Sunday, January 24, 2016

Marie-Ciane, Tanzania, and Zika ... Some Things That Need Prayer

Since Thursday of this week Marie-Ciane has been at the Maternity Center. She is a 40 year old Momma awaiting the birth of her second child. We (the entire staff here) have soft spots and utter respect for her.  She's downright inspiring. 

Marie-Ciane doesn't want or need pity, her blindness has not held her back and she certainly doesn't want anyone to baby or "other" her. She is totally independent and prefers to do things for herself. I offered to help with bathing but she declined. Before she wants help bathing, she chooses to be shown to the bathroom and left alone to do it herself. (Photo: She took our breastfeeding song and wrote it in braille a couple of months ago.) 

We are starting to think that maybe Marie-Ciane is going to need to be transported but no decision has been officially made as I write this.  From our statistics of 2015, we have learned that 1 in 4 women we serve end up with Pre-E, this is exactly what Marie-Ciane is dealing with and so far our efforts at inducing labor have failed. Prayers for this amazing bad-ass lady and her second child (a little girl, already named Sarah) are so very appreciated today and this week.   

THIS coming Friday, Beth McHoul, (KJ) Beth Johnson, and I will all be getting on an airplane bound for Tanzania.  This trip has been about 13 months in the planning/making and I think we are all surprised the date to do this has arrived so quickly. We will be working at a high volume (maternity) hospital in Dodoma, Tanzania with a friend and Midwife extraordinaire from Omaha, NE.  Our hope is that we will be helpful there and also gain experiences that will help us as we continue to work with the women of Haiti. 

We are going with expectations that look like this:  

We expect it will be something. It could be good, it could be bad, it could be fun and it could be really hard. It could be busy or it could be relaxed.We will know when we know and not before then. 

I am the only one of us that has never been outside of the Western Hemisphere or to Africa.  I think that means I am the only one that feels really nervous.  I don't love the feeling of being so far from my family and I get all spun up worrying about how I would get home if somebody got really sick or hurt. I am afraid for the feeling of being so disconnected from my people.  (Do it afraid.) 

Two Midwives named Shelly and Ann (from Boston and Germany) will be coming to cover for us here in Haiti. Please keep them in your prayers and nurses Wini and Nirva as they work/serve extra hours too.  Most of the women due in late January and early February have delivered their babies, the visiting midwives might have a chance to rest and relax a little bit.

In the news here, the political situation is tenuous. I am sure you've read a bit about it. Today was to have been another round of the election, but it was called off on Friday.

In our line of work we have been dealt a serious kick to the face.  The Zika virus is here and we are very concerned for the women of Haiti. For the next year this will be playing itself out in ways we probably cannot prepare for or imagine.   Rather than fill you in with my worried words, I am sharing some information from the CDC below.  

If you are a frequent visitor to Haiti, and you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, I beg you to read this.

(Click for FULL article/FAQ)

I am pregnant. How will Zika virus affect me or my unborn baby?

CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions 
and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, 
French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, 
Puerto Rico, Suriname, and Venezuela.
This alert follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of 
mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. However, additional studies are needed 
to further characterize this relationship. More studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika 
virus infection during pregnancy.
Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for 
pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:
  • Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission 
  • is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare 
  • provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and 
  • strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
Because specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time, 
CDC will update this travel notice as information becomes available. Check the CDC travel website frequently for the 
most up-to-date recommendations.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Get Up - You're Alright (and fine and ok and not that hurt)

The blood trickled steadily out of my nose as I struggled to get up while spitting out small pebbles and holding my hand under my nose to protect my shirt from the aforementioned blood.

One miscalculated, or perhaps over-confident, **Mary Lou Retton inspired, "penny drop"  -  and that was it for my face.

"Get up. You're alright!",  my Dad cried from a few feet away.

I followed protocol. I got up and walked over to him to show him the damage. He picked rocks out of my nose. "It's not too bad. You are fine."

Rocks embedded in my nose, skinned knees,  a TOTALLY bruised and battered (potential future) gymnast ego, and you are telling me I am fine ?!?!  What kind of bs is this?!? 

*      *      *

This is very much the way injury is treated in my family of origin. Physical, emotional, or otherwise, the advice remains the same: "Shake it off. Get.Up. You are alright."

Now that I have my own tribe of rabble-rousers, I hear my Dad's voice in mine all.the.time.  My husband mocks me gleefully, "Okay Randy", Troy says when I tell my kids they are not hurt.

I am known for my lack of sympathy for physical injury.  I am known to minimize and jump to the "Aah, no big thing, you'll be fine" response.  Phoebe occasionally has Asthma events wherein I attempt to say that 86% oxygen saturation is sufficient. "You're fine. How important is *breathing anyway?"  

Perhaps that sounds uncaring. Maybe you're judging Randy Porter harshly for handing down this tough-guy response to his first-born daughter.

Hold on, before you send sympathy cards to my children, hear me out.

Perhaps there is a place for coddling and ... you know, caring, when an injury happens... 

However, I believe that the "Get UP - You are alright" mantra has served me well for several decades.

When mosquito-borne tropical illness and/or crushing cultural misunderstandings and/or 7.0 earthquakes and/or loss of loved ones happen, the "Get Up" recording playing in my head has saved me from the threat of near total shut-down.

Today I submit to you, dear one reading, that we all need a person in our life that tells us that we are alright and to get the heck up.  

... And, hopefully we also have someone that excels at empathy and sympathy and commiseration and lament. I think there is absolutely a place for that amazing person too. 

Thank-you, Randy Porter, (DAD) for being my 'Get-Up' person. 

** The only thing I finally achieved that gave me some connection and commonality with MLR is incontinence. Sneezing and trampoline jumping is dangerous business for both of us now. 

*This is hyperbole - I don't really do that to Phoebe. I give her a breathing treatment stat.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


early 17th century: from late Latin longaevitas, from Latin longus ‘long’ + aevum ‘age.’

In 1983, the middle of my Fourth Grade year, when I was 10 years old, I moved to a new elementary school in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.   

It was January when I first walked into Park Brook Elementary and Miss Cummings classroom.

The feeling of being the new kid mid-year is less than the most amazing feeling one can have.  It is only amazing in that it is amazingly scary

On the first day at my new school, I walked into the lunch room and tried to figure out what to do and where to go to get a ticket and buy lunch.  

While I stood in line feeling like I might poop my pants at any moment as the new-kid nervousness churned in my belly, a girl walked up to me and said, "Would you like to sit at our table with us?

Relief washed over me.  I wasn't going to sit alone.

33 years ago this month I met Lisa, my longest-time friend.  I have no other friends that I am in regular and close  contact with that go back further than 14 years. Lisa holds the title by a looooong shot.

Our friendship has endured 5th and 7th and 10th grade fights.  It has endured Junior High and HighSchool,  my teen pregnancy and marriage, my divorce, and much other drama.  (I crashed on Lisa's dining room floor during one particularly stupid part of my early 20s). 

It endured a boyfriend of mine she rightfully LOATHED, it endured her move to California, several moves around the Twin Cities, my move to Haiti, the birth and adoptions of my seven and her one ... it has endured a lot.   

She is the godmother of my oldest child, and I am her son's godmother too.  

We know each others personality disorders, and quirks.  She dealt with my over-the-top neurosis of cleanliness for several months when we lived together for the second time in Buffalo, MN. (I'm mostly recovered now.) 

We were in each others weddings. (She was in two of mine. I have only been in one of hers.) 

One amazing fact not to be downplayed or overlooked - we went to 'travel school' to learn three letter airport codes together. Because, why not go into debt to learn something that would soon become obsolete?  

Later we went to Crown College to get an actual college degree that wasn't  a TOTAL waste of money and time like the McConnell Travel School proved to be.  

BNA - Nashville, TN
IAD - Washington Dulles
BDL - Hartford, CT
Impressed yet? 
Shall I continue?

It's not just anywhere you can get those airport codes and the many, many others. Not to worry, they are in our heads.   Pre-Google and WorldWideWeb we were in high demand, thanks to awesome little nuggets of knowledge like those.  "The McConnell Travel School" doesn't exist in downtown Minneapolis anymore.  Shocking, right?  It's sad for you guys that will not all have the same opportunities we had to learn those codes. <cough>

Our friendship has outlasted McConnell and a marriage and a billion other little and big things.  I am so grateful for this woman, my friend since the first day I met her.  I am excited to have her here again (3rd time!) on Haiti soil with us tomorrow.

defining long age 

Friday, January 15, 2016

When Life is Cruel, Love Empowers

A momma currently in the program - 10th pregnancy - 3 living children

To say that life is complicated for the women of Haiti is a cruel understatement.

Weekly we hear stories of abuse, infidelity, homelessness; struggles beyond comprehension.

It has become cliche to hear of the tenacity and strength of Haitian women. 

We wish that they had lives that allowed for some weakness and rest.  

When working in a place like Haiti, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the need. This is especially true when so many of the women we meet share a difficult story and a similar large need.

It has been our goal to truly get to know each woman in our program and to glean a little bit of her story - to take the time to understand specific details about her life and her situation. We want to know more about them than, "they are pregnant and materially poor". 

Whether we can help in each situation or not - we truly desire to know about the ladies and their lives and to enter into relationship with them. We believe that love transforms, redeems, and empowers.

It is easy to fall into thinking, "Why did she get pregnant again? Doesn't she learn?" Some might even think, "Well she got pregnant - it is her fault she is so poor." 

While a very small portion of her situation *might* be a direct result of her own choices, the fact is MOST of her life circumstances have much more to do with the culture and country she was born into. Her culture allows her very few choices and opportunities.  

Our programs do not exist to fix Haiti or change Haiti's culture. That is a battle we won't likely win no matter how hard we try. We can change a few misconceptions. We can make a dent here and a dent there in long-held inaccurate beliefs. We can empower the women we serve, but we won't always succeed in convincing women we work with to use birth control or to plan ahead or even to breastfeed their newborn. Sadly, we won't be able to protect our women from gender based sexual violence and abusive marriages. While it is easy to get stuck being frustrated with what cannot be changed, our challenge is to focus on what can be done.

Our program exists to show mercy and grace and love to the forgotten and to be to them a little bit of Heaven on Earth. We hope that by feeling unconditional love, they might desire to know the unconditional love of the Father. We pray to that end. 

Jesus came not only for me and for you, but for the Momma with three kids and six abortions that is pregnant again. He loved the prostitute, the unclean, and the serial mistake-makers. He did not give up on them or turn away. It is for this reason that we won't ever turn away. We hope and pray she does not have another unplanned pregnancy  - we're doing everything we can to educate and after that we are choosing love - because love empowers.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


This “experiment” is a perfect illustration of how we all deal with preconceived notions about the people we encounter, and how that affects the way we view them and even the way we treat them. 

Yesterday I had experienced a pretty rough day by the time I landed in Miami, FL at 8:30 in the morning. 

 I stood in line to get on my flight home and the pilot was joking around with folks as we boarded the plane. I asked him about his Kreyol and French speaking skills and we chatted briefly. 

 He told me in that interaction that he really found the Haitian people to be wonderful. I stood there thinking about what he had shared and turned back to him to thank him for that kind word. I told him that my experience is that the folks on flights often seem very annoyed (even mean) and that I really appreciated that the cultural differences weren't causing him to be ungenerous in his assumptions about Haitian people. 

 He said, "We're all just people, right?" 

 I like this video I embedded above and I loved my interaction with the pilot named Jason on AA yesterday. 

 Perspective is everything.