Tuesday, August 21, 2012

There's Blood on the Floor

Yesterday was our first day working at St. Therese, the regional hospital in Hinche where Midwives for Haiti is headquartered. Things have seemed so familiar this time around; WE are the ones who are less wide-eyed than before. So, of course, it was death that met us at the door. The first and only birth that we witnessed Monday morning was a 24 week stillbirth. The baby had a genetic defect that undoubtedly contributed to his demise. Ami helped with this birth while I worked with the other midwives. We had many women in labor that morning. Each shower-curtained stall had a woman in it. Some women were accompanied by family, most were being cared for by one or two Midwives for Haiti students in their signature pink scrubs.
I was assigned to work with Marie Rose for the morning. She is an older woman, perhaps in her 50s, which is unusual. Most of the students are young women in their late 20s or early 30s, eager and willing to work hard and upgrade their knowledge and skills. Marie Rose is more old school. She is set in her ways that are sometimes incorrect. I soon learned that if I just showed her the correct way, she was totally competent. She thrives on the small tricks of the trade. If I can follow her for the two weeks that I am here, I hope I can bring her up to speed with the rest of the class.
The majority of students are competent and sweet. They have learned how to place IVs, treat pre-eclampsia, deliver babies, rub a woman’s back in labor. Yet, it still seems that there are cultural and professional differences in the Haitian way and the American way.  Most of the work space is untidy, simple wrappers from hypodermic needles and gloves strewn about. Medicines are in disarray. The blood is still on the floor as the next woman comes into the stall to deliver her baby. We observe, we teach, we wonder how much will be retained.
When the steady flow of laboring women eased, I cleaned and organized the supplies. I remember this from last year. Modelling, I am hoping, is the best way of teaching. 

It is always the orphanage that allows us moments of pure joy here in Haiti. Last night as we went over to the girls' compound, Dina and I were immediately swarmed by 20 or 30 girls, no exaggeration! They were so excited to see us that they began chanting our names, "MA-REE-A, MA-REE-A, DEE-NA, DEE-NA!" We had to squeeze up the stairs to the third floor with two girls on each arm, many in front and back. En masse, we slowly made our way up and up until we reached the small room where we showed them photos of themselves from 2010 and 2011. We handed out piwilis (lollipops) and the atmosphere was animated and energized as the girls saw photos of themselves and their friends. One little girl, Joska, glued herself to me, at times rocking back and forth as we stood watching the show. I sense a loss of adult nurturing; most of the girls have to be independent and take care of themselves from such a young age. Of course, the girls (60 in all) take care of each other. But if there is a substitute mother around, many of them take advantage of a cuddle or hug to soothe a wordless ache. I feel lucky to experience a moment of tenderness with any of them. They fuel my  resolve for a better experience for the Haitian mothers and babies.

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