Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dat Baby Bite You?

My sweet aunt came and visited me in Haiti last week.  She is always a breath of fresh air.  While she was here, I took her to Heartline with me.

It was my first time to drive myself.  I felt like such a big girl.  I'm no longer a 14 year old waiting for a ride.  I wish everyone in the world could experience driving in Haiti.  It's like off-roading it, except oh wait...that is the road.

John and Beth McHoul have lived in Haiti for a long over 20 years.  At first they ran an orphanage.  It was a beautiful place with a very small number of children.  Their ratio of adults to children was very, very high.  They provided their children with a stable, healthy life and worked hard to get them ready to join their forever families in the States.

As I was taking my aunt on a tour of Heartline's sewing program, John was explaining some things to my aunt.  He said something like, "We kept taking in kids, but eventually we got tired of taking children away from their mothers.  Instead, we wanted to start helping the moms have the resources they need to be good moms who can provide for their own children."

Thus the Women's Programs were born.  Heartline has a sewing program where women are taught to sew, taught to read, and given skills they need to generate income for their family.  Heartline is fighting the orphan crises at the most foundational level.  They are preventing children from becoming orphans. 

On Thursdays pregnant women come to the women's center.  They are weighed.  Their temperature and blood pressure is taken.  They eat a high protein meal.  They receive their prenatal vitamins for the week. Then each of the women attend a class.  Beth and Joanna (midwives extraordinaires) teach a variety of classes about issues that relate directly to these women.

The ladies that are due for a prenatal checkup are then checked out by the midwives in the exam rooms to make sure mom and baby are doing well.  They listen to the women and answer questions.  Then we pray for each of the ladies.  Sometimes the prayers we're praying are so huge and hard and yet simple.  God help this mother to be able to eat protein this week.  Help her to get enough iron.  She's so anemic.  Lord help her to make wise decisions.  Help her to gain weight.  Help her to make good choices for her baby this week, even if that means it's hard and inconvenient for her.  Help her to drink enough water.  She's so dehydrated.  Help her to know she's loved.  She's not forgotten.  God help.  Please help.

Joanna Howard (She's so young and is an amazing, gifted midwife.  I love watching her in action.)

Right here I'm feeling like the coolest, most blessed person in the entire world.

Once theses ladies have their babies they start attending the Tuesday class.  They bring their new babies.  Each week their babies are weighed.  Each woman eats a high protein meal and attends class.  She learns how to care for her baby.  She learns about early childhood development.  She is constantly encouraged to keep nursing her baby.  If her baby is sick, they are provided access to medical care.

Every week I'm honored to have witnessed something so beautiful and redemptive in this country.  The Haitian women are loved, treated with respect, educated, empowered, and cared for deeply by Beth and Joanna.  Watching Beth and Joanna do their thing has been one of the sweetest gifts.  I don't know how I've been allowed to be apart of something so beautiful.

Every time I'm with these ladies there is this moment when I look around and with tears in my eyes wonder how God made a way for me to be included in so much beauty.  I know I did nothing to deserve it.  I've told Beth..."It's like I've been allowed into some super cool club, that I know I didn't have the credentials to be a part of.  No one should have let me in.  There was a mistake.  I keep thinking, "How did I get in here?"  Grace. That's the only explanation.

I wrote all that to brag on this ministry.  But, I also wrote all that so I can tell a funny story.
I try to go to Heartline every Tuesday and Thursday.  I'll be at the Women's Center helping with breastfeeding issues and Hudson is usually next door playing with some other kids associated with Heartline.  However, there have been times when Hudson's been with me as I've worked hard with a mother to get her baby to latch on correctly.
So here's what's been happening lately.

Whenever he sees a baby, he does one of two things.

He comes over to me, puts his hand on my arm, and seriously warns me..."Momma.  Dat baby bite you."

Or, he whispers in my ear...more like a question, pointing to the baby, "Momma.  Dat baby bite you?"
I quickly say, "No.  That's a nice baby" and always hope no one heard him, or that for once, the language barrier is working in our  favor.

I kept thinking it was so weird that Hudson thinks all Haitian babies are vicious creatures who will bite him (or me).  Lots of times you can tell...he is genuinely worried about the safety of his mother and is trying to protect me.

We already have some pretty solid suspicions that our little brown bear is a little racist.  In the States we had black friends, but they were the minority.  We mostly had white friends.  We always wished that was different, but probably didn't work hard enough to MAKE it different.  Now that we're in Haiti, the white people (blans) are now the minority.  Hudson is usually out going and not very shy.  Put him in a room with mostly Haitians and the kid is trying to climb up my shirt.  He's downright rude to the lady who cleans our house.  We're working on that.  We've tried to find other reasons why Hudson is such a weirdo around Haitians, but we've had to confess...he's probably a little freaked out about being around so many people with darker skin.  It's new to him.  When we're walking  on the street, he's been known to bury his head in my chest.  It's like it's all too much, and he can't take it.

One day he'll figure out that he's not white.  For now, he doesn't know and that's okay I guess.  I googled, "When should you tell your son he is black" but nothing helpful popped up.  Trans-racial Adoption.  Sigh.  If only there was a reference guide for everything hard and weird that will come up in a family's lifetime.

I was wondering if Hudson thought the Haitian babies were mean, ferocious, biters because of some sort of racial judgment he was making.  He's never said a white baby will bite me, or worried about a white baby biting him.

I'll admit.  Racism irks me.  I haven't learned to deal with racist people in a very gracious way.  Aaron thinks it's hilarious that his wife (who will fight someone over racist thoughts and remarks) is now raising her own child with race related issues.  Go figure, right?  Aaron laughs and laughs that the woman who makes her kids sit and listen to speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. (and cries every time) is mothering a black kid who is not nice to black people.

I keep being a little irritated with Hudson for looking at a Haitian baby and then adamantly insisting that the baby is mean and will bite.  I've had to take him out of the room because he was so concerned and worked up about this.

It wasn't until we saw a nursing mother at church this weekend that it all clicked.

My son is not racist.  I mean....he is, but not towards babies.  Gosh, if there are levels of racism, being a jerk about a baby is the worst of the worst.

Watching that mother nurse her baby, and then having Hudson whisper in my ear, "Momma...dat baby bite you?" made everything make sense.

So that's what I have the privilege of doing at Heartline every week.

When people ask what I do, I can say with confidence..."I teach babies to bite their moms."


The Kramer Family said...

I love seeing you with these precious women. I love that they are being heard and cared for by and through you. The whole thing is so beautiful and so redemptive- I'm in awe of the Lord and the way He is using His people.r

Megan said...

What a great mix of the challenges and humor of "everyday" life as you now know it! I have to tell you, we've been in Nepal for over a year now and my two year old does not like Nepali people. Nepalis love kids and literally cannot resist pinching cheeks and trying to grab my kids. The little guy that was born here doesn't think twice, but my oldest HATES IT. Once he gets to know someone he's pretty okay with them, but as for the average Nepali on the road (and even still some people we see all the time including our house helper) he can be down right nasty to. So take heart. Your little man is going through the same culture shock ups and downs that you are, he just can't express himself and process in the same ways.

Tricia said...

Funny - the whole time I read it, I was thinking the 'biting' comments had something to do with nursing and latching on! God bless you as you teach those babies to um, NOT bite!

Sandee said...

Love this! We have a great childrens book about all the wonderful colors kids have enjoyed it. One being cinnamon latte, another toasted chocolate and another peachy vanilla. It is a fun little book. I don't know how accessible you are to books down there or amazon. The book is The Color of us. (

We read it, then compare all the lovely colors to our own arms.

Haley said...

That is so precious! Kids are funny. I am pregnant with my 3rd right now and my oldest asked me one day what color I thought his skin would be. I love that she sees skin color as just another way for God to be creative. I hope it stays that way.

mandi said...

Oh- look at you measuring that belly! What a blessing to be with women when they are most vulnerable. I know it is as much a gift to you as it is to them.

Anonymous said...

Oh Heather..I love reading your posts. I cry, I laugh, I sigh and I wish I was there with you....maybe some day...
Mary Sanders

LD said...

I googled, "When should you tell your son he is black" but nothing helpful popped up.

Really really hilarious.

Melda said...

Love that Hudson! and love the Heartline Women's Program pictures! Wish I could come and be "SO COOL" too. :)

No advice on the color thing. When Michael was about 7 or 8, Mike's sister had a baby. I called the boys down to look at the new cousin on the internet photos. Looking at the computer over my shoulder Michael says, "hmmm, I didn't know the baby was going to be white"

The Burgess family said...

Hello. Melody (Gray) Shaddix turned me on to your blog after she heard me working through some similar things on my own blog. I enjoy your humor and the interesting things about your own family, as well as your heart and the challenging things you're dealing with in regards to orphans and the poor. Thank you so much for what you said in your recent "orphanage post," it is just what I needed to hear at this moment: "You never have to worry if asking God how you should help the orphan is the right thing. God says it's always right." I am in the process of trying to help an orphange in India and I needed to read these posts from you. thank you so much, and keep it coming!

Anthony & Sharon said...

I'm giggling to myself because I keep picturing Hudson saying "Dat baby bite you?" with a thick Jamaican accent. I'm sure it's some sort of racism in me (even with my own brown baby) but maybe it's the Caribbean setting in my mind and when I read the title I didn't know it was Hudson you were quoting so the accent was already there. No matter, it's still funny and I'm glad he's not racist against Haitian babies!

Holly Southerland said...

I'm with LD on how hilarious your google search was.

The first part of the post encouraged me a lot about the Women's Center and Heartline. That is so similar to what I want to do with my card business (teach women to craft to earn income for their families), like I mentioned to you. And I am in nursing school right now as well, even hoping to become a midwife after that - if I can stand school for that long and if God leads me into it. I'd been wondering how these interests/pursuits would 'gel' together and it was just really neat to see you mention sewing/health care/midwifery all in one bunch. :)

So you could say that it was good for my soul today to read your blog. :) And so, my thanks to you.

Aleesa said...

I love reading your blog. I think it is incredible what you and Heartline are doing for the women and future generations of Haiti. Absolutely beautiful.

However, what stuck out the most to me about this post was the fact that you drove!! I spent a week in Haiti in July and I CANNOT imagine driving a car in Port au Prince. You go girl!!

texasmcvays said...

Jessica told I had to come read this....So now I know every time Hudson pointed at me he was probably saying "that lady bite!" I'd offer to take him with us to my family reunion but I think that might really traumatize the boy! :) LOLS!!! See you stateside soon! K