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!