Saturday, April 30, 2016

Honor Your Mother

Because we all treasure the gift that our mothers, sisters, and grandmothers are to us, we would like to give you an opportunity to honor them in a unique and loving way this Mother's Day, May 8, 2016.

This is the perfect honorary gift for Moms, friends, sisters, foster-moms, stepmoms,or those that are longing to be a mom.
With a donation in honor of your favorite Momma, we will send her a digital card letting her know you are thinking of her and have donated in her honor this Mother’s Day.

A donation of $15, $25, or $50 can do the following:

$15 - Provides the nourishing meals after delivery during postpartum care

$25 - Provides for a week of literacy classes for women learning to read and write

$50 - Provides for all the supplies for one labor and delivery 

This Mother’s Day you can touch the lives of two women with one gift. 

1. Click on this link
2. Choose a donation amount of $15, $25, or $50 per card you would like sent. 
3. When you immediately receive your donation confirmation email, please forward it to: - Please include the name of the woman you are honoring, their email address, as well as the name of the donor/gift giver if you wish to disclose that information. 

The subject line of the email will read, “_________wanted to honor you this Mother’s Day”. 

We will send the email Mother’s Day photo-greeting on May 7th or 8th.

Your donation makes a difference in the life of  a Haitian Mom while honoring the life, love, work and sacrifice of the woman you wish to recognize.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Four Generations

Jacqueline, Emacula, Wilthinyia, Michaela

Jacqueline is 72 years old. She was born in Jacmel, Haiti. She gave birth to 12 children. Eight of her children have passed away. (If I ever get the time to sit and talk to her again, I would love to hear all about all of her kids. Today didn't allow for the full history.)  In 2014 Jacqueline got a visa to be allowed to visit the United States to spend six months in Florida with her niece.  She said she can't and won't go back to the USA now, but she hopes her niece will decide to come visit her in Haiti.

Emacula is 54 years old.  She is one of Jacqueline's four living children. She has five children.

Wilthinyia is 30 years old. She is Emacula's oldest child.  Wilthinyia's first husband died. Her two daughters from that marriage are 3 and 6 years old.  She got remarried and just welcomed her third daughter. 

Michaela was born four days ago. Her Momma was really nervous about the birth. She started thinking she was having labor pain on March 23rd, even insisted she needed to sleep overnight at the Maternity Center that night. Turns out the birth happened April 23rd.  

Right day. Wrong month.  

Welcome to the world, Michaela. We pray it will be kind to you.

Most everything that I share and post about Haiti, Heartline, and life in general is now on my Instagram account. When I moved to this island a decade ago, the blogging thing was *the way* to communicate. 

Life happens fast and now the 700 to 1000 word blog post has almost become a thing of the past. Ain't nobody got time fo' that many words.  BUT - If you want to catch more (short) stories and photos and follow along with what is happening in Haiti - see my Instagram feed.


running toward the ambulance to greet her Momma 

Friday, April 15, 2016

You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving.

For most women the months of their pregnancies are some of the most memorable, intense, challenging, and wonderful months of their lives.

When a woman enters the Heartline prenatal program she is often a little bit intimidated and quite unsure of what to make of us, the program, and the things we teach and share.  Understandably so, many women are skeptical of us in the beginning.  Old-wives tales are a part of every culture; this one is no different. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to build relationships.

Women in Haiti are not at all used to being given so much information about their health. When we do medical histories on the women most of the women that have had medical procedures in the past are not able to say exactly why they needed the procedure. So little information is shared; it is not uncommon for a woman to have no idea why she needed a C-Section. We make sure to allow plenty of time with the women during their consultations to explain each test, each outcome, and each plan we make with them. We want them to know everything about their health and pregnancy that we know.

During the months we have with the women before the baby is born much of our time is spent preparing women for what they can expect during labor and delivery.  Many of the women in the program are about to become a mother for the first time. Statistically, giving birth in the undeveloped world is risky business. They have only the experiences of others to base their legitimate fears and hopes upon ... almost every woman we speak with in Haiti knows someone that died within a short period of time after giving birth. 

For those that have had babies they delivered at home or in crowded hospitals, the experience of delivering at Heartline will be an entirely new thing for them, not at all a part of their current paradigm. Our hope and our goal is for every woman that comes through our program to experience both quality care and authentic love, tenderness and attention.

The women get to know us; they get to know one another.  The classes each week become a time of learning and community, laughter and encouragement. Faithful attendance is what we ask of them, most eagerly comply and arrive bright and early on class day.

The women know that we post their photos and ask you to pray during their pregnancy, labor and delivery. They appreciate being covered in this way.

Thank you for supporting Heartline Ministries Prenatal and Early Childhood Development Programs.  We're blessed, honored, and humbled to be allowed to walk with these ladies through such a special and important time of their lives.

"You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving." 
-Amy Carmichael, missionary to India

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On Compromise

That is Troy on the left. Photo taken yesterday.

I learned from the last 48 hours of anxiety: I still hate motorcycles and I still think they are a bad idea and I still hate when Troy is on one. 

Lydia is an 8 year old. I am no math expert but 8 years of age is at least a few years from 15 years of age.  

  1. 1
    an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

I don't know what concessions Troy has made so far-but I have some ideas for him.  For starters, when he arrives home he can rub the knots in my shoulders from the nervousness of the last couple days. 

The blog entry below expounds upon my long and complicated relationship with motorcycles.  

~         ~          ~

A Tale of Roast-beef and Defeat 

(originally published March 2014)

We were saving money to pay for our wedding. The hotel that employed me as a catering sales manager was selling everything to me at cost, but still, we needed a few thousand dollars in order to host a classy reception after the wedding ceremony.

It was coincidental that I did not like motorcycles. (I am named after an uncle that lost his life on one.) It was coincidental that Troy (my groom to be) happened to own one. It only made sense to sell that death machine in exchange for dozens and dozens stuffed mushrooms, prosciutto wrapped anythings, and a handsome man in a white coat and tall hat ready to carve roast beef on demand. 

People die on motorcycles. Nobody ever died from too much roast beef. 


Hardly anybody.

Two birds. One stone. No more scary form of transportation available to my fiancé  and money for upitty Hors d'oeuvres. 

Clearly a Win - Win. 

At that time we had no earthy idea what lay ahead. Maybe we knew we needed some cash, but little did we know that a motorcycle that carries only two butts would be the last thing we would need. Had someone said "Uh, little morons, the day will come when a basic mini-van will not even carry your family", we would certainly have laughed in their face.

Fast forward six years. We are now the proud parents of five children.  My precious husband began saying he really wanted to get another motorcycle to go to and from work and save gas money.  I threw an ever-livin fit.  No way. Not on my watch. Will.Not.Happen, I said.  "Do you want me to leave you to raise five kids on your own?"  No?  I didn't think so.  Case closed.

Sometime in the following year we moved far away from Minnesota and its entire three month motorcycle season. Discussion forever closed. Or so I thought.

Fast forward two more years. We are now the frazzled parents of seven children. We live in the land of unlimited and impossible traffic. "A motorcycle would get me places quicker and I would end up being home more", he said. 

"Hmmm. Let me think. No. Not really. That would be true right up until you were not home at all-EVER - because you were dead," I replied.

We made an agreement.  When our youngest daughter, Lydia, is 15 years old - a motorcycle could once again be an option for transportation. Our kids would be mainly grown. It would be okay to drive around on a death machine at that point. We shook on it. 

Fast forward to early summer of last year. There were so many things going on in our lives. Reviewing them would exhaust us all. I won't review.  Suffice it to say, Troy and his friends in Haiti sensed my fatigue and weakness.  They preyed upon a distracted, beaten down, stressed-out mother and midwifery student. 

One day I woke up and we owned a motorcycle. I could barely recall agreeing to it, but somewhere deep in the dusty and cobweb-filled corners of my atrophied mind I recalled that I had sort of agreed to the purchase.

I "learned to ride it".  In fact I demanded that it be called my motorcycle. I figured, if we own this thing, I will be the one driving it. Things went really well in the driveway and up and down the paved street in front of our house. I was learning. 

One morning after Troy had left with our kids, I felt pompy (read: overly confident) and started it up to head to the Maternity Center. The distance between my house and the Maternity Center is certainly not more than 1/3 of a mile, probably less. I exited the neighborhood we live in, grinning broadly at the gate man's surprise at seeing me on a motorcycle.  I rounded the first right turn, no trouble.  I took the first left turn with equal excellence and precision.  Just as I was about to make my last turn, the turn that brings the Maternity Center into sight, I heard the sound of a truck.  Because I could not see the truck, but knew it was coming, I panicked and over compensated by jerking the handle-bars too quickly.  The loose gravel beneath the tires didn't accommodate my herky-jerky movement and the back tire came around and out from underneath me.  Down in the dirt I went.  Exactly two people saw this happen.  I jumped up, pretended that wiping out on a motorcycle was my job and said "Bon jour - tout bagay anfom?" (Good morning - everything is in order?)  That is how you act uber cool to people that just saw you wipe out. Just like in Junior High when you tripped up the if they don't notice that your life is not in order, because of the crashing to the ground.

My shaking legs and bloody arm hidden from their view, I hopped back on the moto and took it the extra block to the Maternity Center.  Nothing to see here. Nothing to see here.

Living that down was not fun. My maiden voyage on 'my moto', a failure.  When Noah saw my hacked up arm, he threatened to "take that thing apart piece by piece if Mom ever rides it again."

We left the motorcycle behind when we spent those multiple months in the USA.  Now we are back in Haiti and I am still not really sure how we ended up owning this thing. Lydia is six years old. She is not fifteen.

I suppose I feel that this massive compromise on my part has gone unnoticed. Shouldn't there be a ceremony, some sort of commemoration, awarding me an awesome-compromising-wife medal? Something?

Since we returned to Haiti, there have been no new dramatic incidents to report on the moto. The other night, we took off to dinner and our daughter, Hope, snapped this photo.  It shocked me to see that I was groping (hard-core clutching) Troy. 

If this is how I grab him when I ride with him, maybe I misunderstood the reason he wanted this dumb thing all along.

I figure if nobody else is going to award me, I will just have to self-award. 

Until the next time we need a giant quantity of Roast Beef, you may see one of us around Port au Prince on these two fancy wheels; I call her Defeat.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

slow and steady (wins the race)

Islande taking blood-pressure on a Prenatal day at Heartline Maternity Center

Time flies and memories fade (especially if you are age 40+, like me) -  that to say, maybe this is something that you've forgotten - I am here to remind you.

In late October a "Love Flash Mob" happened at the Momastery website. The Heartline Maternity Center was awarded a grant from the funds that came in during the love flash mob from the non-profit, Together Rising.  The grant is specifically funding a second floor on our current Maternity Center as well as other renovations and improvements to the building. The new upper floor will allow us to move our classroom space upstairs and use our original downstairs classroom space as a new much more lovely and spacious postpartum room.  These changes will also allow us the space to serve 65 pregnant women at one time.  

The construction is at the four and a half month mark.  We are getting antsy and anxious to be done with the dust and construction. It appears that we could be using the new upstairs space by May!  The bathroom upstairs will have TWO stalls - which is going to change everyones life and make us all happy.  There are too many pregnant bladders in the building to be sharing one bathroom on Thursdays. 

(History - We began with 20 women in 2008, slowly have increased over the years but have had to cap our numbers at 45 due to lack of space.)

Because we have always always been about very slow growth, we have managed to keep our staff to client ratio at a level that allows us (the staff) to know each woman by name and have a relationship with her by the time she delivers her little one. 

In September one more staff member will join us when she finishes her training to become a skilled birth attendant.  By October we will be expecting about 10 babies per month rather than the current 6 to 7 that are born now.  By October we will be a staff of three midwives, one skilled birth attendant, and three nurses with a ton of midwifery experience. 

All of this is uber exciting.  The hardest thing about growing a high touch, high quality, super relational program - is finding staff that will buy into the way we approach care at Heartline M.C.  

I recently wrote about how important compassion is to what we do.  

Any new staff member we hire must be a person of great compassion and integrity.  The medical system of this country doesn't necessarily encourage that sort of care - but we do.

Today I want to introduce you to Islande.  She is a new nurse on staff.  It has been such a joy to get to know her for the past several weeks.  Her skills are excellent. Better yet and even more important - she genuinely loves serving and caring for women.  She is tender and kind and compassionate.  

We welcome Islande to our staff and are excited to watch her learn more about midwifery which will only help round out her awesome nursing skills and loving bedside manner.  She joins Wini and Nirva, on staff six and three years respectively. 

Nursing Staff L to R - Nirva, Islande, Winifred - at a Birth Symposium this week

If you would like to join us in reducing orphans and strengthening families in Haiti, please visit our website and consider partnering with us at: 

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Compassion in Maternal Health

The three Heartline Midwives went to Tanzania for two weeks in February.  Once we were there and in the thick of the messy work of it, we looked at each other and said, "Who goes on vacation to do what they do every day in real life? What is wrong with us?"  Then we tried to determine which one of us was to blame for our decision to fly to the other hemisphere to do midwifery.

Maternal Health in Tanzania - HEAVY.

I wrote something about the time there - and threw it away. It was not something that I wanted to publish, it was negative and raw. It reviewed the babies that died unnecessarily and the Moms that were mistreated and it is probably wise for me to keep those details off the Internet. Even though much of what we saw was totally devastating and we were in situations that made us feel entirely uncomfortable, I am glad I went to Tanzania.

I now know that the model of care Heartline Maternity Center is offering is a beautiful, life-giving, respectful, and dignified model of caring for pregnant women. That is a gift. A gift to me. A gift to pregnant women.  Our work here in Haiti is small and it will never be huge when it comes to volume of women delivered, but it is sustainable because love lives at the Heartline Maternity Center.  

If the choice is to provide care for 500 women at a time and not know a single one of them but simply try to get them through their delivery alive - OR - to provide high quality care for 50 to 60 at a time and know their face, name, story, as well as their fears, hopes, and history, I will always choose the latter. 

 I knew that before   .... But I** KNOW **it now.

We learned that in Tanzania there are not enough midwives or skilled birth attendants, much the same as Haiti. We witnessed that critical supplies are lacking, much the same as Haiti.  BUT - Here is the big secret in my opinion:  Compassion is every bit as important in quality maternal health care as the supplies and tools and a "skilled attendant".  You can have all the drugs, fancy equipment, and sterile gloves in the universe and if you don't have a staff that lives to bring compassion to women that are laboring and afraid, you may just as well skip it.  

Trust matters and relationships matter and compassion is more valuable than IV fluid made of liquid gold.

When observing the care in hospital settings in the developing world, one can tend toward despair.  (One, being me. I tend toward despair.) Several of the hospitals in the city I live, as well as the hospital we visited in Tanzania and countless other hospitals and clinics working with the materially poor are lacking the most valuable resource.  

That resource is compassion. 

A midwife friend with 40 years of experience in both low and high-resource settings said this: "Nothing happens that is sustainable and life-affirming without warm, loving relationships among people at work. Although we don't often talk about 'love' in our professional work, it has been my career-long experience that only love (compassion)  changes critical situations. 

Perhaps all of us have areas of huge frustration and despair in our lives, things we really don't feel we have any power to change as we look around at the brokenness of our neighborhoods or our professions or our policies. 

I've decided that the only weapon I have is my individual ability to choose love and compassion even and especially when others around me do not. 

For the Maternal Health crisis world wide, we pray for abundant compassion to reign in the hearts of the men and women that are being drawn to the profession. We pray for excellence and integrity and kindness and love. We pray for women to be treated with dignity and respect and to feel loved and cared for in their most vulnerable moments. 

Friday, April 01, 2016

Sans Somnus Pontificating

Somnus was the God of sleep in Roman mythology.

In real today-this day-not Rome, life -  he is nowhere to be found. 

I suppose that is why it is called mythology.   

We laid awake last night.  We cried together in the darkness of our room. After Somnus mercifully came for Troy, I tried to pray and then talk myself into sleep. It failed. I finally got up and answered emails instead of lying there livid that my brain for refusing to turn down. 

(Turn down for what* - for sleep, that's what.)  (*That line is to impress my kids. If you don't get it, no worries, it's me being all pop culture knowledgeable like the youngsters.)

Yesterday Troy met with the first parents of our three precious Haitian children.  When he shared some of what they talked about and grieved with him, I sat dumbfounded at the unending challenge of their lives.

Our two daughter's first Momma recently received word that her young adult son (Phoebe and Hope's big brother) was shot and killed in California. She had placed him (and eventually several of her children) for adoption.  Poverty and a broken world and system took five kids in three years and put them in three separate homes. Troy and I are raising her two youngest baby girls.  I'm totally done trying to reconcile any of that shit. I can only say, I am not at peace with what has happened to this family. She had not seen her son in 13 years.  She won't see him again.  She thought he would go to America for a chance at a "better life".  

For a short time Troy was present with her in her grief and he got down in the pit and sat in the discomfort of not being able to fix it but knowing that simple presence (without words) is a holy thing.

I don't know why I am writing that out.  I suppose it feels important to me that someone knows that a Momma in Haiti lost a son she had been wanting to see for years and she is grieving two losses. She grieves her loss of 13 years ago, she is questioning herself and her decision.  She grieves his death that took place before her dream of a reunion was realized. If that touches a place of compassion in you, perhaps you want to pray by name for Beanne. (Pronounced Bee-Aahnn)

Our son's birth family is in-tact outside of the two children they placed for adoption.  So, not in-tact, really. Mom, Dad, all the other kids, welcomed "Mr, Troy" to sit and catch up yesterday. They have a son that has never spoken. Another son they tell us is "not right in the head". We have developed our hypothesis about their diagnoses, but for them it feels like and is called some sort of curse on their children.  We are right. They are right.

While we grieved with and for these families last night, and attempted to release some of the weight of several heavy circumstances with our tears, we listened to Andrew Petersen sing.  The lyrics are deeper than I am, so I won't try to outdo Andrew.  I will paste him in below.

God ... We are aching for the yield. Aching.

We need the Lord to plant justice, justice and praise.   

Help us to be led in peace, and go out with Joy.  

Abide in us Lord, let these branches bear fruit.

Oh God, I am furrowed like the field
Torn open like the dirt
And I know that to be healed
That I must be broken first
I am aching for the yield
That You will harvest from this hurt

Abide in me
Let these branches bear Your fruit
Abide in me, Lord
As I abide in You

So I kneel
At the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn
At the glowing edge of spring
When the winter's edge is gone
And I can see the color green
I can hear the sower's song

Abide in me
Let these branches bear Your fruit
Abide in me, Lord
Let Your word take root
Remove in me
The branch that bears no fruit
And move in me, Lord
As I abide in You

As the rain and the snow fall
Down from the sky
And they don't return but they water the earth and bring they forth life
Giving seed to the sower, bread for the hunger
So shall the word of the Lord be with a sound like thunder
And it will not return, it will not return void
We shall be led in peace
And go out with joy
And the hills before us
Will raise their voices
And the trees of the field will clap their hands as the land rejoices
And instead of the thorn now
The cypress towers
And instead of the briar the myrtle blooms with a thousand flowers
And it will make a name
Make a name for our God
A sign everlasting that will never be cut off
As the earth brings forth sprouts from the seed
What is sown in the garden grows into a mighty tree
So the Lord plants justice, justice and praise
To rise before the nations till the end of days

As the rain and the snow fall
Down from the sky
And they don't return but they water the earth and they bring forth life
Giving seed to the sower, and bread for the hunger
So shall the word of the Lord be with a sound like thunder
And it will not return, it will not return void
It will not return, it will not return void
It will not return, it will not return void
We shall be led in peace
And go out with joy

And the sower leads us
And the sower leads us
And the sower leads us