Sunday, February 18, 2018

Haiti 2018 - Day 9

We were excited to be invited by Carmelle, one of the midwives, to go to church!  She took us to a large church in the center of Cap-Haitien.  The format was very similar to American church.  There were a couple of hymns that I recognized, so I sang along in English.  During prayer time, the Lord was speaking to my heart about some things that were confirmed in the scripture that the pastor later shared.  Holy Spirit knows no limits.

Once we were back to the clinic, I was settling in for a little afternoon rest, and remembered that I had left something in the birth room.  When I entered the birth room, I was surprised to see a mom with a newborn baby!!  The student midwife was there; apparently the birth had happened too quickly to call in a second midwife.  In my broken Kreyol I told her I would go change clothes and be back to help.

Soon after, a driver arrived with a friend who was taking us to the nearby town of Limbe.  Rosedanie is Haitian, but grew up in America.  After living nearly 40 years in America, she now goes back and forth.  Her home in Limbe would be our destination for the night.

I don't know how many miles or kilometers the trip to Limbe actually is, but the drive time on the very bumpy road is 30-45 minutes.  I got carsick, which seems to be the "new normal" for me this trip.  I have decided that I should only ride on motos here.  They are so much more fun anyway.

Once in Limbe, we took a walk to see if we could find some food (which is challenging on a Sunday).  As we were walking along, Hannah said, "Melissa, look!!"  I turned my head and right there was the Church of the Nazarene logo!!  I knew that there was a Church of the Nazarene in Limbe, but I had given up on trying to make a connection.  I was so excited!  Rosedanie offered to introduce me to the pastor (she explained that she knows about 1/2 the town).

Classroom space
Pastor Garnier, who is also the district superintendent for the region, was very gracious.  He explained that they are getting ready to expand the space that currently serves as a community school on their property.  It looked like a big enough area for about 30 students.  They serve 350 students, who come in shifts.

Chicken in the pulpit

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Haiti 2018 - Day 8

Hiking up, up ,up
Today, MamaBaby went on the road.  Hannah and I, along with two midwives from MamaBaby, Carmelle and Erlyne, went to Mt. Calvair.  This community sits above Cap-Haitien, and consists of dwellings built along the mountainside.  Most of the homes are sandwiched very tightly together, and they are very small.  Our hike involved several flights of concrete stairs and some dirt trails.

Stopping to buy bottled water.

Guerda, who is expecting twins.

When we arrived at the home of Guerda, a mom expecting twins, many other moms came around for check-ups.  I counted the concrete blocks that make up Guerda's home, and estimated it to be about 8'x8'.  An elevated double bed takes up most of the space; her 3 children sleep on the dirt floor underneath.  Her roof is a tarp.  Most of the dwellings on Mt. Calvair are like this, and the people have a desperate need for access to water.

Guerda, Carmelle, and I

All the moms who came for check-ups.

Erlyne and little friends
Curious faces
Such a cutie!
Again, I am struck by the beauty that exists even in the absence of what I consider to be necessity.  The midwives have learned that I like music, and one song in particular.  Today we sang together.

"I'm hungry for Your presence, Lord.  I want to see your glory on another level.  I'm searching for You.  I need You more than ever.  I feel the deep thirst of my soul."

Friday, February 16, 2018

Haiti 2018 - Day 6

Last night, I had a difficult delivery at the birth center.  Sometimes birth involves life-and-death situations.  All hands were on deck.  One midwife from the birth center was assisting, and I'm not sure when the other two came in.  Maybe when they heard shouting.  Hannah was extremely sick and bedridden.

When it was all said and done, my flesh (the part of me that only desires to protect myself),  wanted to run away, be finished with midwifery, close this chapter of my life and go on to something else.

Through the kindness and wisdom of those I respect, God helped me to see that His ways are higher and His plans are good.  I know that the other midwives and I have grown as individuals and in solidarity because we went through the fire together.  We will be better off because of that.

Once born, this baby needed extra care that the birth center could not provide, so a hospital transfer was necessary.  I knew it would be a financial burden to the family.  I had already purposed in my heart to help if I could.  My willingness to give made an impression on the baby's father.  He was extremely grateful, and even cried as he told one midwife, "Americans have never done anything like this for me before."

In the end, my desire to "run away" was replaced with thankfulness for a healthy baby who is alive and well, and thankfulness for those who walked this part of the journey with me.  Through it all, I count it a blessing to have been able to reach out to the family of this baby in a special way.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Haiti 2018 - Day 5

Enjoying the spacious upstairs porch at MamaBaby Haiti is one of my favorite things.  Mountains to the north, sunshine from the south.  Children playing ball in the vacant lot across the street if school is out.  And always a nice breeze.  Sometimes even a cool breeze this time of year.  A mama is laboring downstairs; this is her first baby.

The past few days have brought a mix of emotions.  Life almost seems contradictory here.  I am struck by the beauty of the people in Haiti and their way of life in the midst of circumstances that are awful by American standards.  The way that they dress and carry themselves, as if to say, "I might not have much, but I am putting my best foot forward wherever I go."  The carefree attitudes that they have, even though for some they don't know where their provision will come from.

I think of real people I have met and care about here, because they are part of my world now.  The father of 5, who doesn't eat regularly, and doesn't know where his next meal will come from.  The young mother with a daughter the same age as one of my daughters, but no husband, and jumping from place to place until she finds something cheap enough to rent.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  I took it when we were driving from the airport the first day.  The waterfall of beautiful cascading flowers embodies the contradictions that I see all around me.

"Bondye konnen."  God knows.  Some Americans seem frustrated that this is the prevailing attitude here.  But I agree.  God does know.  I pray that he will continue to work through ordinary people to provide a way for, and make Himself known to, the people of Haiti.  I pray that I will not take my freedoms for granted, or use them for my own selfish purposes.  That none of us will.  Let us use what we have to bring Glory to the Father, for we are all His children.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Haiti 2018 - Day 3

Yesterday was Sunday, so a very relaxed day.  We saw some a couple of the Mama Baby midwives leaving for church, beautiful in their Sunday clothes.  We stayed back at the clinic.

Breakfast:  Boiled plantain, yam (like a white potato), and sardine sauce.  It was delicious!

There was one client laboring throughout the day Sunday; her baby arrived in the evening.  Another mom came in around bedtime, wanting to be checked for dilation.  It is very common for moms who are close to their due dates, regardless of country or culture, to be anxious about whether they are in labor.  And sometimes it IS hard to tell!  Long days, especially when it is hot, and maybe mom has been too busy to drink, can intensify "false labor".  This mom ended up staying the night, and once she was satisfied that it was probably not the real thing by morning, she went home.

Today, Monday, was "primary" prenatal day.  The clients were already arriving, as the sun came up, for the first visit of their pregnancy.  JoTann, who is the mama of a little girl that was born at Mama Baby a few years ago, was setting up in the courtyard to make and sell egg sandwiches.  She said that she works hard because she wants to provide for her daughter.  She also helps cook and clean at Mama Baby on the weekend. She, like Rony the artist, definitely has the entrepreneurial spirit. 

As we were eating breakfast upstairs, we could hear the group singing "How Great Thou Art" in Kreyol to kick off the day.  Two of the midwives, Erlyne and Sophonie, taught a little class to the group of about 35 moms before their intakes and assessments were done.  The moms also received a little booklet containing John and Romans from the Bible.  I helped with blood pressures, height, and weight.  I am not accustomed to the metric system, or writing my dates in day/month/year format.  I kept thinking it was May 2, 2018.  05/02/18.

As soon as prenatals were done, and I thought I would take a little rest, a mom came in on the verge of pushing her baby out.  This was her first baby.  I mostly observed, and helped where I could.  Two of  the Haitian midwives took responsibility as the primary attendants.  My niche so far has been moral support.  Which is just fine.  If I could affirm these moms, and all moms everywhere, it would be to say this, and not necessarily with words:  what you are doing is hard work, what you are doing matters, and you are loved.  Mothers need to be mothered.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Haiti 2018 - Day 1

Hannah, the midwife I am travelling with, and I arrived at the Cap-Haitien airport yesterday (Friday) afternoon.  I think I may have had a touch of the "bug" that Chuck, my husband, and my children had over the last few days, so the trip was off to a rough start.  I was very thankful that on the second flight, although I had a center seat, the three seats across the aisle were totally empty.  I moved to the window.  I had beautiful views the whole trip, and looking outside helped keep me from feeling too nauseous.  I am thankful for the prayers of my family and friends, and for Dramamine as well.

The Cap-Haitien airport was very basic, and we got off the plane just like in the movies -- right onto the tarmac.  I always wanted to disembark that way.  I remember being very disappointed the first time I flew as a teenager because we had to walk through a tunnel.  I was, however, glad for the tunnel when we left Indianapolis yesterday with the outside temperature hovering at 0 degrees.

Cap-Haitien is a large and bustling city.  It takes a while to get anywhere in a car because there is so much traffic.  There was plenty of time to listen to the radio and watch all of the activity going on around us.  A church service was on the radio.  I couldn't understand anything, but got blessed just listening to all of the shouts and "amens" that could be heard in the congregation wherever the sermon had been recorded.  Then they sang "There's Not a Friend Like the Lowly Jesus" (in Creole, of course). 

As Hannah pointed out, the drivers are amazing, weaving in and out of traffic.  Motos (like minibikes) are very popular and they do even more dancing around the bigger vehicles.  The population is 250,000 in Cap-Haitian alone, and the city has poor sanitation.  Besides the smell of diesel in the air, there is often the smell of sewage, and there are piles of garbage everywhere.

Mama Baby is in Vaudriel, a suburb of Cap-Haitien.  It isn't so crowded here, and is relatively quiet unless the restaurant down the street is playing music at night.  I did hear one song in English, "Wonderful, Merciful Savior".  More of that, please.  Anytime.  Any language.

I was amazed at how much energy I had when we arrived, after being up almost an entire night (only had an hour's sleep), and not making up much of what was lost.  I didn't think I would be attending any clients at the birth center right away.  But late yesterday evening, Hannah and I went down to check on a mom who had been in labor all day to give the on-call midwife a little break.  It was this precious young mama's first baby, and she was so very tired.  She had been walking and walking, trying to get the baby to come.  She got some rest while I massaged her back. She loved the massage, and grabbed my hand and put it to her back during each contraction to ask for more.  She dozed between her labor pains for a little while, then the midwife on-call encouraged her to walk again.  I learned that her baby was born around 1:00 a.m.  The friend who brought her had already taken her home by morning.

Breakfast was fresh coconut and coffee.  The groundskeeper chopped down the coconuts and cut away the outer husk at dawn, I am told, because he knew that Hannah liked them so much.  They are taking good care of us here.

The day has been low-key.  An artisan, and astute businessman, Rony, came to set up shop in the courtyard of Mama Baby, just because he heard that we would be here.  He remembered Hannah from last year, and he comes whenever there might be an opportunity to sell some of his beautiful art.

This afternoon, we got all of the supplies that were donated organized and put away with the help of Alourd, one of the Haitian midwives.

Earlier I heard what sounded like a marching band in the distance.  I asked Hannah, "Do you hear that?!?"  She listened for a moment, and said, "It must be a funeral procession".  We ran down to the street and sure enough, the procession went right past where we were standing.

Day one has been interesting, beautiful, and relaxing.  I am thankful that we get to enjoy the weekend before the clinic opens on Monday.