Midwives have the high and holy honor of being with women as they usher in new life and new hope.
Last night at 10pm Lovely arrived in active labor. She seemed shocked by the pain. I lost track of the count, but she said, 'Miss Tara, this hurts' approximately 73 times in the five hours she labored before her little girl arrived.
The only thing to respond, 70 times over, is, "Yes, it hurts. It really does."
Whether you have an easy life and all the material blessings or a very difficult life with a focus of just surviving day-to-day, giving birth is only the first painful thing in a sequence of events that has literally just begun.
It is often said, watching your child grow-up and struggle and develop and become their own person is a bit like living with a piece of your heart outside of the protective wall of your own chest.
Lovely talked a lot during second stage. In between pushes she told us she wasn't sure she could do it. Once after a particularly long contraction with focused pushing she said, "Am I done?"
We said, "The baby is still not out, you're not done but you are getting so close." Lovely told us that KJ had said that it was a little girl during the ultrasound and that she chose the name Chrislove for her daughter but that she would simply call her, Love.
Lovely pushed Love out at 3:13 and ten sconds on Monday the fifth of November.
Her labor had started at home on Saturday night and included the extra hour of "falling back", which hardly seems fair.
In total she worked 34 hours straight. Her labor took her from evening Saturday, through Sunday and into the early hours of Monday before it was finished with a screaming baby girl called Love.
Lovely watched her heart leave her chest last night.
As we dried off little baby Love I noticed her left foot was formed abnormally. I quickly covered her with a warm blanket to wait and get a better look later. Love was placed on her Mother's chest and began to nurse.
When it came time to take Love for her newborn exam and allow Lovely to take a bath and clean up, I lifted Love off her Mom's warm chest and saw that both of her feet had not developed normally. Upon further examination we realized her rectum is abnormal as well.
In those moments the very first irrational thought is, "How can we keep this from upsetting her Mother." As if that is a thing. Midwife Guerline and I whispered about how to tell her. My brain was busy trying to tell me maybe I could wait and tell her until after she had a few hours to sleep.
Moms examine their children, and we knew Lovely would come out of the bathroom to really see her daughter for the first time.We showed Lovely her daughter's gorgeous face and perfect hands, we ooohed and aaahhhed over her. We opened up the blanket and talked about her feet and legs. Lovely shut down fairly quickly. The words of reassurance and hope fell on deaf ears, she needed time to integrate what she had just seen.
After we had Lovely and Love moved out of the birth room and settled in her postpartum bed, Lovely's Mother in Law came to me. She motioned that we go outside. Then she asked me how we could hide the baby's legs from visitors. I didn't understand. I began to tell the Mother in Law that the main focus for now was to encourage Lovely to bond with her baby and to begin breastfeeding, with our without her eager willingness we need Lovely to hope for Love. I said, we don't have to hide her legs, she's beautiful.
Midwife Guerline saw that I was not understanding what was being communicated. Guerline explained that Lovely's Mother in Law was concerned people that came to visit the baby would say inconsiderate things and believe the baby had a demon or a curse upon her, but if we hid her legs, they would not see it and therefore would not hurt Lovely's chance of bonding.
We asked Lovely to let us hope for her until she can hope again.
Will you please pray that supernatural connection is formed today and that by some miracle we can head directly to the correct people that can help address Love's medical needs in a timely manner.
I read this last night while we waited on Love to arrive ....
The deepest darkness is the place where God comes to us.
In the womb, in the night, in the dreaming; when we are lost, when our world has come undone, when we cannot see the next step on the path; in all the darkness that attends our life, whether hopeful darkness or horrendous, God meets us. God’s first priority is not to do away with the dark but to be present to us in it. -Jan RichardsonI pray God comes to Love and Lovely and is present to them now.
This year I have begun to struggle more than ever with the stress of this work we do. Instead of easily remaining mainly hopeful and joyful I have had to fight hard to try to be that way.
I just got back from 16 days away from Haiti. It was a perfect trip and Troy and I truly rested and forgot about work. During our time away I never ever felt a physical desire to drink alcohol. We had an occasional glass of wine and beers many nights but it was not the slightest bit driven by stress or compulsion.
Today around 4pm I started thinking about having a drink. My desire was not simply because I wanted some down time with Troy.
For the last year due to stress and some specific situations we are facing I have been medicating my pain, anger, and stress with vodka and wine. I rarely ever drink one drink only and I went from drinking a couple times a week to almost every single day in 2018.
I decided about a week ago that I have to do better. I decided not to drink anything for at least two months and re-train my habits of using two Vodka sodas or Moscow Mules to make myself feel less angry and anxious. I decided to begin November 1, 2018.
Tonight I am staying in my bedroom because the temptation to pour my nightly stress-reliever is too great.
* ** * ** *In this work we often find ourselves wanting and needing to provide progress reports to the kind and generous souls praying for or financially supporting it.
While we understand and desire that accountability and honesty with anyone investing in us or in Haiti, it can sometimes feel quite discouraging and uncomfortable trying to quantify progress or label success.
We (Troy and I) spend many nights sitting together asking ourselves what is being accomplished. Is it good? Do we believe in it? Do we feel good about it? We never want to get in a rut or get so comfortable with ourselves or our routines that we don't examine both our motivation and our trajectory. We need to be asking ourselves difficult questions.
We have no desire to take donations from our church, family, and friends to live here if we cannot say at the end of the day that we are walking this path with God, being faithful to Him and doing things we feel honor Him and exhibit His love. Some days are really confusing because the things that happen in the course of a day aren't necessarily quantifiable. Some days we fall into bed asking each other "Is it right? Does this matter? Should we stay? Is God in this?"
American culture likes numbers, efficiency, and strict time-tables. You've got to be able to prove yourself with stats and spreadsheets. In the sports world a new coach has just a few years to produce a championship team or he's out of a job. Even the American church wants to count how many butts are in the seats and how many people signed on a dotted line marked "follow Jesus" or how many will commit to come to the quarterly membership class. In theory those are good things to value. Who doesn't want tangible outcomes? I'm not up for debating the rightness or wrongness of any of that today, I'm only saying that those sorts of western pushes for big numbers drive ministries working in other cultures abroad to produce reports that don't necessarily represent total truth.
Whenever I read reports out of Haiti spewing numbers, I read between the lines and wonder if the numbers are less about actual provable outcomes and more to please a culture that demands numbers. Accountability is good. We want it. More than that, we need it. The question becomes, how do the expectations of one culture fit into the reality of working in another?
If we actually believed like Jesus did that touching one hurting person truly matters, that going the extra mile for one lost sheep is worth it, we wouldn't need to spend so much time counting and proving and counting and proving.
I'm thankful to be able to honestly share the struggles and not fold to that pressure of reporting big fancy numbers. The frustration lies mainly in the self-imposed pressures to chart it and prove it matters.
Troy can spend entire day(s) with one timid and afraid 20 year old recently diagnosed and already ill with HIV helping to advocate for her medical care. He can be at ease as one day turns into three while waiting to get her the tests she needs and fighting a broken, inadequate, and unfair medical system - knowing that he is not expected to quantify the outcome of those hours .... time with one person isn't usually looked at as success nor is it at all impressive when plotted on a spreadsheet - but it matters and it's Kingdom work.
Last night I read this in Gregory Boyle's memoir titled "Tattoos on the Heart" - it jumped off the pages and deeply resonated with me:
"People want me to tell them success stories. I understand this. They are the stories you want to tell, after all. So why does my scalp tighten whenever I am asked this?
Twenty years of this work has taught me that God has greater comfort with inverting categories than I do. What is success and what is failure? What is good and what is bad? Setback or progress? Great stock these days, especially in nonprofits (and who can blame them), is placed in evidence-based outcomes. People, funders in particular, want to know if what you do "works".
Are you in the end, successful? Naturally, I find myself heartened by Mother Teresa's take: 'We are not called to be successful, but faithful.' This distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of setback. You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward, five steps backward. You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every day, and it all becomes a muddle. God intends it to be, I think. For once you choose to hang out with folks who carry more burden than they can bear, all bets seem to be off. Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever is sitting in front of you. Embracing a strategy and an approach you can believe in is sometimes the best you can do on any given day. If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God's business. I find it hard enough to just be faithful."
Success, I find it hard enough to just be faithful.
* ** * ** *
I feel the same way I did when I wrote this in 2011. Success cannot be easily measured and some setbacks are actually necessary to correct a ship that is heading off course.
The only thing that is different is that now I feel more afraid of my anger and grief than I did then.
I also feel pretty afraid of choosing unhealthy things to help me with stress.
I hope if you are a praying person or someone with similar struggles that you could toss up a prayer for me to be healthy and take care of this concern now, before I have an even bigger problem.
I would like to be faithful, but I know numbing myself is not the answer to the pressure of it all.
More than two months have passed since an innocuous tweet went viral and a social media campaign targeting government corruption in Haiti began. Using the hashtags #PetrocaribeChallenge and #KotKobPetwoKaribea (“where is the Petrocaribe money?”), the campaign has shifted the paradigm in Haiti and forced a reckoning over alleged fraud and mismanagement in the $2 billion Venezuela-financed Petrocaribe program. This anticorruption movement, which has brought together disparate groups ― both formal and informal ― from across the political and economic landscape of the country, now faces a critical moment.
A Country on Edge
Tomorrow, October 17, is expected to be the largest demonstration yet; a prospect that has the entire country on edge. The US Embassy has issued a security warning requiring employees to “shelter in place.” President Jovenel Moïse, who, despite being implicated in the wrongdoing, has pledged to support an investigation, visited police stations across the capital region over the weekend in anticipation of the protest. “In the camp of power, the panic is palpable,” warned Mario Andresol, the former chief of police. Some 1,500 officers will be deployed throughout the capital. Businesses have already begun boarding up windows. Reports of money being distributed to keep people away from the protests have circulated widely, as have mysterious audio and video clips warning of a bloodbath. “As October 17 approaches, the authorities are doing all the ‘bagay’ [things] to defeat the announced insurrection,” Andresol said.
By focusing on the possibility of violence, the government is attempting to intimidate the population into not participating, while laying the groundwork for blaming opposition political actors if things do go south. Last week, Schiller Louidor, an outspoken government critic, was hauled before a court to answer questions after using the term “Petro-dechoukay,” a reference to dechoukaj (literally “the uprooting,” but more easily translated as rioting). However, what likely scares the government more than the possibility of violence is a massive and largely peaceful demonstration; a demonstration that the government is not able to demonize or use to deflect attention from itself and its lack of response to calls for greater accountability.
The reality is that this movement appears to have tapped into a deep reservoir of political frustration, and not just among those who have taken the streets for years in opposition to the ruling party. With inflation in double digits, the local currency continuing to depreciate, and the cost of living rising each week, the country’s economic malaise has reached the middle and even upper classes of society. If those calling for an investigation into the Petrocaribe accounts are to be successful, they will need the support of a broad-based coalition. Nevertheless, there is also a palpable fear among those tepidly supportive of this movement and tomorrow’s protests who are also deeply distrustful of the popular organizations that have been leading the opposition in the streets. There will be a lot riding on tomorrow’s protest for the future of this burgeoning anticorruption campaign, as well as for a government attempting to stave it off.
Haiti formally joined the Petrocaribe initiative in 2007. Under the program, Haiti ― as well as more than a dozen other Caribbean and Central American nations ― received discounted oil, paying a portion of the bill up-front and converting the remainder into a long-term concessional loan to be used for government investments and social spending.
In contrast to traditional donor support that generally bypasses the government entirely, Petrocaribe serves as direct support to the government. As the price of oil rose throughout the early 2010s, the Petrocaribe program filled government coffers. From 2012 to 2015, Haiti spent an average of $270 million a year through the initiative, a critical source of financing for a government sorely in need of additional revenue. Haiti has spent some $1.8 billion of Petrocaribe-related funds since joining.
However, Petrocaribe has been plagued by a lack of transparency. While some have warned for years of the dangers posed by such expenditures without proper oversight, it was elevated to the forefront of Haiti’s political consciousness by an unlikely source: Senator Youri Latortue, whom a former US Ambassador once described as the “poster-boy for political corruption in Haiti.” Though few trusted Latortue’s motives to be anything other than craven politics, his efforts in many ways laid the groundwork for today’s anticorruption movement.