Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Days Simply Suck

Yesterday was one of those days.  As Tara recently wrote, it's been kind of discouraging lately at Heartline.  There have been several complicated deliveries right in a row.  Most ended in c-sections.  Some were stressful emergencies.  It seems as though adrenaline and heartache have been constant companions as of late.

I've recently started to officially study to become a midwife.  It's interesting that in the beginning of both books I've read, the first chapter is all about the women a midwife should not accept as patients.  The midwifery books do a wonderful job of detailing which women make healthy patients and which ones are too risky to try and deliver at home without emergency, medical equipment and specialists available.

When I read the descriptions of "who not to deliver" in the medical books it's glaringly obvious how high risk every single pregnancy is that we deal with at Heartline.  Our patients are malnourished, severely anemic, some have STD's, and most battle dehydration every single day.  The majority of our ladies do not have anyone supporting them.  No husband.  No boyfriend.  No family that cares.  High risk.  Each one of them is dealing with a high risk pregnancy. 

We've had a few scares recently, some c-sections, and other complicated births but I'm trying to remember that it's probably a miracle that countless women end up birthing beautifully under the care of our midwives.  All the odds are against our midwives and our pregnant ladies. Yet most of our women have uneventful births under the watchful care of Heartline's skilled midwives who know and love the ladies they are serving.  According to the text books I've been reading, what we usually see at Heartline is nothing short of miraculous.  Ladies with high risk pregnancies delivering vaginally with very little drama.  That's the norm at Heartline.  No matter how disappointing the last few births have been, I had to stop and thank God for that truth this afternoon as I sat reading through a midwifery book.

Yesterday Agathe and I sat talking with a 16 year old mom named Fedline.  We were getting onto Fedline for feeding her newborn baby bean sauce.  Argh.  Later Tara asked Fedline why she had cotton in both of her ears.  We listened to the Haitian women explain to us that after your baby is born things get in your ears that normally would not.  You have to protect your ears from the wind.  We also learned that after a vaginal birth lots of women sit in boiling hot water.  Some get third degree burns.  "Why would you do any of that?  Like what's the reason?"  We asked that very simple question.  The answer?  None of them knew why women do those things or tell women to do those things after they have a baby.  People just say that.  So you just do what people say.  Fedline had cotton in both ears and had no idea why.  We quickly asked her if she had boiled her lady parts.  No.  She hadn't.  Thank God.

Then a woman brought her baby girl in to be seen.  Her baby does not have a vaginal opening. Can these women ever catch a break?

Later in the day a three day old baby was brought in that belongs to a woman who was in our program.  She was so non-compliant during her prenatal care that the midwives wisely refused to deliver her baby.   This woman delivered her son in another hospital in Port-au-Prince.  Yesterday this mother sent her newborn baby to Heartline with the grandmother.  The baby looked like it was about to die.  We don't think he's eaten in three days.  He had fever, a swollen head, an abnormal chest, and his blood sugar was out of whack.  Tara took the grandmother and the baby straight to the hospital.

Seeing an innocent baby on the brink of death who is suffering right in front of your eyes is horrible.  I was about to say "it's almost too much."  It's not almost too much.  It's too much.  Plain and simple.  It's too much.  Tears will come at some point during the day.  You can bet on it.  

Agathe leading Friday Bible Study

After the drama for the day had ended I sat with Agathe.  Agathe has worked for Heartline for a long time.  She's Haitian.  She's a beautiful mother of three adorable little girls.  She's married.  Her family is lovely.  Agathe is one of the sweetest assets to our ministry to women at Heartline.  She's a wonderful example of a godly, incredible mother.  She teaches Bible Study at Heartline on Fridays.  She is also a sweet friend to us.

The room was quite.  I was sitting in a corner breathing deeply, hating the day, phone in hand, waiting to get a text update from Tara about the baby in-transit to the hospital.  Up until about a week ago, I could honestly say I've never felt angry at the women we serve at Heartline.

I've been heartbroken.  Sad.  I've grieved with them.  I've cried my mascara straight off my face for them.  Their lives are hard.  Most of them try their very best.  They are eager to learn the truth about women's health and keeping their babies alive.  They want to be good mothers.  It is a blessing to be in this with them.

The first time I have been mad was last week when one of our mothers went to some sort of village healer or voo-doo doctor and took something that caused her to go into labor.  The baby almost died during the emergency c-section.  The baby had to be resuscitated and was kept in the hospital for many days because she kept having seizures. 

Yesterday was the second time I've been flat-out mad.  I was frustrated at Fedline for giving her brand new baby bean sauce.  I was mad that so much superstition and old-wives tales keep women in bondage and kills babies.  I was angry that women boil their vaginas.  What the heck??  I was mad that the baby brought in was suffering and starving to death.  All signs pointed to the fact that this mother was being a lazy jerk.  Not at all typical for the Haitian mothers who are a part of Heartline.

I sat there trying to calm down, take it all in, praying for Tara...that she and Winnie would be able to get this baby into the actual hospital.  That's never a guarantee here.  Finally I broke the silence...

Agathe and her girls.  photo credit: Joanna Howard

" do some of these women sit in these classes for do they come here every do they hear us teach and teach and teach and teach about breastfeeding and truth...and then do these stupid, stupid, things."

Agathe let me get angry and raise my voice.  Then she calmly said...
"Heather, we have to teach what we teach but then we must pray.  Pray that the women hear.  That the Lord helps them to see."

Silence again.

She's right.

Before the day was out I knew the crying would come.

When I was by myself I cried. I told God what I thought about sick babies, superstitions, and teenage mothers.  I cried out all the anger and frustration.  Part of being angry is not even knowing what I'm angry about.  Am I frustrated at God or these ladies or Haiti or injustice or stupidity or sin or selfishness?  It makes me tired trying to sort through my thoughts and emotions.  So oftentimes I leave my thoughts unsorted and simply cry.

I fell asleep last night asking God to make me wake up eager to teach (even though I don't feel like the women are always listening) and eager to pray (even though it doesn't feel like God listens sometimes either).  I'm sure...when I'm not so frustrated God will show me my own sin and depravity in each of these women's stories.  I'm sure He'll remind me of his grace and how He loves us even when we're selfish, stupid stinkers.


Falyn & Joyanne said...

I want in, I'm a nurse, and I want in.

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

You take us there, Heather. I cannot imagine what you're up against, especially the superstitious, boiling lady parts variety of stuff.

But the epiphany is one that I share. Very recently I had a similar awareness: "It's not my job, to make his heart see. I couldn't do it. It's just not possible." (Yes, I'm quoting myself. weird.)

From the bottoms of my Type A feet, I wish I could make him, her them, everyone see and know and believe.

But since we can't, I guess we can just keep doing what we're doing, right?



Anonymous said...

Aren't you thankful that you don't see everything... and aren't you thankful that you have been chosen to see some... and I am thankful that you are used to heal some "by all means..." 1Corinthians 9:22

cmccalman said...

First I just want to thank you for your honesty. Keep it up--God is using it in my heart miles and miles away from you, and I feel sure that he is using it in other's hearts too.
I also wanted to tell you that I have cried like that too, and I know the frustration of just being so overwhelmingly upset you can't even narrow it down to a handful of causes. I imagine that you know this, but I want to remind myself--that's because there isn't a handful of causes. There's just sin and pain and hurt. But when it runs too deep for us to understand, Christ does, and it is His pain, for His glory, that will take away all of ours. Awesome.

kayder1996 said...

Reading this I couldn't help but think of the correlation between having kids and working with these ladies. You tell them, you teach them, you worry about them, but in the end prayer is your most powerful ally. Our kids were God's kids before they were ours. And your women and their children were God's before you encountered them. I'm sure that doesn't make dealing with the day to day any easier necessarily but maybe Agathe's words will help you through the long haul.

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

Heather, you did a GREAT job of explaining why ministering in a 3rd world country is so hard. It's hard to wrap an American brain around it, and you did an EXCELLENT job of explaining it. You have been so kind and loving. The only thing I can think of is that Jesus was up against the same thing. He was despised, ignored and disfigured - and that was while He was here on Earth! Now that He is no longer on Earth, He still endures people's rejection, or their cool neutrality towards Him (which is the same as rejection of course). He continually forgives and constantly offers His love, to a people who reject/ignore Him....and go about doing their own useless things.

You're in the company of someone GREAT! (And He will console you and lift you up.)

I hope that helps. You are AWESOME to continue plugging on. You know that what you do MATTERS, don't you?

Paul is finally reading, "Radical". Oh oh! So glad you are YOU!



Life with Kaishon said...

Every time I would dry my eyes I would read the next sentence and I would cry again. Every time. Thank you for being there. Thank you for caring. And loving, And showing kindness.

God loves them so.
And He loves you for caring for them.

You are a bright light in the dark night.

LD said...

I was reading along with you, getting angry and frustrated with you, and then the Lord stopped me right there dead in my tracks.

How many times does He show me the same things over and over in His word? How many times does He graciously teach me the same lesson over and over in my circumstances? How many times do I sit under sound, Biblical teaching and still not get it?

Praise God He is patient and gracious and full of mercy, and praise God He is teaching you that same patience, graciousness, and mercy through these women.

We're stubborn prideful people, and only God can change that... and praise His name that He does.

Love you.

Heidi said...

All the more reason for you to do what you do. Your role is obviously so important.

Sailor and Co said...

just. breathe. and. pray.

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

I just popped over from Tara's blog, and am so glad that I did.

Thank you for sharing the tough stuff.

Thank you for helping us to really "see" what your day to day ministry is like.

Thank you for loving on the ladies and babies at Heartline. They are BLESSED to have you.

I have followed Tara's blog for several years now, and love to see how the Lord is always working in them and through them. I look forward to following your blog, as well.

Hoping your week is BLESSED!


Anonymous said...

it's the lies satan whispers to these women and their mothers and their mother's mothers that keep them bound.....i don't know if you see it warrior sister....but you and tara and beth and agathe and others and heartline...harbor house...are fighting a be emptied and poured out allows His glory to enter....and prayer is the sword... so often i find myself forgetting to bring my sword to the battle and i think can fight with my bare are a child of the Creator and a sister to the are beautiful......


Madster said...

Hi, I'm from Singapore and has been reading your blog for about four months now. What you are doing in Haiti is amazing and even I don't really have the courage to ask God "what's next". I bet some days you would feel like screaming and crying. I'm a teacher too and I can relate to that. I also breastfeeding my two babies and still doing so now, and I can understand your frustration on why some moms can get lazy in feeding their babies.

But please remember that your family are doing great work. Your courage to go to Haiti and serve others is inspiring, so despite all these "bad days" keep going strong ok?

The Beaver Bunch said...

What a beautiful post on heartache. I think this post can be translated into every believer's ministry, whether on domestic or foreign soil.

And the pictures of those beautiful women just bring a huge smile to my face. What beauty in those women.


Thank you for sharing. I am always moved by reading your posts. I know I cannot imagine how hard it is to live and minister where you guys do. I pray for all of you daily. I am so grateful for your honesty. Sometimes, I like you, just don't understand, and Jesus has to remind me to just trust Him.

mandi said...

oh girl. i wish i could give you big hugs. i am just kind of stunned into silence. what you guys see...what these women hard.

i am proud of you (since i'm your grandma) and excited for you in your midwife studies. that is awesome!

Jamie S said...

You work on the front lines. Those of us who don't can never understand completely what you go through. Thank you for doing what you do and sharing these stories with us so we can understand a little and know better how to pray. Blessings.

Zach said...

I have this recurring nightmare where I'm treating a trauma pt from a really nasty vehicle accident. The pt is a middle aged short and very overweight hispanic woman and her face is grotesquely avulsed. I just yell and yell for someone to tell me what to do to help her because I am so totally overwhelmed and can't figure out how to support her airway. This was actually a patient of mine once when I was a very new paramedic and its one of hundreds of similarly emotionally traumatic events I've had to find a way to deal with. Anger was my first technique, then it was ambivalence but God used these very painful events to train me in compassion and grant me an insight into pain and thereby some spiritual wisdom. While I may have some PTSD, God has given me hope for something better which drives my sense of compassion. It may be idealistic in some circumstances (if not most) but that idealism, and the idealism you came to Haiti with will always be at odds with your sense of cynical realism. Idealism keeps us going though. Without it you might as well give up. Your latest post is evidence of how and why your idealism isn't based solely on naivety but also realistic hopefullness for a slightly better world through your service and sacrifice for the Lord and his children. I'm sure you have already resolved to remember those victories, but I'm sure that if you are anything like me, you could use the additional justification.

Mindy said...

My friend just sent me the link to your blog and I can't tell you how beautiful what you're doing is! Prasie God! I'm working on becoming a midwife. I hope to come visit sometime.

Kristina said...

I'm writing from the perspective of a called by God midwife.with 27 years of leaning on God experience
in less than optimal circumstances.
Know that the Father knows!!!!Trust that!!!The most important thing to know as a midwife is how to "hear"..
and as a child of hear what is being spoken that is not necessarily spoken in be led by the Spirit!!!!