I wished we could have documented and shared better than we did was the cooperation that happened between health care providers.  In the weeks following the quake the needs for surgery and post-op recovery were crucial.  We ended up trading surgical patients for post-op patients in order to get everyone what they most needed.

One evening, we transported patients to a large temporary tent hospital set up near the Port au Prince airport. We had been there enough times that we were beginning to know the faces of their triage staff  - and they knew us.  On that particular night the nurses Troy spoke with told him that it would really help them if the healthy woman, not injured in the earthquake, but in active labor, could come with us to deliver.   Troy has always had a peculiar love for round bellies so he happily left his patient that needed a bone reduction in order to close an amputation and took a frightened couple expecting their first baby back to Heartline.

Can you imagine being in labor days after the entire world turns upside down?  Can you imagine being asked to leave with a stranger to go deliver your baby at an unknown location? Friends and family are missing and assumed dead, and all of a sudden you will be responsible for another little person. 

The trusting couple rode back with Troy to the Maternity Center - turned trauma center. 

That night a baby girl was born.  Beth McHoul and I were treated to a beautiful, normal birth as student midwives and we remarked that night what a gift it was to step away from earthquake injuries and be a part of something new ...  
New life has a way of reminding us to keep hoping.

We had no long-term relationship with that little couple, but they touched our lives in that exchange and brought us reminders of mercy and grace in the form of a baby girl. They encouraged us with their love for one another and their new little one, born into an uncertain Haiti.

We have not forgotten them or that bizarre new reality we lived in when we showed up at a hospital to drop a patient off and ended up gaining a laboring Momma in a upside-down-world-trading-game.

Over the years I have thought several times about them and that precious birth in the middle of utter chaos.

I have wondered if they were still together and if their baby lived.

 *       *        * Last Thursday was a nutty day.  

It started with a birth at 7am.  We then had a busy Prenatal day with class and dozens of consultations. A few little groups  stopped in and toured the Maternity Center. We were waiting on news from a good friend of the ministry that we knew was having a C-Section in MN.  We were juggling several things, as is the case most Thursdays. At the end of a Thursday, there is a need to sit and stare at a wall. We brought Lovely, the mom who miscarried on Tuesday back to her house at the end of the day. When I put the ambulance back in its place in the McHoul's driveway I decided to walk straight home instead of stopping in at the Maternity Center again.  It had gotten late in the day and I was ready to be home in front of a fan. 

I was about three minutes down the road toward my house when a car pulled up next to me. Truthfully, I get a little nervous and suspicious when any car slows down when I am on foot.  I quickly saw it was a woman talking to me and that I was not dealing with a car full of only men. That helped me let down my guard.  

"Hi. Madame John. Don't you remember me?" she asked in Creole.

I replied telling her that I am not Madame John but that I know her because she is my friend that I work with.

"Oh, I remember you too. You and Madame John.  Do you remember me?"

I felt bad and was doing that mental Rolodex thing where you so want to come up with the right answer and not hurt any feelings.  I hesitated and said, "Uh. I don't know if I remember your faces".

Right at that moment her husband busted into a huge broad smile. As soon as I saw his teeth and his smile, I said, "YES! Yes! I remember you!"  

We went on, there on the side of the road, to recall all that happened on that strange night in 2010. After settling down from our excitement I said, "THIS is that baby?!?!?" and "I have to get a photo." They posed inside of their car and we hugged and agreed that we were witnesses to a miracle that night.  

As they drove off I yelled, "Come see us if you decide to have another baby."

Out of these ashes beauty will rise. 
We will dance among the ruins. 
We will see it with our own eyes.