Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Forgiveness is the Garment of our Courage

In early December we went to TX to watch our oldest adult-person-child, Brittany, graduate from PA School at UT Southwestern in Dallas.  

While we were there we pretended for a weekend that we were 20 again and we ran from thing to thing and stayed out late and partied like short-sighted frat bros. I was so dang tired at the end. Anyway, one of the things we did to pretend to be young and energetic is to go to a concert that began at 9:30pm.  WHO DOES THAT?  Young people. That's who.  

We saw this band (The Brilliance) open for Josh Garrels and we watched and listened and our minds were numbed - not by our old age and the late hour of the evening  - but by their talent.  

Since then, their music is being played frequently by many of us at Heartline and in our home.  

Here is the thing tonight ... If you're a person that lives in the world, it is kind of a painful time.  Maybe you are feeling the need to figure out how to love or forgive or just exist peacefully in this weird time of life. I love this song and when I feel upset with things happening in life, I remember the words, "Forgiveness is the Garment of MY Courage".  Forgiveness is the hardest flippin thing ever. Doing it take courage. Being courageous is badass.  Who doesn't want to be badass?

~        ~          ~

Speaking of old, I wrote about the good old days at A Life Overseas yesterday, if you're 40-something and you are sitting around longing for the days of Rubik's Cubes and/or Lite Brights left on the carpet as the worst trouble kids can get into, you may want to check out the post.  

It leads me to this question. Did every generation of parents lament and moan about it being "the hardest time in history ever to raise kids".  At least we finally found out that the previous generations were all wrong. It's the very worst (the bratWurst) right now.  

~        ~          ~

The happenings around here are this:  Last week we had the grandparent/parental unit visit. This week Dr. Jen is here. The MC is having a quiet birth week but we know birth happens in threes so perhaps we will welcome some babies later this week. We sent Noah off to Texas to help Paige.  The house feels the (temporary) loss of Noah. It turns out everyone likes him the best. He is the favorite sibling of almost every kid. Teacher Page returned from a month in Texas and got the kids back to full-time-school.  The kids always seem happiest when they have school and Page being back is excellent for all. 

In four weeks Noah will help Paige get Abner and Graham to Haiti for an entire month stay with us. Excited does not begin to describe our anticipation for that fast approaching  epic day. Abner got his passport super fast and is ready to become an international traveler.  

a reduction in hair happened between these photos

Thursday, January 19, 2017

No Such Thing As Grown Up

In the midst of the waves of emotions ... Crying and laughing and the transition induced ridiculous meltdowns and manic behavior  - I am also realizing that we don't really grow all the way up - like ever. I keep thinking I know how to adult. I keep finding out I am just making it up as I go.

My Mom and Dad are coming today and the build up to their arrival (my inner excitement and nerves) is similar to nervousness and excitement I felt when I was 5 and 12 and 17 and 26 years old.  

Here I am, a 44 year old grandmother and mother of many and I feel nervy and like a kid on Christmas morning while I wait for my Mom and Dad to arrive. I cleaned some globes around the light fixtures  -- we literally DO NOT clean those.  But for Mom and Dad -- the ones in the bathroom they will use are sparkling clean.

Everything has to be perfect and everyone has to be happy. 
We have to have perfect family time together without any problems what-so-ever. 
Haiti must cooperate.
Grandchildren must cooperate too.  
That is what I want.  
No pressure on anybody at all.  
Just don't screw it up. 

My parents picked Isaac up in Waco, TX last night and had a chance to meet Abner and see Graham and Paige.  They all slept for seven minutes and headed to the airport at 3am. Paige reports that she felt heavy and sad saying goodbye to her Buddy the Elf Helper Brother Friend.  Thankfully the next brother will arrive to cheer her again in just one week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Please Thank-You Bye

"Please Thank you. Bye."  - Graham, Age 2

*    *     * 

Yesterday, after an emotionally charged 6 days back on Haitian soil, I finally snapped.  

It was a bit of a dramatic scene.  I will take the long way around to arrive at the climax (snap) of this story. 

Let us start at the beginning...

I flew away from the Texas crew and the brand new grand baby on January ninth. (He is therapy I tell you - calm, snuggly, and sssoooo delish - If I sat with him in the sunshine forever, I'd not need my counselor ever again.) 

I left my personal agent, the laundry folding, dish washing, and toddler-wrangling, Isaac there to do all the things I would do if I could remain in Texas longer.  

Isaac was trained and ready for the job.  

We had discussed the idea of seeing what needs to be done and saying to your head, "Okay head with eyes, look around at Paige's house - what can I see that needs to be done without anyone telling me to do it."  

It is possible with (some) children to teach them that dishes can be done without your mother and/or father telling you to do them.
Uncle Ike the Toddler Wrangler

I left Austin and landed in Atlanta where my friend Keight greeted me with wine and a corkscrew and put me to bed in a freezing cold room.  The next morning she took me to have Atlanta-famous grits and some bacon.

After breakfast with Keight and a ride in her truly luxurious car, I headed home to Haiti.  (You guys - Some people have more personal belongings and crap in their car than they have in their house. But her house burned down last year so maybe she keeps stuff in the car to keep it safe.)

On these flights I wear a baseball hat. I keep my head down. I try not to talk to anyone because I am INSANE inside myself in these moments of leaving half my heart behind. 

My body language on the airplane must scream obscenities to everyone around me because I am truly just trying to deal with all my feelings. 

Talking to someone about short term missions or what they are going to go do in Haiti or about the lack of infrastructure ("the roads! CAN YOU BELIEVE THE flippin ROADS?!") in Haiti might make my head pop off and roll all the way down the aisle of Delta Flight 685. 

If someone on said Delta flight reads me wrong and kindly and politely asks, "What do you do in Haiti",  I try to come up with a one word response that will put a stop to any potential follow up question.  

"Survive" is a trusty go-to response.  

It is not that I am always such a grouch - it is just that on transition day, I cannot do small talk. Cannot. Will not. 

Here is the deal, when I need to switch gears between the life and family in America and the life and family in Haiti, there almost always tends to be transmission or clutch failure. 

Gear shifting is not smooth on the roads of my life. 

I assume only robots transition without tears and drama, and a robot I am not. 

I arrive home to Port au Prince where Troy knows that if he is not at the airport on time I will probably lose my shit and cry ugly tears.  

Troy takes me immediately to a place where we can decompress and tell each other everything about everything we missed in two weeks of separation.  (In this case that place is the UN base where loud helicopters and airplanes interrupt our conversation every ten minutes, but beggars cannot be choosers in this city and you get what you get.) 

On our way to the UN base I spot a huge rainbow and think, "Oh, look at this, Jesus is reminding me I'm probably gonna be okay."  I ask Troy to get a photo of the rainbow but immediately I know Troy's photo is going to suck, so I pop my head out of the car to get my own rainbow photo. During the perfect capture of the rainbow behind the cement wall with the barbed wire on top, my baseball hat flies off and rolls behind us into traffic.  

Troy, the expert at stupid-Tara-things, pulls over and parks the truck so he can run into traffic to get my baseball hat back.

(You know what ?? - The rainbow behind the wall is sort of perfect imagery for the feelings of transition. There is hope and the promise of peace available - but it is not something you can just reach out a touch - or photograph, as it were. It's there -- but hidden behind walls and wire.) 

When we arrive at the restaurant I tell him about my trip and the people I saw and many things about Isaac, and Paige, and Britt. I tell him about the Tex-Mex I ate. I tell him how the bank sent our debit cards to an address from years ago and how I tried to pay all the medical bills from this summer but stopped short of the goal.  I tell him about the large amount of cash I have on me to pay our rent. He tells me how the kids he was in charge of are doing and who got fired and who threatened to put curses on him and who was amazing and did beautiful work and what appliances are broken at home and what we have on the calendar in the days ahead.

After our official decompress sesh we head home to see the broken appliances and the excited kids.  

No matter how often I go see the big girls and grandsons in Texas, there is always pandemonium and happy kids to greet me upon my return.  I do not tire of this part of the transition. 

Please. Thank you. Bye.

*     *     *

Wednesday (my first day home), Phoebe had her own epic melt down. Too much emotion, too much puberty, too much of too much. It was one of those melt downs where at the end she feels so much better but all the rest of us felt like we'd just been beaten badly by Mike Tyson.  As I unpacked I cried for Phoebe and for me.  

Wednesday night we had a flood in our downstairs bathroom that spilled into the bedroom next to it.

Thursday we had a busy Prenatal day at the Maternity Center. To list all the things and situations in an average Thursday would take many hours of writing and explaining. It is intense every week.  

Thursday night we had a flood in our downstairs bathroom. 

Friday we had a busy birth control day and did ultra sounds and had a birth in the afternoon. 

Friday night Troy got the snake stuck in the walls/plumbing trying to fix the problem. 

Saturday the 13 year old that lives a few house down went into labor.  She knocked on our gate early in the morning. Her story is so painful and unfair and watching her suffer in order to give birth to a baby she did not ask for or feel ready to have was emotionally intense. We prayed non stop asking God to help the baby come  quickly and allow at least the physical pain to be done.  After the birth we cried when she would not look at her baby girl, but we understood.  Healing requires time. 

Saturday night, another baby was born to an older and very prepared Mom. 

Sunday the kids came to work with me for the post-partum shift and we hung out with the three moms and their baby girls. The baby girls were all named and we got to help choose two of the names. 

Isabelle - Sophia - Lelia 

Yesterday, I woke up grieving.  

I hate when I don't get to control the timing of my grief.  How do you WAKE UP sad? Sleep is supposed to heal sadness. So dumb! I felt sad about everything (some things mentioned here - some things not mentioned here). I dropped KJ off at the airport and tried not to melt down yet.  

When I got home a visitor to Haiti was at our house giving the new puppy a haircut. She taught me how to do a better job with the Chestnut and Walnut grooming. I needed the coaching.

Troy informed me the "plumber" (this term is very loosely applied) had arrived and that the bathroom tile would need be smashed up in order to find the problem and fix the flooding and plumbing issue.  

After the haircut was finished and it was just our family at home, I had an epic meltdown about the tile in the bathroom.  

It was as if all the other things were small, but having the bathroom smashed up was the biggest deal in the whole damn universe.  "I wanted it to be nice when my parents got here" - "I have been redoing that bathroom and it finally looked really cute" - "I put a freakin chandelier in the bathroom that now has smashed walls" - "The world is ending!!!" THE SKY IS FALLING. This will never be okay.

Troy just sits quietly and watches me, as if making a move or saying anything might cause an earthquake or some other natural disaster. 

lighting to accompany smashed walls

this is BEFORE the actual smashing started

In the afternoon after I had finished giving a tour and checking in at the Maternity Center, I decided that I needed to take control of my life.  I do this by moving furniture around.  It heals me.  

Noah and I rearranged the family room together and took charge of our lives.  Doing something to control something that will actually allow me to control it is my therapy.  My living room looks perfect right now.  

The over-reaction and tears have passed for the time being. 

My parents will come in to visit on Thursday and they will still notice that I have a lovely light fixture in the torn up bathroom and everyone will keep inhaling and exhaling and life will in fact - go on.  There are real problems and the bathroom doesn't even make the list.   Down the street from here a 13 year old is trying to bond to a baby that is the product of an assault. She needs to head back to school soon after missing the first half of this school year.


I cannot wrap that ending up nicely.  

Please. Thank you. Bye.

*     *      *

Long before we had drop down menus and computer prompts, we had Mom prompts. Whomever designed the prompt systems on websites and apps must have had a Mom. 

Their experience with Mom taught them how to be intuitive and predict the next prompt needed.

I just spent two weeks in Texas listening in on Paige as she provided the ORIGINAL prompts to her two year old son.

"What do you say, Graham? What do you say?" 

She must say it thirty-million times per day.

Typically she wants to prompt him for a 'please' or a needed 'sorry' or maybe even a thank-you.

One day she said, "What do you say, Graham??!!"- in a bit of a commanding and irritated Mom voice.

Graham looked her in the eye and said as fast as he could, 
"PLEASE -THANK-YOU - BYE!" - He ran off to play.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Arrival of Abner Emmanuel

As with pretty much ALL the THINGS, there is disagreement and debate about women choosing to give birth at home. I am trying to think of something we all agree on and I have been sitting her for four days and have come up with nothing so it feels like it is time to stop trying. 

To quote the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology -  'The relative risk versus benefit of a planned home birth, however, remains the subject of debate.' 

It does.

There are those that are highly opposed to any and all home birth and there are those that think if criteria is met, home birth is a truly safe and lovely thing. Some people think hospitals are for sick folks and healthy women don’t need to give birth in a hospital. I actually fall in the middle of those schools of thought so with this post I can likely tick off either of the far ends of the spectrum. 

When you can make all of the people mad at once, that’s good times. 

I’m sharing for the sake of sharing, not in order to convince anyone of anything. This is a personal choice and I think each individual has the right to choose wisely.  I'm not making a judgment about hospital birth or any other non-home-birth option. 

The goal of labor and delivery is a living mom and living baby. Well, at least that is our goal at Heartline Maternity Center in Port au Prince. It is also my personal goal at any birth I am invited to attend.  As trained and experienced midwives working in a high risk country, we get very very good at knowing the signs and indications for a hospital birth. 

Some people really should never ever consider home birth.  Other women could have a baby all alone in the Alaska wilderness without a single medical tool or human being around and use their teeth to cut the cord and a strand of their own hair to clamp it and do just fine. 

There are enough angry polarized arguments on the interwebs, let us not add to that noise. If you feel you MUST send your horror story or your oh-my-gosh-awesome, please know that I live in grey area. I cannot go black or white with you on this, or most things. I will simply say, I would never participate in something that was not well planned and prayed out, nor would I do so without a transport/emergency option. I think Paige made the right choice for her and I was giddy to help support her decision.

I approached a few folks in the Maternal Health field to run it by them that I was considering being Paige’s primary midwife at a home birth. It was risky, in that putting myself in a position to need to make emergency decisions for a family member and remain objective can be (and is) difficult. Had any of my trusted co-midwives or OB friends told me that they thought I was unwise to agree to a home birth for Paige, I would have reconsidered. 

With all those caveats, I bring you the beautiful SHORT story of the birth of Abner Emmanuel.  His mother also delivered Graham in October 2014. You can read about that utter chaos at this link.

Paige decided for several very respectable and valid reasons that she wanted a home birth with her second pregnancy.  Paige has zero risk factors and is the perfect candidate to consider a home-birth. She and I talked and prayed about it for a couple months. We made back up plans (I was not going to be in TX until late in her 39th week so she needed to have a plan). We found our midwife friend, Betsy, to ask if she could attend too if the baby waited until I could get to Texas.  

In the room at the time of Abner’s entrance into the world was his mom (her role was fairly crucial), his dad, his aunt Britt, his grandma (me), his uncle Isaac, and Midwife Betsy.  Isaac stayed off in the corner and got some photos. His words, "That is something I will never forget (literally)."  When I asked him what he thought about it all he said, "Well, the placenta was very red and blue." 

If at this point you’re thinking, “These people are strange”, that is okay.  We know it is not typical for a 15 year old boy to see his sister give birth. We are not so much aiming for typical.  I figure we were all born and birth is an everyday event and there is no reason to make it a scary or taboo thing. 

Paige is a cervical ninja warrior.  I don’t even understand her way of being female human.  It is astounding.  Her first birth was a wonder. Her second birth just the same. I did not give birth this way.  I know very few people that do. 

She basically started the game at 4cm on December 27th with zero pain and made it to 7cm over a 30 hour period of very little pain.  She went for long walks, she took care of Graham and her house, she did lunges and drank a Castor Oil smoothie, she slept when she wanted.  

On the 28th of December she started having a pattern of not too painful contractions at about 4pm.  We decided to call the other midwife to head to Waco and we played Monopoly and found ways to distract Paige.  Graham left to go to a play date for a few hours. Paige finished up a three mile walk and decided she would go lie down around midnight at the end of December 28th.  

At 1:45am I was in her room checking the little man's heart-tones and woke her up while doing it.  She got up and asked if we could check to see if her power nap had gained her another centimeter.  At 2am she was 7cm, totally effaced, and baby had moved down quite a bit. She had been sleeping soundly for an hour and thirty minutes but once she woke up it was go-time.  At 2:20 she was vomiting. At 2:25 she was yelling at us that she changed her mind and was not interested in having the baby after-all.  

At 2:30 I had to switch from empathetic Mom to bossy midwife when Betsy said "I see the bag" - We moved her (told her she did not have a choice) from the bathroom to her bed and the moment she laid down she said, "I can't this hurts too much to be like this". In the same 30 seconds Abner's head emerged, at that time his amniotic sac tore a bit right at his neck, while still covering his face. All of that happened without much of a push on Paige's part.  That is the part that I find utterly confounding. Oh, Hi, no pushing, here, have a head. In less than one minute another contraction and one push from Paige and we all joyously officially welcomed Abner to the world at 2:35am on December 29th. 

After Abner was dried off and handed up to Paige she said, "Well that did not even hurt that bad."  I think she said that before he was two minutes old. 

For his first hour of life he stayed on his Mom and began to nurse. Michael and Paige announced his name for the first time after his arrival. 

Abner Emmanuel Gonzales was born early in the hours of December 29, weighing 8 pounds 13 ounces, he was 20.5" long. 

Once the adrenaline high wore off a bit, Paige and Michael and Isaac caught a nap while Britt and I went to get pancakes and Betsy headed home.  When Graham woke up he found this other small human being in his house and he is working hard at making sense of how life has forever changed.

The births and adoptions of my own children are key memories and moments of my life. The specific and sharp memories that surround each special day are a part of our family story and a part of me. Not surprisingly, the joy of assisting with the birth of these grand-babies ranks right there at the top, with the other sacred events. I cannot believe how special and holy it was. 

I am so grateful. 
Thank you God for another healthy baby boy. 

 "There days and deliveries where I couldn't believe it either! Birth was and will always be the most commonplace of miracles. An event at once familiar and phenomenal, timeless and immediate, briefly making angels of us all."

Jenny, Call the Midwife