Haiti Blog Sept 4-9, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I'm back in the US. Stuck in Miami International Airport without a computer. Will blog tomorrow.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Journal Entry: September 4, 2010

I rarely slept later than 4:30am in Haiti. With the heat and the roosters and the dogs barking, by 4:30am, I was done for the night. Most of Haiti wakes up by 5 anyway. If I went outside by 5:30am, there was always a soccer game in full swing. The equatorial light was bright by this hour and the day had begun.

The roosters. I didn't tell you about the roosters. There are roosters everywhere in Haiti and they call back and forth to each other all night long. Sometimes there's a lull and you fall into a deep sleep, only to be abruptly awakened by a cock-a-doodle-do that seems to come from about 3 feet from your head. 3 or 4 more roosters will call in response, each one more and more distant.

I would wake up at this hour under our mosquito net and contemplate getting up. The heat was already heavy and the best thing was to just get up and sit on the porch. Some mornings I would get up and write on the computer, other times I would just get ready for the day.

Today was no different. For our last night in Haiti, we slept on the roof of Matthew House 25 in a tent. It seemed quite appropriate given the thousands of families in tents all over PAP.

Yesterday we took our small, 6-seater plane from Hinche to Port Au Prince. While waiting on the dirt and rock airstrip for our plane to arrive, Esther ran up for one final good bye. She was dressed for work and I was utterly thrilled to see her wearing my Birkenstock clogs that I had given her at the party the night before. I had wanted to give a few things away, but when the party started rockin', I forgot. At the end of the evening, Esther pulled my aside and asked me about the clogs. I was so glad that she mentioned it. They fit her perfectly and will be so much more comfortable that the thin and worn plastic sandals that most people wear.

I gave Magdala a dress. Here in Port Au Prince, I gave my sneakers to the boy I promised them to, Paolo. I gave the amputee who "saved" me when I was giving the kids lollipops and got swarmed, an umbrella. I gave the 14 year old amputee girl a flashlight as well as the young mom with the 5 month old with malaria. We gave onesies, a G diaper cover, and body wipes to Roseman, the woman who was in labor in the tent city on the first day we arrived. She labored all night, a 7th baby, with progressing beyond 7 cm.

We ended up transferring her which really meant: 1) she went to the nearest maternity hospital and the gates were closed for the night so she couldn't get in; 2) she went to another hospital where they refused her care because she wasn't registered there; 3) she came back to Matthew House while a young, well-connected medical student called around to find a place that would take her. She made calls to Sean Penn's camp, while I re-evaluated how we could take her back. Maybe if she birthed in Matthew house instead of her tent, if she had a bad hemorrhage, we would be better able to see what was going on. And 4) she was finally allowed to go to a Red Cross hospital in a "sketchy" part of town. A driver brought her there. She labored all night and didn't progress. In the morning, she was given pitocin and delivered a healthy baby boy.

Seeing the baby at 9 days old, he seemed small to me, under 6 pounds. He also seemed hot and lethargic. The mother said that he was nursing well. A medical doctor from the US had checked him out today in the tent city, said he was fine and gave him vaccinations.

As we were saying our goodbyes in the tent city, Darling, Matthew's young mother, began chanting Ami/Zamni (zamni means friend in Haitian Creole). We vocal boom boxed our Kijon ou ye and "the rain/comes down." It was a spontaneous outpouring of celebration in our meeting. Bennis, a young boy, loved our "How are you?" song. As we were leaving, he continually asked me for a soccer ball. I joked with him, showing him that I didn't have a soccer ball in the small purse that I was wearing. In the end, I ran and got him a baseball cap.

The rest of the clothes donations were left at Matthew House for Tey to distribute as needed. I am wondering if I will ever see these people again. Dina, Ami and I all fell in love with Haiti. I told Esther that I would come back next year. Yes, I would like to come back. I would like to continue the exchange that we began. At the end of our party, SheLove said that we were their favorite midwives even from day one. We asked her why and she said the we had given them the most love. Yes, I felt that. The love flowed both ways. We bonded through our hard work, our grief, our joy, our long, hot nights together, our vision for women and their babies. Midwives are the same throughout the world. We give of ourselves to be with women in their most vulnerable moments. We believe there is power in birth. We believe that women should be treated with honor and respect and that these simple gifts will provide lasting effects on a mother's ability to do her job well. Kindness, love, respect are all for free. Even the lowest resourced areas can give these away to any mother.

Brother Michael at the Maison Fortune often would ask in the evening circle, "What has Haiti given you today?" It is a question to punctuate the fact that we, as Americans, as foreigners, are receiving, more than giving ourselves while we are here. Haiti has given me  a glimpse into the harsh realities of global midwifery. Haiti has shown me hope through the smiles of the children. Haiti has given me an opportunity to witness the strength of women, midwives, who go back to work, day after day, not knowing whether the day will be weighted heavy with joy or grief.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Matthew House 25

Here is the You Tube link to Dina's piece on Matthew House 25.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Haitian Women Need Mesh Panties

I never cared too much for the white mesh panties that every American woman adorns after giving birth, whether having given birth in a hospital or at home. The Haitian midwives have nicknamed them "sexy coulottes." I have a newfound love for these American throw-aways.

The Midwives for Haiti program is stocked with the weekly supplies brought in by the American volunteer midwives. Ami and I brought head lamps, wrist watches, rain ponchos, fetoscopes, baby clothes and blankets, 100 units of pitocin, 3 bottles of misoprostol, suture material, and the miscellaneous supplies donated by midwives -- cord clamps, gauze, syringes, tape.

There will always be demand for these items. Yet, this is the bare-bones minimum.

What I really wanted to give the women giving birth was a simple, clean pair of mesh panties and a single Kotex pad. Whenever we found these items in the storage room, we brought them to the hospital and gave them out. The women always received them as a gift. I saw it as a moment of dignity. Finally getting up off of the birthing table, to be able to feel clean and complete was a simple dignity that only one who has given birth can describe. The cushioned GYN tables of the Hinche hospital are only minimally cleaned after each birth. There are no pillows or sheets. Often I saw the mother resting her head on the metal rail at the head of the bed in between contractions.

The cloth that the mother brings for the birth is soiled quickly from the normal fluids of a baby being born. Blood stains her skirt that she has drawn up to have the baby. Sometimes, if she's lucky, a sister will come in after the birth with a clean set of clothes for the mother and the baby. Cotton cloths, usually from a torn sheet, are placed in her underwear to absorb the lochia of postpartum.

The simple, bright white of a clean mesh pantie and Kotex felt like a luxury each time it was placed. I especially wanted to give them to the mothers who lost their babies. I felt that they were leaving with nothing. I desperately wanted to give them something to express our compassion, to honor their work.

The other thing we gave out was water. While we were organizing the storage room, I found a bag of water. It was a black shoulder bag filled with approximately 15 small, plastic sacs of water. Upon seeing them, I could tell that this is how they sell clean water in the market. A commodity. When I inquired about the water, I was told they weren't being given out because then everyone would want them. I packed them up to bring to the hospital.

Whenever Ami and I were working, we made an impromptu policy that each woman in labor would receive a sack of water. In the heat and the relentless work of labor, the water was gulped with gratitude. Before we left Hinche, Ami and I bought two large plastic bags of water sacks from the market and left them in the Maternity ward. It was our final gift.

Paul Farmer's guiding premise is to care for the poor with dignity and commitment. If a TB patient was living under a leaky roof, well, of course, they wouldn't get better. Therefore, a prescription for a roof repair was written and carried through by Haitian carpenters.

In birth, women need respect and dignity as well as anti-hemorrhagic drugs.  They need clean mesh panties and Kotex. They need water, not only to prevent dehydration, but to honor their hard work. As a woman would shuffle out of the maternity ward, adorned in her new mesh undies like her American sisters, I would feel the tiniest glimmer of relief -- we had given back.