Sonise is the first. She is young. She says she’s 20 but I still think these women may be younger than they say they are. She is pre-eclamptic. She’s received Mag Sulfate but her baby is already dead. She doesn’t believe it when she’s told the news. We put the Doppler to her belly and can not find a heart beat.
She pushes for awhile in the usual Haiti-style — on her back. It’s taking a long time and she’s quite uncomfortable. She asks if she can get up and use her bucket. I say that she can be in whatever position she would like.
She ends up squatting by the side of the bed and pushes the baby out on the floor. We quickly grab a blue surgical sheet to place on the floor underneath her. It’s really the first birth we’ve seen that is not on the GYN table. The placenta is born easily a few moments later. We move the mom back up to the table. Now, the 39 week baby is on the floor and the mother is looking down at her. Ami and I have developed a pattern of wiping off the baby and half wrapping the baby up, swaddle style, in a blue paper towel. Sonise wants to see and hold her daughter. Her sister is with her and is arguing loudly that she shouldn’t hold the baby. For a moment, there is chaos as the sister is protesting and Ami and I are insisting that this mother can process whatever way she needs too. Adeline, the midwife, is also arguing against holding the baby. We win the argument and Sonise holds her baby girl for a long time. It really seems like a rarity for someone here to bond with their stillborn baby. Sonise takes her time. It is good. Denial, anger, she’s blaming another hospital for the death of her baby. I know that she is going through the appropriate steps and I wait patiently for the grief.
I tell Sonise, “No, it is not the other hospital’s fault. These things happen and it is so sad.” Sonise insists that she wants to take a photo of the baby. After some difficulty, she gets 3 photos of the child on her cell phone. She seems happy with that. She wants to dress the baby. Again, the arguing ensues from her sister. Again, Ami and I support this woman’s choices. This is all she has of this baby. She puts a small hat and white cotton dress on the baby. She doesn’t seem put off or repulsed by that fact that her baby is dead.
Another photo. We tell Sonise that we will always remember her and her baby. She will always remember her baby. Sonise names her Daphne.
Ami’s stillbirth is in the over-flow postpartum room because the mother stayed there too long and now the baby is coming. We move some supplies down the hall to where they are. The woman is resting her head in her husband’s lap, not unlike many of our births in the states. The dark brown amniotic fluid of death is becoming all too familiar to me. The small, macerated baby girl is born soon. The mother and father only look at her for a short while and do not hold the baby. It is all very sad. This is our first birth with a father in attendance.
The rest of the night at St. Therese is unusually quiet, interrupted only once with the prayerful singing in the postpartum ward as Sonise and her family grieve for the lost baby. I am happy that she is processing this death in a very conscious and real way. Both of the babies tonite had been the mother’s first. We have another woman in labor tonite —it is her fourth. None of her babies have been born alive. We are hoping this one will be different.
I want you to leave Hinche with a story of life and hope. It is the story about our fete, our party.
I didn’t even have time to blog yesterday because Ami and I planned a big party at the Maison for the midwives. Midway through the week in Hinche I thought that it would be a good idea for future teams of midwives to have an American party to get to know the Haitian midwives. I knew that Ami and I were connecting so well with them, we laughed and joked in Creole at the end of each shift. We took photos together. We processed the death of our mother that had died on a deep level, together. Our relationship with them was strong and loving. I was afraid that many of the other teams were missing this true exchange. Thus, maybe a party would help them break the ice.
But then the next day I realized, I want to have a party for them. Ami was immediately game. We asked Brother Michael at the orphanage if he would ask the cook to make food for us. We wanted fried plantains and the crispy, fried potatoes sticks, hot dogs. We wanted the cook to buy avocados and eggs at the market so that we could make deviled eggs and guacamole. Ami, Dina and I would go to the market the next day and buy Haitian caramels and limes. We ordered up 6 cokes, 6 Sprites and 12 beers. Jean Louis’ brother would get that for us. Jean Louis is the founder and head of the orphanage. Everyone was amazed and excited that we were throwing a party. No one had ever done this before at the orphanage. We invited all the student midwives and the graduates that we had been working with. They all said they would come and seemed truly excited about it.
Yesterday was the party. After our night in the hospital, we came home and cleaned up a bit. Then we left at 8am to go on the mobile clinic. We drove 45 minutes out of Hinche and then walked for 25 minutes until we reached a small building that looked like a typical Haitian school. Dirt floor, wooden benches. This is where we would see the women and three were already waiting. By the end of the morning, Magdala and Philomen, as well as two student midwives, had seen around 25 women. Ami and I mostly observed, tired from the night before. We got home around 1:30pm and the party was at 3. We scurried around trying to find a CD player, worrying that the drinks hadn’t arrived yet. They would have to be put on ice in a cooler. The cook had made an amazing spread for the party — besides what we had ordered, she had made a beet salad, a pasta salad, the spicy cole slaw that we often ate, and popcorn. POPCORN!! We were so psyched!! The kitchen table was full of food. I got to work making the deviled eggs. I even showed the cook how to pipe in the filling by cutting a corner off of a zip-lock bag, filling the bag and oilá, you’ve got a pastry bag. I made her taste one, she liked it.
The drinks came at a little after three. On Jean Louis’ recommendation, we changed the order to a case of Cokes, a case of Sprite and a case of beer. He told us that with what we had ordered at first, that wasn’t a Haitian party. We were expecting 20 people. Our driver, Ronel, was meeting everyone at the hospital and would drive them to the Maison. At about 3:10pm, the thunder rolled in and it began to rain. At 3:15pm, the truck load of midwives showed up, all of them crowded into the back of the truck, now with 6 or 7 umbrellas providing shelter. We were delighted!
The midwives arrived, dressed to the nines — make-up and jewelry. We had told them to not come in scrubs, this was a party! One woman came in a long, lavender dress that looked like a maid-of-honor gown in the US. She was gorgeous. Everyone was excited and happy. I had a slide show running on the laptop of the pictures of our time with them. They were immediately drawn in, laughing and hooting when they would see themselves in the show. I offered drinks all around. The food was devoured in no time. Small plates piled high with all of the offerings. I saw many people going back for seconds. We had even found a bag of Oreos that had been left behind by some other midwives. I told them in Creole that I made the deviled eggs and the Ami made the guacamole, but the cook had made everything else. I also told them that I am Italian, so I really like it when they ate a lot. Everyone loved the food and drinks.
Now, Dina, of course, had been playing ukelele all week. On our first night in the Maison, we heard some kids playing the ukeleles, so Dina tuned them and played one off and on all week. She wrote a song in Haitian Creole that we now sang to the midwives. The song was made up of all the simple and common phrases that we had been using all week. Here’s the translation in English (of course we sang in Haitian Creole):
How are you?
I don’t know.
How are you?
Don’t cry because we are going.
Don’t cry because we are going.
Don’t cry because we are going.
(repeat from the top.)
The response was obvious, immediately. Everyone was hooting and hollering and joining in the chorus. They loved watching the crazy Americans, singing their silly song with Dina on the ukelele. They clapped and cheered when we told them that Dina wrote the song herself. We laughed together, truly joyous and grateful for meeting each other. The Haitian midwives got together and sang us a song back. It was a beautiful song of thanks. I couldn’t understand the words, but I understood the sentiment and “Merci.”
After more chatting and socializing, exchanging emails and telephone numbers, the midwives piled back into the truck and said goodbye. The rain had only lasted about 10 minutes, so the truck was dry. I watched them leave from the second story porch, trying to capture one last photo. Esther, Genette, Adeline, Fedeline, Bien Aime, Marthonie, Anise, Monide, Magdala. Would I remember them all?
I will remember them in my heart. I will remember Haiti.