Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesdays

Beautiful babies and mommies head to the maternity center.




photo credit:  Joanna Howard


Babies are weighed, oohed and ahhed over.  The moms are offered a high protein meal.
They sit outside with other women...eating...talking...with babies on their laps.

photo credit:  Joanna Howard

photo credit:  Joanna Howard

Then the women come to class where they learn about issues relating to child development, motherhood, being a woman, breastfeeding, and well...any number of topics that apply to women and children.
Today the topic was "Introducing Solids."  More importantly we were aiming to debunk the false knowledge these women have that goes something like this..."I only need to breastfeed for six months.  Then I can give my baby solid food and quit nursing."

Since it's been a whole 2 years since I had a six month old, I had to send a shout out to some of my mommy friends in the States and ask them to have a brainstorming session with me via email.  I am blessed to have a mommy-doctor friend who is more than willing to think through nutrition, breastfeeding, and medical issues in a third world country with me.  Third world medicine is tricky and oftentimes risky.  I also have crunchy, granola mom friends who I knew would know exactly how to make their own baby foods (including rice cereal).  They were extremely helpful as I prepared for this class.  I was bound and determine to only offer food options that could be bought on the street...fruits, veggies, and grains that are sold by machans in the marketplace.

Can I stop and say this is one of my favorite things about being a woman and a mom?  Brainstorming with other women and moms.  What a comfort to realize that we don't individually have to have all the answers.  We just have to be willing to ask questions, share our knowledge, what worked, what didn't, and be humble enough to listen and learn new things. 

Mentoring.  Friendships.  Women-to-women encouragement as we walk this oftentimes terrifying road called "motherhood."  These ingredients are extremely important in our programs at Heartline.  We want to see women empowered with knowledge and wisdom...not only for themselves, but so they can empower other women in their lives..their sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends.

 

It was kind of fun cooking and preparing all these "solids" to use in class.






The women were great.  Attentive.

Before we could talk about nutrition and introducing solids we had to tackle the root of why we oftentimes long to quit nursing our babies early.  No matter what side of the ring we find ourselves on when it comes to the topic of breastfeeding, I think we can all agree that in the States it is a luxury to get to choose to nurse or bottle feed.  In Haiti...these women don't enjoy that luxury.  Either they nurse their baby, or more likely than not, their baby will die. In Haiti breastfeeding = life.  For that reason we want to see our ladies nurse for a long time.  It will take a lot of perseverance and hard work on their part.  In a way our team at Heartline sees ourselves as the friends on the sidelines cheering as these women run this race.  When they get weary we encourage them.  We chant louder.  We clap.  We tell them what a beautiful job they are doing and to keep on going.

Although they know that the World Health Organizations suggests that all mothers (not just Haitian mothers or women living in third world country) breastfeed their babies until the age of two, there is still the temptation to quit early.  Why would they risk their child's life?  How could they do that?  It might be easy to judge them.  It's tempting to judge a Haitian mom who wants to leave her baby at home for a few hours (instead of having her baby with her all the time in order to nurse on demand.)  But then I remember that these women have to carry their babies in the heat...in the sun...in their arms.  No strollers.  No slings.  Being a mom in Haiti is hard work.  Harder than any of us with our bread-winning husbands, solid support groups, fancy educations, expensive breast pumps, and jogging strollers could ever imagine.

We talked about Philippians 2 and how Jesus is our example in all relationships, including the relationship between mom and baby.  He gave up everything to serve us...to be intimately connected to us...to be there every time we need Him.  In a room with a bunch of nursing moms it's a beautiful thing to think of scriptures that describe God's care for us as being as intimate and gentle as a nursing mom.  Looking at these ladies with their babies I was overcome by how much they have to give up..how much they sacrifice to be good mothers.  I wonder if they are mocked because of the things they learn every Tuesday.  Being available to nurse their babies on demand means very little time alone for them, sore arms, and sore backs as they carry heavy babies up and down the streets of this busy, hot city.  I pray the Christ we read about today in Philippians will give these women the ability to serve their children selflessly in what seems like such an impossible task.



It might be weird, but I see God's love and faithfulness to these women and their children in things like breastmilk, avocados, bananas, congo beans, and carrots.  I find God here in the strangest of places.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Any practical way to get slings to these mommas - can they be made there, or fundraising here, or??? They might make packing these little ones around a bit easier:)

mandi said...

I God changed my life through food. I found Him there too...

Love seeing that group of mama's. Such an encouragement to me!

CarpioFamily said...

i had the same ideas for slings, would that be possible to send. remember you have friends that can rally, and have sew parties.

Bob & Judy said...

Maybe somebody could give some thought to the sewing business including baby slings. Perhaps the marketing end could somehow subsidize local sales with international sales. Just thinking out loud...

I know in Mexico, the slings are well used among some parts of the population. But the more well-to-do have abandoned them for strollers. What a shame.

A cute little redhead girl said...

The sling thing got to me. My now 27 month old daughter LIVED in her sling almost when she was smaller. I toted her as I fed horses, cows, fixed fence, and grocery shopped. My sling made my life about a 1000 times easier. Any way we could send patterns or something and fabric so they could make their own?

Also, I am a HUGE advocate to breastfeeding. I nursed my daughter until she was 24 months. I know some people are reading this and going "ewwwwww", but she is a well adjusted, outgoing, sometimes tempermental child. She is rarely sick. It was difficult at times being that I went back to work when she was only 6 weeks old, but we made it and I am so thankful for that. Tell these women that there are other moms in the states praying for them on their journey.

Also, a huge shout out to you. I love the work you're doing!

Arvil's Wife said...

You know the old sayings, great minds think alike. I, too, thought about slings. Even though my husband and I have no money, I am still able to get online. Yay. When my youngest, now 1, was a baby I made a sling out of a worn out crib sheet. He's totally into walking now, but maybe something like that would work too.
I also wanted to thank you for blogging about your journey there. Even poor families here in the states have more than these women and I am reminded every time I read to be thankful for what I have.

Hendrick Family said...

You know...

I've heard talk about slings coming from the sewing ladies at Heartline.

I'll keep you all posted.

Want to know something?

You ladies and your love for these women bring a huge smile to my face.

Thank you for being in this with us.

Heather

Pamela Nees said...

I have made a sling and there are several great free tutorials which require nothing but fabric (no hardware or other things to buy).

I'd be willing to make and send out a few, if you decide you could use them!

Haley said...

Love, love, love seeing those chubby baby faces!!! I was also wondering about sending slings... thoughts? I would love to buy one for these mamas. It makes my life easier, can't imagine life w/o it.

chelsea said...

I love this. I wish I could have been in your class today. I am at the 6 month mark and would love to hear your research on solids! You are a blessing to these ladies!

Shannon said...

I love, love, love this post!!! I've been reading your blog for a few weeks and between you all and the Livesay's blog, it's been amazingly eye-opening. I never understood about the social orphan. And then the Apparent Project... addressing the root of the orphan crisis. It's awesome. I am so overwhelmed with Haiti. A few nights ago my husband and I snuggled with our older 2 kids in bed and spent about an hour looking at all of the flickr photos on the Livesay blog.
I almost fell over one day when I read that the women there think they should use formula because it came from white people in America. It's so wonderful the work that Heartline is doing to educate these moms. I hope and pray that I can see it in person one day.

Amanda said...

This is beautiful, Heather.

Michelle said...

This is amazing. Every week I look forward to your Tuesday visit with these ladies. Thank you for sharing. I absolutely love God's design to breastfeed our babies but it is hard work and yes, that is with the comfort of America so I appreciated you reminding me of how hard it must be for these ladies. I know God loves what you are doing for these girls!

T & T Livesay said...

You were a fabulous teacher. I ate that avocado - it was also fabulous.

Gail O said...

I have been reading blogs from the Livesays and John McHoul for over a year, and I'm so glad I found your blog too! Have you read the book "Monique and the Mango Rains"by Kris Halloway? It is the account of a midwife in Mali, and one of the stories tells about "baby-weighing day" when all the women bring their babies to get weighed and discuss issues like breastfeeding and solids. Reminds me of what you're doing! And also, having the sewing ladies at Heartline make some slings sounds like a fantastic idea!

Ursula said...

WOW! It makes me so happy to know this work of redemption is going on and to be able to be a part of it in some small way. I wanna get those mamas some slings! Tell us how.

Rachel said...

I love these posts, Heather. I really enjoy helping moms breastfeed and give birth here, but oh, I think it would be so amazing to get to serve women that live somewhere like Haiti.

Susan, wife of 1, mother of 4 said...

Very very cool, Heather! You are the perfect person for this!

Emily said...

My babies lived in slings and I don't know what I would have done without them! Please, we want to help get your mom's slings. Let us know what to do and I'll start sewing or gathering fabric, whatever it takes!

The Allisons said...

I have been a longtime lurker (found your blog through the Kramer's blog; we are Yonder Way customers). Add me to the list of ladies wanting to get some slings to those beautiful mommas! I am part of a little "crunchy mom" group here in Houston, and we all love sewing and babywearing, so if we can help in any way let us know!

Danielle Johnson said...

I LOVE this post! Looking at the picture of all the sweet ladies with their sweet babies all lined up just made my heart leap. I love that you are helping them understand God through everyday life. I cannot wait for the day when I get to hug you in heaven!

Nicole said...

what a great post! i'm a huge breastfeeding advocate { i'm on my 4th baby now} it's not strange or weird at all! God's love is there!

...i would love to help somehow with the sling idea! it's easy to breastfeed in a sling :)

rachel said...

I want to thank you for posting such wonderful information regarding breastfeeding. I am a doula and currently work with women (postpartum) at a homeless shelter. i educate them on the things you are describing. last week one of them told me that breastfeeding was "perverted". even here in the US, there are so much misinformation regarding breastfeeding yet so much sexualization of the breast. we don't blink an eye seeing a Victoria Secret model but are offend by breastfeeding in public. even educated women here are often misinformed about breastfeeding and few know of the WHO's rec to breastfeed for a full two years.

thank you for posting this. it's especially wonderful to read this from a christian blogger.

many blessings!

Susan said...

This is so fabulous! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!

Amy said...

Hope you found some recipes for congee when you were searching for ways to introduce solids. This is what the asian half of the world feed to their babies. It is just rice cooked with more water...you can add flavorings and bits of chopped veg and meat...but it is basically just rice cooked into a sort of porridge.
Love your blog!
Keep up the GOOD work!!!!!

amy jones said...

there are so many types of slings and several that would use no hardware, some you could make without even sewing. what would be helpful, patterns, websites with instructions and videos, cloth . . .give us baby wearing mamas some direction and we can help!

Denise said...

I was in Haiti a few weeks ago - and again I was struck by the complete absence of any type of slings or baby carriers. I don't know how they manage! I saw one sweet mamma carrying her 12 month old (sleeping in her arms) while trying to carry and umbrella to shade the baby from the hot sun - and do some shopping... And I wanted to pull over and give her the sling I had in my lap to use with my daughter. Everyone in Haiti stares at me very strangely when I'm walking around with my daughter in a sling (doesn't help that I'm caucasion and my daughter is Haitian), but I hope that it will make them more receptive when they see others with a sling. I would love to see the Heartline women be able to sew them and have it be a way to earn money. Everyone wins that way :)