Sunday, November 26, 2017

I married this guy ...

Forty five to ninety minutes before we actually have to leave, I get Troy started on his goodbye so that I can actually leave when we need to leave.

This is basically a true representation of Troy's goodbye process.

Send Help. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

My Struggle Bus Broke Down

My almost 23-year-old kid, Paige, likes to tell me that I am on the struggle bus.

I think it is ha-ha funny for anyone to tell me that, mainly because **I know** that the bus I am on has three flat tires and no jacks or spares.  I'm on that broken down struggle-bus sitting on the side of the road cursing at it all.

The year two thousand seventeen has been somewhat of a butt kicking.  I think maybe I have said that every year we have been in Haiti except perhaps in twenty twelve. That year (2012) I think our butts were less kicked and less bruised.  

2017 has been a ton of tears and struggle and big life and work transitions.  I am referring to things we have shared openly and much that is too personal to put on the Internet.  (I know it may seem that I am willing to share everything, but that's not true. I only share super personal things about Troy.) 

My point here is not to gripe about 2017.  (another day)

Let me pivot now to my point. 

No, actually, before I pivot let me tell you what Troy said to me about thirty minutes ago. 

Troy Livesay - on the changes in his life and marriage as a result of his 45 yearold wife and perimenopause:

"It's not bothering me at all. I have a different wife, like a different one you know? It is kind of fun and entertaining - this flaky and forgetful wife for a while - I know it is not forever so I like it, you know?"

** ** ** 

Daphnee came for an ultrasound early in her pregnancy.  A doctor in Port au Prince had given her an ultrasound. He told her that her pregnancy was outside of her uterus and that she needed to terminate for the sake of her own life.  He told her the price of termination.  It was much more than she could pay.

Daphnee had family members that had delivered with Heartline Maternity Center.  Her family members, Fedline and Phanise, told her to come get an ultrasound at the Heartline Maternal Health Program. 

Daphnee came for an ultrasound one Friday.  

We saw a normal intrauterine pregnancy and encouraged Daphnee not to go back to the doctor that had suggested termination.  Daphnee had a hard time taking that information in and asked over and over again, "It is a normal pregnancy?"  We just kept reassuring her that we saw what looked totally normal.

She delivered a healthy baby, her firstborn, on the 17th of October.  Below, Daphnee is pictured on the right - and then bringing her little one home in the second photo.

I would like to tell you stories like this are rare.  I want to say that it is likely just practitioner error and that certainly no doctor would take advantage of someone by false diagnosis and scare tactics.

I would like to tell you that.   
To be clear, I am not at all telling you that.

It breaks my heart.

** ** **

On Wednesday Nurse Nirva came in to ask if we would come talk to the client she was working with in another exam room. 

We (two midwives) went to speak with the client. We entered the room to find her boyfriend sitting there as well. We asked how we could help and he explained that he really wants her to terminate the pregnancy and that he already has another woman he supports and that he did not want the client we are seeing  (a girlfriend of his) to carry the baby. 
I listened and then turned to her and said, I know it is not the same thing - "I had more support, but I want to tell you my story."
I know what it is like to have the father of the baby saying you should have an abortion. I shared a bit of my history and I said, "This is your choice. He doesn't get to decide this for you, you will need to decide." 
The Heartline Maternity Center offers 9 months of prenatal care, six months of postpartum care, support, love, and education - These 14 months of weekly classes and community are offered for the cost of 500gourdes ( $8.06 USD ) paid one time. 
The client (S) was crying and wouldn't look at any of us. I told her we cared about her and left the exam room saying, "I am so glad that I cancelled my abortion appointment in April 1994 because that daughter is one of my best friends and her life is a gift to us all."
I obviously don't get to decide what "S" does and I will only be able to wait and see if she returns next week for prenatal class. 
But, your donations allow us to (at least) offer love and support to women like her that feel afraid or unsupported in their pregnancy. 
You are in this with us -- every day.  We are asking you to be here.

One Day's Wages is matching $14,600 of giving this #givingtuesday --- Yes, I know today and this weekend are the days to go to BestBuy and Kohl's and Target  ----- BUT --- please, when you get home from there, please check-out this matching Grant offer out and consider helping us reach the goal and receive their matching dollars.

I might be forgetful and even flaky, but I just started and finished writing this in one hour's time, take that, TROY LIVESAY.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Tricks, Old Dog

All the popular wisdom says when you write anywhere except perhaps in your own diary, you write because you know what your point is.  

Have a theme, an outline, and goal to communicate a specific message.

(Popular wisdom is so popular with the wise.)

* * * * 

It probably comes as a shock to no one at all that in this world of polarized everything and dishonesty and hurt piled up on top of heaps of injustice, the post about my husband's vas-deferens etc. etc. became the most read post of the last five years.  

Suffice it to say, I'm quite proud of the boys.

This Op-Ed ran earlier this week, I stressed about the fact that they put our blog address at the bottom of it.  "Argh, if anyone goes there the recent posts are about an adult man trying to pick-up our fifteen year old and my plans to threaten him and Troy's vasectomy reversal."  I contemplated tossing up a quick Bible study or maternal health post to make myself look more well rounded.  

I have learned something.
Contemplation does not equal action.

* * * *

This summer (maybe you recall this) a young mom that had a baby at the Heartline Maternity Center (as a result of a rape) was considering giving her baby up to the rapist's family.  She was under pressure to do so. People around her were saying she couldn't take care of a baby. They said that his family was more financially able. Those of us that know her well tried hard to stay calm and use wisdom. (But not popular wisdom.) We were watching her take care of her baby and she was doing a beautiful job. 

When the thing you want to do most is scream hysterically at the top of your lungs "NONONO, THAT CANNOT HAPPEN" - it is best to not do that screaming.  

Gratefully, the baby is 10 months old now and still with her mother. We have all emotionally prepared ourselves for the fact that we do not control outcomes of these wonky and broken situations.  However, while preparing ourselves for several Haiti-like-possibilities, we are also thrilled to share that the young Mom is in school. 

Her daughter cries every morning when she is dropped off for day-care and has to say goodbye for six hours.  The bond between them is real. In my mind, this has been the story of the year. Success is hard to measure and it most often feels difficult to say, "Oh, yes! Now THAT is so the goal happening right there before our eyes!" In this case, right now, it is indeed good. Thank you to every single person that prayed and supported Sarah and Sophia. 
Sincere, sincere, thanks. Please keep praying for them.

* * * * 

In September I went to Paige's best friend's wedding.  I danced with Graham and wore floral print "booties".  

The trend in the USA, if you don't know this, is to start making a perfectly cute boot, but then get lazy and call it good right at the ankle. The stores are full of unfinished boots made by lethargic and unmotivated people. To be super creative instead of calling it a boot, it is called a bootie.

There is no reason to share that really, except to complain that the fashion trends seduced me and I wore a pair for six hours and that bootie killed my second toenail on my left foot. It is dark purple and about to fall off.  Just a word of warning before you invest in your pair.

* * * *
Yesterday at the Maternity Center someone came to me asking for a pregnancy test to be able to take to her Pastor.  I thought I heard her wrong.  I said, "Wait, your Pastor wants to see your pregnancy test?"  I of course thought that he must be the kind of pastor that also sleeps with his congregation, or why else does he ask?  The woman explained it this way to me: "My Pastor needs to see a negative pregnancy test before our wedding later this month because if it is a positive test he won't allows us to get married in the church. He would still marry us but we would be unable to invite guests and wear a dress and use the church."  

I stared at her waiting for her to burst into laughter and say, "GOT YOU! HA HA HA."  It got awkward and I stopped staring.

Turns out, that's a thing this pastor does.  

* * * *

Why do they call some wrinkles "fine lines"? 
Who determines what is a wrinkle and what is a fine line? My face is getting older every day.  I want to know how deep the line is when it switches over to a wrinkle.

The other week I needed to bring a Momma and her baby home. They lived crazy far away and up a steep mountain. While I drove I saw on my phone that I was headed south.  At the same time I was headed south I was climbing up a hill. Prior to that day I have never been able to believe that both can simultaneously be true. On that day, I gave Troy a call and told him of my changed perspective.  "Babe, you can climb up a mountain while heading south."  

He expressed relief that I have been able to switch my paradigm at such an advanced age.

In thirty nine days all of my children, son in laws, and grandsons will be standing before me in my home.  It's the first annual because, well because, we have never done this since Britt and Paige have been married adult people. I'm super cool about it. Not that excited, really.

If it doesn't happen, I'll adjust. By jumping off the nearby bridge into the trash below.   I>AM>SO>EXCITED.

Troy and I got to go to Atlanta for our Anniversary last weekend.  We had a long layover and I forced Troy to get a pedicure for the first time in his life. He was such a weirdo about it. He was all squirrely and complaining he didn't know what to do.  I explained that a pedicure is where SOMEONE ELSE has to know what to do.  

You just sit there and watch them know - while you know nothing.  
I'm happy to report it went well.

This week Beth Johnson (you know her as KJ and I prefer you call her that in your mind) found a pretty significant heart defect while doing a twenty week ultrasound on one of the women in the program.  

In Haiti the poorer than poor will often times work for the regular poor in exchange for a place to live or maybe a promise of education or something else similar.  (And the poor work for rich too, of course.) There is also a system of slavery that is not seen as such and is generally accepted - a person that works for another person is called a restavek - you can read about it . The gal that KJ was seeing for that ultrasound is a restavek of sorts. She's not young like many in her position, but she does have a lower capacity to understand things and is looked down upon by others and works in the home of another family. 

It sort of feels like the most beat down folks, just get more beatdowns in life. I have no statistics, but if you would like me to make some up, I would say that of the people that have a really hard life, 70% of those folks have a bunch of OTHER EXTRA crap happen that makes it even harder.  That is an asstistic, take it or leave it.  I am just saying, this lady that already has very little, now has a baby with a heart problem too.

Once every couple months a young gal will come in for a pregnancy test and share the story of the person she works for being the father of the baby - but because he was married, once she is pregnant she no longer has a job or a home.  He fires her. 

You can go from being an abused/used restavek to being homeless and pregnant. I don't know how to figure out which one is worse. Do you? 

* * * *

Communication in this country is THE HARDEST.  I actually cannot be moved on this issue.  I'm willing to believe you can go up a mountain and go South at the same time, but I will not waver on the issue of the difficulty level of communication in Haiti.  THE.HARDEST.  

At the end of a long day it feels like perhaps the entire day was spent talking and communicating and perhaps nothing was understood. Or perhaps nothing I say makes sense. Or perhaps nobody answers the question asked.  I could write 3,000 words worth of examples but here is one that just happened thirty seconds ago. (Underlined words indicate one person.)

"Are you having pain or is it the same as before?"

"It's the same."

"Okay, not more than Thursday? Exactly the same?"

(Nods - confirms not having more contractions/pain.)

(literally) Five seconds later  - another Midwife asks...

"Is the pain worse?"


"When is it worse?"

"It (the pain) is all the time."

"You know contractions come and go, yes? They come and go frequently. It is not an all the time pain. Are you having a pain that comes and goes - it is that or no?"


This continued on for a while.  The pain is worse and it is not worse and it is constant and it comes and goes. 

Someone - Please let me know if this makes sense.

Troy and I try SO SO HARD to communicate often and well, but when we sit down to talk we have usually had a day that includes so much talking and not understanding that by the time we reach home we just have eye contact and call that communication because SO MUCH TALKING.

Two weeks ago on Saturday night we went to one of the most well funded international medical providers around. Their Obstetrics hospital is for high risk only.  We know that and we have a list of the criteria they published.  We rarely go there even though it is close to us because it seems to always be super discouraging. On that night KJ and Nirva had a woman bleeding a lot but having no contractions. They determined quickly it was either a partial placenta abruption or a placenta previa.  Both of those two very dangerous things are on the OB their criteria list - because that is HIGH RISK and time-sensitive.  When the Midwives arrived at the hospital (remember, very well funded, very well known) the nurses and midwives there had an empty triage room.  It was a quiet night there by all observations. No physician made themselves known. The medical employees that were present said that the hospital does not take bleeding women unless there is pain/labor/contractions with the bleeding. Nirva reminded them of the criteria list. They disagreed and refused to take the 39 week pregnant bleeding woman.

KJ and Nirva had to leave that hospital to go to another one before the woman bled too much.  They got her to PIH (the hospital we usually refer the ladies with huge complications - but it takes much longer to get there) and PIH said "Yes, this is previa." They did a C/S and Mom and baby are okay now.  

This is the second time that aforementioned hospital turned away that exact very dangerous complication listed on their criteria list. We are attempting to make noise with that organization.  The issue is, the administration changes every so often (sometimes every three to six months) and making contact with someone that is leaving soon and complaining is almost the same as never talking to anyone. Short-timers have zero cares to give. 

Sometimes I feel murderous rage.  This is an example of one of those times. I talked to KJ that night and I can tell you she felt murderous too. Actually, she is sitting across from me and I think she is still feeling high level rage.

Isaac has been doing the Vet-Class stuff every month.  One week a month he goes north of Port au Prince and learns about veterinarian medicine.  He sends home THE VERY BEST TEXT MESSAGES and photos.  They make us roll around laughing.  Since I used the word murderous, I think you should know that Isaac says that when you give pigs a vaccine everything about that pig changes, they become murderous.  

He told us one time, "I'm great except for these murderous pigs." 

We are hoping that the Americans reading will have an excellent Thanksgiving week with family and friends. I know that I speak for Troy too I when I say, THANK YOU for being a source of support and love and kindness. Thank you for caring about Haiti. Thank you for caring about Heartline Ministries. Thank you for caring about the women we work with day to day. Thank you for caring about us.  We are grateful for you this week, as always.

Next up, I plan to regale you with tales of short term memory gone rogue. 
That to say, my next post will be totally dedicated to complaining about how bad perimenopause is (for me) and discussing why it is that the only thing ever discussed much is menopause  ---- menopause is not the problem - or not yet anyway. I am the forgetful foggy proof. 

All the popular wisdom says when you write anywhere but in your own diary, you write because know what your point is.  

Have a theme, an outline, a goal to communicate a specific message.

(Popular wisdom is so popular with the wise.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Life and the Saving of It

Yesterday Troy saved a man's life. To be clear, I mean exactly that.  A man is walking on his two legs around Port au Prince thanks to Troy.

Last week when Troy was in Seattle the kids came home telling us that a man had been hitting on Hope.  They shared some details, including the fact that he had been bugging Hope to give him her phone number. They said that he spoke English and hangs out when possible around the kids’ school. Isaac, who misses about 80% of social cues and body language things and such said, “I totally see him staring at her butt a lot.”  

Isaac noticed.  
This is serious.   

That was it for KJ and I.   We made our plans.

At the MC we have a fake male part that is used to teach how to put a condom on correctly.  We told the kids we would show up with our fake male part and explain to the guy creeping on Hope that the last guy that wouldn’t take no from Hope is now our condom model.  

The kids howled with laughter and asked us no less than 25 times if we were really going to do that.  “Of course we are!” KJ said.   

(I can neither deny nor confirm how serious we were about this idea.) 

We missed two chances to get over to the other property and see our plan through. Life here is busy and sometimes it takes a long time to make a plan into a finished task. 

Troy got home from Seattle and didn’t like our plan.  He said that would cause a mission-wide stir and it might not be too good for overall morale and such.  

He said he would "calmly" handle it.

Yesterday Troy sent a text message to say he had spoken to the guy and to confess he wasn’t as calm as he had originally planned to be, but it was in-fact handled. The adult man understands he is not to bother Hope any more. 

These are the sorts of things that happen frequently that I don’t write about.  
I am supposed to be some sort of an ambassador for Jesus and that probably does not include threatening a man that he is about to lose his member if he talks to my 15 year old again.

Culturally, there is all sorts of grey area about what is permissible and what is not. I have met mothers that do not at all mind if a 30 year old is pursuing their 15 year old and I have met Moms that find that abhorrent.  

I can tell you that the Director of Heartline made it clear that whatever age gaps (for romantic pursuit) might be appropriate sometimes in Haiti -- those are not applicable to the Livesay Family. Like ever. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Answered Prayers for our Daughter

Isaac, Lydia, Phoebe on Halloween 2017 - Vet, Midwife, Nurse

The following post was written a year ago.  Today Phoebe is 11.  

This school-year we welcomed a very experienced educator that is helping us better understand some things Phoebe struggles with and it is allowing us to learn how to more effectively love and communicate with our Phoebers.  

We are so thankful that God has provided us with Stefanie and her skills and experience and that in this provision for the kids' education, we are also understanding more and learning how to be the parents Phoebe needs.  

I want to share our progress and an answer to prayer for us and thank God and Stefanie for the ways they showed up for our Phoebe girl.


A Girl That Will Learn to Trust She is Loved - Amen

Birthday Morning 

Parenting seven children, one more complicated and unique than the next, that are spaced 17 long years apart, is something.  

I will tell you that.   SOME.THING. 

In the first decade and a half that I was in this line of work my parenting motto was both profound and honest. 

"Holy cats, what the hell is happening?" 

As I have matured, and put the years in, my motto has matured with me.  Currently, the motto stolen from Vincent Van Gogh is, "I am always doing what I cannot do yet in order to learn how to do it."

Always.   (But keeping both ears while learning.) 

~        ~         ~

Today we celebrate the TENTH birthday of the sixth child.  Our surprise unplanned pregnancy adoption.

Phoebe has conquered the single digits and said to them, "Goodbye. I am finished with you, you are useless to me now."  

Thanks to Hope, the big sister that has gone before, we know that puberty happens quite early for this gene pool and Phoebe is well into the confusion and hormonal upheaval of this cursed time of life.  (Stop a moment.  Remember how monstrous it was?  Oh my word. I would never wish it upon my worst enemy.) 

Okay, Puberty, we see your destructive confusion and self hatred and we raise you our combined years of experience arm in arm with the silly song and dance routine that makes hurting girls crack a smile. 

All parents have individualized concerns, things they specifically worry about for each of their kids. 

(Interesting and DIFFICULT Math fact: More kids = More concerns) 

Streaming thoughts be like: This one is a perfectionist too hard on him/herself, This one tends to be a bit lazy - won't find job, loves couch, This one feels deeply enough for three people, This one won't cry, what does that mean, This one seems to be addict material, ETC ETC ETC.

We do like that. That is how we parents think. We attempt to figure out what each kid's biggest stumbling block might be and we get to the work of obsessing about how to address it early, how to fix it before it means big consequences. 

We are always doing what we cannot do in order to learn how to do it.  

Sigh.  (Future Parenting Motto) 

Phoebe struggles to believe she is loved. There are two people that do a really beautiful job of meeting Phoebe where she is, they seem to have better luck than the rest of us ... Noah and Troy - something about their tenderness (and maybe their maleness matters too? I don't know. I am always doing what I cannot do in order to learn how to do it) speaks with greater authority to Phoebe than the rest of us can. 

~          ~          ~ 

My beautiful long-limbed and wonderfully complicated ten year old, Phoebe Joy-

I regret that the life has meant loss for you.  I regret that your First Momma had an intensely stressful pregnancy -- you must have sensed it as you grew in her. 

I regret that systems of poverty and abuse and brokenness meant that you were born in a small mud shack called "home" while bullets flew around CiteSoleil. 

Those same systems, hideous and overwhelming they are, meant adoption and "placement" for you.  That is loss. Immediate loss. I know that. I abhor that the beginning of your life was stress and loss.

Today I sat with you and told you this:  

This year. This 10th year ... I pray that you would come to believe you are loved.  I pray that in the deepest part of your soul you would believe it.  I know that you hear the words and you nod your head, but I know that you don't truly live in the freedom of the truth of it yet.  

I want for you the deep deep knowing, the kind of knowing that no other person on earth can take from you with words or actions, that you are worthy and wanted and unconditionally LOVED. 

I know others like you, that struggle to make this the truth of their waking and their sleeping. You are not alone in your unbelief.  I want for you the TRUTH of a NEVER-DYING, EVERLASTING, LOVE.  

May you grow to know it this very year.  Amen, amen, amen.