Haiti Blog July 28 - 31, 2013

His Name is Jackson
July 28, 2013

Has a month gone by? So much has happened and my head is swimming with Creole. Was it just yesterday that a woman who gave birth at the hospital asked me to name her baby? She was one of our first timers, 20 years old. Pushing was hard for her and she was definitely not liking it. After helping with a 10th timer and a stillbirth, I was ready to sit her birth out and let Ami have her day. Somehow, however, I found myself in the middle of things. Her name is Sylvan and the student assigned to her was definitely not one of our strongest. When Ami and I come up against a student who needs extra help, we double-team her on a birth. We let the student listen to heart tones, which she definitely needed practice with. I delivered the baby after about an hour and half of pushing. The mother finally smiled after the baby was born. This, in and of itself, is unusual. But, she was happy that her son was born, healthy and strong. I asked her what his name was and she said, “You name him.” I would normally protest in humility, and yet with her, I felt it as a request that honored that we had accomplished the birth together. Jack came to mind, and then, Jack-son. So many boys here are named Benson, Wilson, Gampson, Jameson. I figured she would like Jackson better than Jack. I wrote it on a piece of paper for her so that she wouldn’t forget.

These moments of connection arise as a surprise. I mostly feel somewhat detached in the labor ward; partly because of the stench and mess, partly because of the language, partly because of the overload of sensory stimulation. I might collapse under the weight of any one of these factors. Keeping myself detached helps me to survive the 6 hour shift. And yet, birth has an incredible power to force connection. I can’t help trying to reach deeper into the laboring woman, trying to find a place to see each other eye to eye. Sylvan saw me as someone who took the time to help her in her most desperate travail. She honored this connection by having me name her son. So, he is named Jackson.

Before I left my shift for the day, I threw together all my little sundries in a ziplock: 2 coconut almond bars, a pen, a packet of wipes, an opened travel pack of panty liners. I wanted to give something back to Sylvan, too, to honor her. I wanted to give her anything I had. She has nothing. She smiled when I gave her the gift and in Kreyol, I told her I was happy to meet her.

Yesterday we went to the Matron’s Graduation. You can see Dina’s new YouTube video about the Matron’s here. I was told by Genette that Nadene wanted me to speak at the graduation. Later, I was also told that the students had chosen me as their “Godmother.” This is an honorary title given to someone who will bless them with well wishes as they embark on their new lives. I felt honored and doubtful that it had anything to do with me particularly. I was curious how I had been chosen and I finally found out when we reached the graduation. They had simply said, “How about one of the volunteers?” Since I was already a speaker at the graduation, I was a shoe-in. During the ceremony, I got to sit next to the ex-Mayor of Hinche who was chosen as the Godfather. We were the dignitaries at the event along with a representative from the Ministry of Health.

It was a wonderful graduation, with lots of singing and short skits to represent the work of the matrons. The ceremony was very African in style: drumming, dress and presentation all reminded me of a time when I travelled to Cameroon and saw the officiating at the opening ceremony for a new road.

This graduation of the matrons is significant. This is the second class of traditional birth attendants who have gone through a 20-week course on birthing that includes cleanliness, safety and mostly, danger signs of pregnancy. They take their role very seriously. I couldn’t hold back the tears as they sang and danced their commitment to saving the lives of mothers and babies.

Today we went to Miss Genette’s mother’s house. Genette is the young, clinical director of the Midwives for Haiti program. She was inspired to become a midwife by watching her mother work as a matron. She started helping her mother at births at 17 years old. We visited where Genette grew up, saw her one-room school house and her church. She grew up andeyo, or in the countryside. It is so inspiring to see her humble beginnings and to realize how far she has come.

While we were there, Genette’s niece made me the godmother for her new baby, Leika. I was honored and welcomed into Genette’s family. I am grateful for community and family, here and at home.

Volleyball Camp and My New Goddaughter
July 31, 2013

All is well here in Haiti! The girls are doing volleyball camp every morning. That means they start at 7am at the latest. Some girls are ready at 6! By 8:30am, it is getting too hot to play and everyone takes a morning nap. Tomorrow is our last day in Hinche so they will try to do a small tournament.

Leika is the daughter of Genette's neice. She is my new god daughter. I will try to post a photo of her but Genette and her husband, Louinet, are here now and I must go. Mobile Clinic tomorrow, then off to Port Au Prince on Friday morning. I feel like we have been here for 3 months and yet Friday is coming up so quick. Will post again soon!

No comments: