Weekly education, prenatal vitamins, and prenatal care.
Safe birth by midwives who love and respect women.
That's what we offer the women in our program at Heartline.
After delivery the mother rests, is fed, she and her baby are monitored closely, and if there are no further complications, the mother is discharged to go home. In America we lament the fact that hospitals only keep moms a mere 48 hours after their babies are born. It's normal for one of our moms to go home 8 hours after delivery. Not because we want them to leave. The truth is, we simply don't have a place to keep them.
Thankfully, most of our moms come back to the clinic every day or every other day until we're sure breastfeeding is going well and there are no other medical issues to worry about for mom or baby. Then those new moms enter our child development program that meets every Tuesday.
Those of you who have had babies....can you imagine?
Every day. Right after your baby is born, getting out and about with your newborn? I can't. I imagine my life in the US during my baby delivering years...my comfortable home, a house full of family to help, and my nice, reliable, air-conditioned vehicle. I still can't imagine what it would have been like, under those sets of circumstances, to leave the house every day right after my child was born and be gone most of the day seeking help. I could barely get dressed or string a sentence together.
These women come from hot tents to our clinic on a tap tap...public transportation in Haiti...a small pick-up truck jammed full of passengers. Hot Haiti sun. Bumpy, terrible roads. It's an all-day ordeal for these mothers. When I put myself in their position (or let's get real...when I try and fail to imagine this life) I am overwhelmed with respect for these new mothers. They love their babies, and they come back to our clinic every day if need be to make sure their babies are fine. Sore bottoms from a recent birth, very little money to pay for their ride to Heartline, tired beyond belief...they come.
We teach and we teach...we teach until we think we can't teach any more about breastfeeding and how important it is for their babies. And then our moms leave our care after they deliver their babies, take day-old newborns back to their homes...they are tired and spent after giving birth...weak...emotional...and their well-meaning family members who are not educated about breastmilk and colostrum take over and some of our moms make bad decisions. The pressure from strong Aunts or know-it-all, this-is-how-it's-always-been mothers is oftentimes too much and all that our ladies have learned every week in prenatal classes seems to be sabotaged. This is not the story for all of our moms. Not even hardly. A lot of our women come to class, learn, and then stand their ground. Change is happening in their lives. Their babies thrive and do extremely well. But there are some...a constant, steady drip and trickle of women in our program whose babies end up on the brink of death after just a few days because they went home and everything quickly went downhill.
The result for some of these babies is tragic. Within days of discharging a healthy, thriving baby, that same baby is brought back to our clinic very, very sick. Breastfeeding has not taken off like it should. Mom is confused and telling us what her Auntie suggested, or that her sister gave the baby beans and rice. Or worse..."The baby was sleepy, he would not eat...so I didn't feed him." We teach on these things, try to be proactive, go on and on and on and on about what to expect before the baby arrives...and yet we often times end up with underfed babies and confused moms sitting in our clinic a few days after their babies are born.
Newborns are fragile, no matter what country you live in. Haiti offers a lot more opportunities for a fragile baby to quickly get sick especially if breastfeeding has not gotten off to a good start.
We've had a string of these babies over the last month or two. We've written about this disappointment. The heartbreak. The sadness we see. How difficult it is, after a baby presents to us deathly ill, to try and get quality care for them in this country. We buy our way into hospitals with formula. We advocate for our ladies. It's hard, stressful work that can also end up being expensive, depending on what hospital can take our mom and baby.
Yesterday two of our moms ended up at Medishare with their newborns.
Joanne, the mother pictured in the top photo with her baby at Medishare
Joanne's baby is septic and very ill. If he were not at this particular hospital, which happened to have an opening for him, we're pretty sure he would not be alive right now. He is still not out of the woods. He needs our prayers.
Many of you are familiar with Dalonne and her son, Job. A few days after her baby was born, she brought him to us. He was extremely sick. Probably the sickest baby I've seen in our program. We were convinced she had not really fed him at all since birth. Dalonne is a hard one to get through to...so unlike the other ladies in our program. Thankfully Lori, out at Real Hope for Haiti took this mother and baby in and treated the baby for 10 days while trying to work with this mother and get her on-board with caring for her baby. Lori discharged a thriving, 8 pound little boy from Real Hope for Haiti.
Recently, the New York Times wrote an article called, "Without His Mother's Milk, A Haitian Boy is Lost." It is a good account of what we're up against in Haiti as we try to keep babies alive by educating the women in our program about breastfeeding.
"On further questioning we learned that his mother had stopped nursing shortly after he was born because her “milk was bad,” and had been bottle-feeding him with watered-down 7Up soda."
--New York Time's article
The bottom line: we need our postpartum wing up and running. Our dream is to be able to keep mothers for 7-10 days (or heck, as long as we need to keep them) to make sure breastfeeding gets off to a good start and to be able to monitor mom/baby closely before sending them home. We believe having this intimate one-on-one time with our new mothers will help us strengthen our relationship with them and build trust. We would be able to give hands-on instruction and constant care and encouragement to our new moms if we were able to keep them for longer. We would feel confident that after 7-10 days we were sending home a healthy baby and a mom who feels empowered in her new role as a mother.
Five thousand dollars has been raised for the postpartum wing. We need $15,000 more to make this a reality. In the trenches, none of us have the time to fund raise right now for this new wing. But maybe God has gripped your hearts and you hurt for these moms and babies. Maybe you have been sitting in America wondering, "What can I do? I want to help, but I don't know what to do." Maybe God will bring ideas to your mind. Maybe He wants you to raise some money so that this postpartum wing is able to happen soon. We need this thing...not just soon....but like six months ago!
For the mothers who go home and do everything right...we still would like this postpartum wing. We'd love for them to stay with us, to rest, to get hands-on training and encouragement while they are with us. We want to continue to build a relationship with them and serve these ladies during this vulnerable time in their life. We hate that they have to leave and then come back to us multiple times, crossing this city in a tap-tap with their babies, or walking great distances after recently giving birth.
For the mothers who go home and so many things fall apart...their babies get sick...the pressure from their families is simply too great...breastfeeding stalls out...this postpartum wing is vital if their babies are going to live. We're tired of trying to find quality care (which oftentimes seems impossible) for extremely sick babies that we know would not be sick if they had stayed with us for a longer time after they were born.
This postpartum wing would prevent so many babies from ever getting to the point where their condition is life-threatening and critical. We truly believe that after 7-10 days in our care, after 7-10 days of love, training, encouragement, and hands-on education we'd be sending each child home with a fighting chance to live. Especially since these same moms would stay with us for 7-10 days and then we'd see them weekly in our Tuesday child development classes until their babies are six months old.
Would you pray for our babies that are in the hospital? Will you pray that God makes a way for the remaining 15 thousand dollars to be raised so we can get our postpartum wing up and running? Will you ask God if this is possibly supposed to include you in some way...to give...or organize a fundraiser, or use your voice and creativity to make this postpartum wing something that happens sooner rather than later? Will you spread the word? 15 thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, but if a lot of people each gave or raised a little, this suddenly seems doable.
If you would like to give financially or would like to ask others to consider giving, there is a chip-in meter on the sidebar of this blog. Heartline is a registered nonprofit, and tax receipts will be given to you or your organization.
photo credits: pics 1, 2, 5: Joanna Howard; pics 3,4: Tara Livesay: pics 6,7,8,9: Beth McHoul