Last night we were met at the door of San Therese hospital by the candor of Haiti’s infant mortality rate. We arrived around 7:30pm or so for our 11 hour shift. There was a woman in labor who, within moments, was pushing out her baby. The student midwives were not ready, and I scrambled to find supplies while the others delivered the baby. While gathering instruments we needed, I uncovered a crumpled chux on one of the delivery tables. I opened it up to see if it was usable and found a full term dead baby. In my hurry to deal with the delivery, I was unexpecting and vulnerable. It took me by surprise. But the midwives were working, business as usual. No one seemed very interested in the body. I asked the student midwife what we were going to do with the body. She didn’t have an articulate response. Finally someone, the night janitor, realized that we needed a box for the body. She ran and reappeared wth one. We placed the baby in the box and of course the question, then what? We needed to keep the baby here until morning until the janitor would dispose of it in the appropriate way.
Our last night at San Therese was peacefully uneventful. We had two live births within a half hour of each other around 2am. The rest of the night Susan and I napped on a yoga mat or chatted, disturbed only once by the keening of a woman across the courtyard. I immediately recognized it as the signal that a loved one had died.
Even our exit from Haiti proved to be a metaphor and a challenge. When we had arrived 2 weeks prior, I knew that one of our most challenging moments of the whole trip would be getting out of the airport with all of our baggage and wits intact. Last year, gratefully, Sister Mary from Matthew 25 House, met us at the immediate exit from baggage claim. Calm and seasoned, she greeted us and led us through the maze of porters to our van. Even with our “chosen” porters, there was still jostling and arguing as others tried to get a piece of the action. This year, Sister Mary was not there to greet us at the gate. Courtney, Susan, Dina and I were in our most unwieldy moments — Courtney had 3 large duffels plus her personal items, the rest of us had 2 plus carry ones. At least we had 2 carts to carry the mother load.