Pain, Heartache, and Identifying True Love

Tonight I am reminded of God’s heart.

How he is so close to those who are broken hearted.

How his heart is broken for those whose hearts are broken.

And how my own broken heart (while not minimized!) is so trivial in comparison.

I could never pretend to know or even try to understand the pain that accompanies the loss of a child. The intense void that grows in the days to follow and the seemingly endless journey of unanswered questions and “what if?” scenarios.Image

We fought for baby Bergly’s life. We sought out resources. We took him away to a better-equipped malnutrition center, unknowing to this mother that it would be her last time seeing her baby boy.

I don’t care where you are from or what kind of lifestyle you experience or how common poverty or death is around you: loss is loss and pain is pain, and no matter how often it happens, it hurts nonetheless.

Just hours after she found out of Bergly’s passing she stress induced and delivered a baby girl, HIV + and tiny, the same night. Immediately she was faced with mourning the loss of one child and taking on the responsibilities of a new child whose resemblance is enough to make it impossible. 

In a world of survival mourning is not an option. Crying is weak. And nobody has time for speaking of the past. Realizing that this overwhelmingly pained woman is rapidly stepping outside of her mind we took them in to better care for the situation on so many levels.

What broke my heart tonight was not the pain that this woman is enduring, it wasn’t the silent sobs that were coming from within her on her bed because she misses her baby son so deeply, but it was the look on her face as I comforted her when I told her that there were people here who love her. That Jesus loves her. I have no description. It was as if she had never heard the words, or maybe it was just this time that she first felt it to be true.

I’m not sure if she knows Jesus, but I can say that I know that she feels love here, so much that is overwhelms her. I don’t know what her life has looked like… desperate, worthless, lonely… whatever words would have described her I am beyond grateful to God that he allowed her into our path to identify true love – love that only comes from Him – and the only love that can truly heal her heart. 

God is love. His eye is on the sparrow. And he is hard at work.

Baby Bergly: Choosing To Fight Anyway

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No matter how many miracles (on every scale) that we witness on a daily basis – whenever a rescue doesn’t end in success it is painful. It is painful because in choosing to fight for a child’s life we are choosing to be attached. To love. To go all in. Even when it doesn’t look promising. Even when it doesn’t even look hopeful. Aware of the potential pain in hopes of the potential success. And choosing to fight anyway.

Tonight my heart isn’t hurting for Bergly.

It actually makes me smile a little knowing that he has no more exhausted cries that sound like light little hums or emotional meltdowns (on his behalf) to get any kind of food into his belly. At two years old Bergly weighed only 11 lbs. (ya that’s right, what you probably weighed at birth) and any sense of exerted energy was just about too much for his little body to handle without a nap. And when I say exerted energy I mean swatting my hands away for too long and/or thinking of strategic ways to get the food out of his mouth before I got it back in. It really took it out of the little fella.

Tonight my heart is not hurting for him, but for his young mother who is about to receive news that her baby died. That she won’t even able to be there, to say goodbye, or to grieve at a burial. Just continue on with life as usual, as if he never was. My heart is hurting because I can not even imagine how her heart will be hurting.

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I am grateful, however, that along with the news of baby Bergly’s passing we are able to sincerely say that he didn’t go down without a fight. That there were many people working on his behalf… staying up nights and monitoring him each day. Interceding on his behalf to the God who created him and numbered his days. There were people caring for him and loving him and taking care of his mother and brother. I am grateful for The Real Hope for Haiti and how they were willing to take him on, knowing his severity, and fight for him until the very last moment.

Bergly is only one of many stories of complications within malnutrition. The inevitable effects of a food crisis, a country in crisis, and a family in crisis. Stories like his are taking place many times every minute. Unknown names. Unknown faces. So often fading from this earth only known and loved by Jesus. One more reason I am so grateful to all who are making it possible for Danita to make our Medical Center a reality. So Mom’s like Bergly’s don’t have to spend the rest of her life wondering what her baby boy would have grown up to be like.

Psalm 34:18 “Our Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves those who are crushed in their spirits.

Our Lord is always with us, but especially close in the moments that break our hearts. And tonight my broken hearted prayer is for Bergly’s mom. That she would find peace within the tragic reality and pain of losing a child after two years of a desperate struggle, and that she would know that God hears her hurt and He is present… even when she can’t identify Him.

… and that her sweet baby boy is safe, happy, and whole.

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Messy Love.

Sometimes love doesn’t look as expected.

Sometimes it’s takes your breath away.

Sometimes love is playful.

In so many cases love isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense at all.

For children, love is out of their control, and their lives will be shaped and formed by what they perceive to be love.

Sometimes love means cleaning up the selfish mistakes of others.

And sometimes, such as today, love is just plain messy.

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Speaking of the latter, as I was thinking today of how unpredictable love is, I got a new Rescue baby this morning into our Baby Rescue Program at Danita’s Children. He came with his homeless mother – a kilo lighter than when I saw him last week (not to mention every rib in his cage showing) which puts him below a severely malnourished category – so it’s an understatement to say that I was excited to start the process.

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It was as I was force feeding him Medika Mamba (it takes a day or two to be considered enjoyable… you would think starving children wouldn’t be so picky), covering his dry, blistered, and bleeding lips with vasoline, talking with his homeless mother about the importance of clean water (and filling her only source – an orange water jug), and praying over his tiny malnourished body as he hit my hands away and bit me a lot, that my frustrated self came to realize: this is love.

As much as this tiny baby hates me in this moment, this is love. It may not be as tender and sweet as many would describe, but this is as real as it gets. Literal messy love.

And, call it ironic, but my heart is honored to love this way. To have the angry little screams and frowny eyebrows as I forced medicine and Medika Mamba into his mouth and to get the glove on my hand bitten by tiny little teeth with all the tiny little strength his 12 lbs. can muster. Truth be told, it makes me smile to see him fighting back – because it it those tenacious and tiny little fighters who survive.

Love doesn’t always appear with hearts and butterflies, and sometimes it isn’t even love at all – only the imitation – but today, love came in the form of force feeding, loads of prayers, and hopes for the promises of the future.

Please continue to prayer for baby Bergly in his recovery, all of our children, and everyone at Danita’s Children. I know I do not only speak for myself when I say that we are so grateful for this life.

His eye is on the sparrow: Baby Rescue Program

A.K.A. one of the best parts of my week!

Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration because I truly love my life here… bbbuuttt, there aren’t many things better than squeezing the cheeks of some cute little babies while praying that they gained weight!

Valmyr
Valmyr

ISMYLOVE (get it... her name is Ismylove, as in... [she]ismylove. Clever, I know.
ISMYLOVE (get it… her name is Ismylove, as in… [she]ismylove. Clever, I know.
Truth: One of them hates me. His name is Vena and this is his second go around in this program. The first time he was with us he was the most finicky child I’ve ever seen. Only wanted to drink out of a red solo cup. After that was used for a bath one day, he would have nothing to do with is. For weeks he was so sweet and tender, laying in my lap all day while I worked… then he mustered up enough energy and this is what he looked like at most times:

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We just re-enrolled him into the program… and he still is pretty ticked off with life. He is three years old now and has regressed back into the extremely malnourished bracket. Who knew I could love someone so much who cries if I even look at him for too long.

Isabella - she fell off of a table as a newborn and has a skull fracture. Living miracle!
Isabella – she fell off of a table as a newborn and has a skull fracture. Living miracle!

I am grateful to walk this journey with these little guys and celebrate as they recover using the Medika Mamba, peanut butter based baby food. Pray with us for each of them (Vena, Valmyr, Ismylove, Junior, and Isabella) and I will keep you updated along the way.

God is love. Pass it on.

 

Let’s Just Say… Whoa.

So when I woke up this morning I had no idea what the day would hold. Work in the office, play with some kids, possibly deal with something crazy and never heard of in the United States. What I didn’t expect was to spend six hours at a Haitian woman’s bedside, fanning her with a piece of cardboard and praying her through contractions. All while another woman across the room screamed through delivery, a teenager came in with a prematurely broken water and two orphaned young girls hung out on a bed with an IV in the arm of one who was pregnant. No separation curtain things. No screens. No medication. Just some beds and some Dominican nurses with attitude and some screaming women. And me and my friend, Brittany.

I was praying this morning while getting ready, and may have asked God to give me opportunities to specifically show the love of Jesus. Little did I know – knowing what this day would hold before I was ever born – Jesus was replying, “ha… you have no idea.”

I knew I needed to make a trip to Dajabon at some point, so when I saw our errand staff on his way there I jumped in the cart to catch a ride. Ironically, I couldn’t do what I needed to do, but in true daily fashion, this lead to that, and I ended up at the hospital. One of our teachers was in labor, and whoa.

Usually Haitians birth their own babies, in their own homes, with whatever they can find and a razor blade. No, seriously they do. But she, Lovelie, had the luxury of birthing in a hospital… and whoa. I just couldn’t believe the “luxury” that she was granted. Ceiling tiles falling out, rust and water stains all over the walls, painting and construction in the room next door (just what every mother wants for their new born baby – paint fumes and construction dust) and no privacy what-so-ever. There were eight beds in the room, each labeled with a piece of tape on the wall. All supplies needed for labor/delivery have to be brought in – sheets, towels, nightgown, receiving blankets, newborn outfit, socks, that little sucker thing that moms use to suck boogies out of their kid’s noses. Talk about planning ahead. If you don’t remember, you don’t have it. Don’t even think about being catered to or pampered in the worst pain any human can go through without dying.

Along with being in such luxury, Brittany and I were trying to fully understand the Haitian process of giving birth. Cultural differences at their finest. Lovelie’s sisters were there, just kind of watching and “allowing the process to happen”. They kind of smirked together as they explained these ways to us. That she couldn’t have pain medication because, well, you can’t have birth without pain. They’ll just know it’s time when her pain is a certain way (aka she’s about to die) and she pushes and a head shows. And she couldn’t drink water because if she needs a c-section it may come out. Duh… why didn’t I think of that?

Long story short, there are a lot of things about labor and delivery that are only known by people who have had babies. It must be like a secret society or something, because whoa. Prolly because they know if they shared with those who hadn’t been initiated yet then our population would slowly dwindle. I had no idea. And I must say, I’m a little traumatized. And will explain no further – for the sake of mixed company and others who are not yet in the society – I’ll just say… whoa, whoa, whoa. I just stuck to my job of fanning with the cardboard and praying when she looked like she might pass out and saying things that roughly translate to: “Jesus is here with you” and “push a lot down there” and “breathe like this”. What I didn’t do was let my eyes wander. Lesson quickly learned – as little eye wandering as possible. A couple of times things happened and Brittany and I just got big eyes and look around to see if anyone else was freaking out and tried to play it cool, calm and collected… clearly newbies into this society of pain also known of childbirth.

After one nurse kept screaming at her to not whine and to push like a man, popping her stomach a lot in this weird way (cultural?) and slapping her in the face when her pain was so heavy that she wasn’t focusing enough, she claimed it as “time to deliver”. The doctor continuously pushed on her stomach with the stethoscope and promptly rushed her out of the ugly room with all the beds while saying something in spanish about it being fatal.

 [WHAT?!] Exactly! I know, that’s what I said, too. 

Enter longest silent moment of my life…. scary, scary praying…. Brittany and I watching the scary delivery in the emergency room, because, well, what is protocol, anyways… the nurses, literally, pushing on her stomach while they jump up and down because the baby was too high to come through the canal, lots of other gross stuff, and then – big sigh of relief – the cries of a little baby girl!

They asked us to name her, to hold her before anyone else, and, after much deliberation and discussion during the earlier fanning process, we presented her to her mother… as Esther – a courageous girl who God gave a big voice to speak on behalf of her people in their suffering. The family was SO extremely happy because 1. It was a good, strong, Biblical name and 2. We made a little presentation of their baby to them, which they took very seriously, and stood with them for six hours and got them lunch and took care of their sister when it was time to eat. It really is the small things, folks.

After the Lion King-ish ceremony was concluded, Brittany and I exited down the hallway in an end of a movie type, full-circle, compellingly cool moment, tired and sticky with sweat, feeling pretty mid-wife-ish (it is hard work watching someone that stressed out), but ultimately content, and excited to return with goodies. We looked at each other and high fived. It’s been a good day.

Once again, I’m ending my day exhausted and grateful and honored for the amazing and beautiful and fully traumatizing moments that God allows me to be a part of in this crazy place and in this crazy life. I would want to be spending these days nowhere else.

Welcome to the world, little Esther Jean-Baptiste – you’ve been claimed and destined for great things!