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
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.
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.