Wednesday, March 02, 2016

On Overcoming: Lessons by Marie-Ciane

Marie-Ciane and Baby Michael 2 days old - January 2016

And I've come to be untroubled in my seeking
And I've come to see that nothing is for naught
I've come to reach out blind
To reach forward and behind
For the more I seek the more I'm sought
Yeah, the more I seek the more I'm sought

Read more lyrics: Joe Pug - Hymn101 Lyrics | 
With Nurses Nirva and Wini and Husband Bernick in front of their home 

When I listen to that Joe Pug song that I love so much, I envision our friend Marie-Ciane. Her life has been an exercise in trust...In reaching out blind, reaching forward and behind. She daily reaches into the unknown  hoping and praying and believing that nothing is for naught. 

Watching her navigate her way to the Maternity Center each week for Prenatal class showed us all what true moxie (force of character, determination, or nerve) looks like in action.

Marie-Ciane delivered her son a few days before the midwives of Heartline Maternity Center headed to work in Tanzania for two weeks.  We were thrilled to still be here and knew it was important to her to deliver before we left for a while. She and her son Michael stayed at Heartline for postpartum care for several days after he was born.  

While she was in labor, she recalled many details of her life, often sharing with us through her tears. As we listened to her recall history and grieve what she had lost, I knew we were being allowed a tender and holy moment and that her vulnerability and her story itself are a miraculous thing. 

Yesterday I sat across from Marie-Ciane for a quick post-partum check-in time.  I told her that the day she shared her story with me meant a lot to me and that I have remembered much of what she said. I told her that the only way I can explain it to her is to say that her strength and courage and ability to overcome difficulties are incredibly inspirational. (I went to get a Kreyol expert for help to be sure I was saying that right and getting my important message across with the passion I intended.)

We talked a while and I asked Marie Ciane if she would be okay with it if I wanted to write about her on the internet.  I told her that obviously, her story is hers, and it would not be a problem if she did not want me writing anything.  

She said, "Yes, of course you can. I will want to read it too."  

We spent some time re-checking things she had shared and making sure I had the details correct. I scribbled some notes as we talked.  I asked her if there was something she wanted me to share specifically and she did have a few things to say.  You will read those things at the end of this post.

We first met Marie-Ciane  (MC) when a former client of 2012 named Edline hand delivered her on a Friday and refused to accept anything other than the words, "Yes, your friend can have a spot in the full prenatal program." Edline and Marie-Ciane both teach Braille and are employed by the same organization.  Edline came to visit during MC's labor and we laughed at how great it is to have a bossy and pushy friend on your side.  (Their bossy might drive us crazy - but we NEED those ladies!)

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Marie-Ciane was the third born child to her mother and father in 1975.  She doesn't stay in close contact with her older brothers.  

Marie-Ciane was born without eyes. Her whole life she has been told that her father was involved in things that weren't good and that because of his choices and activities, she was born without eyes. (In her words, he was involved in 'bagay mystic'.) I asked MC if she thinks that is true and she shrugged and laughed at my question and said, "If I don't have eyes, I don't have eyes. The reason still does not give me eyes."  

Source of Photo:
She is not exactly sure on the dates, but Marie-Ciane has no memory of her Mother or Father. He left her life when she was an infant, her mother died before she turned four years old.  Her mom's mother, the maternal grandmother, took over raising her.  

Sometime before she turned six years old Marie-Ciane's Grandma took her to St. Vincent's, a education and medical care center started by Sister Joan decades earlier. (Photo and website >)

St Vincent's cares for visually impaired or blind, deaf or hearing impaired, physically and mentally challenged and disabled children. For decades before the earthquake destroyed their building, they offered both residential and non-residential options to many children. I am unclear about what has been rebuilt and what is still being done. The organization is still hard at work here in Haiti. 

As a child MC said she spent Monday to Friday living at St. Vincent's Home and each weekend she would get to go be with her Grandmother. 

When she was 13 years old Marie-Ciane lost her Grandmother. She cannot recall exactly what illness or situation caused the death but she recalls that once her Grandmother passed away she lived full time at St. Vincent's and when summer came and there was a three month break, she would go to the province (Gantye, Haiti) to spend time with extended family. Marie-Ciane feels the loss of her Grandmother as one of the most difficult times of her life.  Her Grandmother was her stability in life.

At St.Vincents she learned Braille and to play the Clarinet and came to love music and singing and her faith was formed and nurtured. 

At our annual Christmas party MC stood to sing for us all. She speaks with great affection of several of the teachers and administrators of her childhood. It was fun as she named people that taught her and raised her to hear how many of them Beth McHoul knew from her decades in Haiti. 

When she was in her late 20s or even the year she turned 30, she met a gentle and kind man named Bernick - he used crutches to walk and he was at St. Vincent's for school. They fell in love and married the year she turned 31.  

After the 2010 earthquake displaced them, they were given a house in Sou Piste in an area where several dozens of temporary wood houses were built and families with disabilities were placed. The house was meant to be a temporary solution. They still live there today.

Bernick and Marie-Ciane's first born son, Daniel, is living near St. Marc with Bernick's family because they feel that the area they live is too dangerous for a four year old. They hope to some day have their whole family under one roof.  For now they are busy meeting the needs of newborn Michael.

Photos are important to MC.  She wants her sons to know about her and her life and her love for them. While she was here in postpartum she told me that she really wants Daniel and Michael to know about her.  I asked her yesterday if she fears she will die before they are grown the way her mother and grandmother did.  She nervously laughed at my question but reminded me that Haiti is difficult and she does not know how long she will be here for her sons. We agreed that every photo we can find of her will be printed for her to take and save for them.  After so much loss, this is one thing she can do to prepare should the worst fears come to pass.  

MC is enjoying a three month break from work right now. Michael is six weeks old this week.

Heartline's original breastfeeding song lyrics in Braille 
singing at Christmas party in December
In early labor I said, "You look beautiful in purple!" MC said, "Well take a photo then!"

Telling us some of her story in January

With Co-worker and friend, Edline (Edline had a baby at HMC in 2012)

With staff members Wini and Andrema at a PostPartum visit yesterday

Nursing baby Michael before heading home

Marie-Ciane would like to ask for your prayers for a few specific needs she has in her life.  She asked that you pray:

  • That Bernick might find a job. He has the ability to do computer, office, administrative work. If he had a job too, they might be able to start to think about moving to a different home.
  • That going back to work after her maternity leave ends will go well and it won't be too hard to leave Michael.
  • She asked for a pump to pump milk for him. (This is taken care of and not a need any longer.)
  • She asked that we would pray for a safer house and location to live. She would eventually like her first born son Daniel to be with them but wants a more secure housing situation for him and feels he is better to be with Bernick's family right now.  They do not own any land therefore housing is a difficult issue. She simply asked that you pray.

MC said she believes that God has placed good people all throughout her life that have helped her overcome and deal with so much loss and difficulty.  She doesn't at all think she does life alone.  She said several have shown up to come along-side her in her 40 years.

In our current day and age -  where things seem so discouraging and people even seem unkind and selfish at times  -- I thought you all would love to hear a story of a woman that has found much kindness and love in her difficult life.  

I hope you'll pray for this family of four and if nothing else, I hope it inspires us all to love others with our whole selves, especially the marginalized, forgotten, and materially poor. We all have the ability to change the trajectory of our own lives and the lives of those around us for the better.