Friday, December 4, 2015

Behind the Belly II

Each Tuesday and Thursday I am face to face with swollen belly upon swollen belly. Getting to do new admit forms for them is one of my favorite things. I love to go and sit among them rather than face them from across a long white table. I want to sweat in between them, make jokes about how many babies I think they are carrying due to their size, sympathizing with them about how swollen their feet are getting, being grossed out about how many of them spit almost constantly throughout their pregnancy (yes its a thing). Sometimes they joke back with me and asking me if I've actually ever even had children as I explain how to use our birthing kits when the baby arrivesas if I'm a professional. I let them tell me that they think I will cry a lot and how children cause a lot of misery because they almost always grow up to be disobedient.
As usual, I get attached to one....ok a lot of them...but sometimes theres one in particular that stands out; that then becomes a friend. Thats Lozette to me. Let me tell you about my friend. She had one of the hardest pregnancies I have seen any of our ladies experience.  Each week was a battle to stay healthy and carry that baby to the best of her ability. Each week she struggled with insanely high blood pressure, fevers, frequent vomiting, dizziness, excessive sweating, indigestion, and insanely swollen feet. Basically, you name it, she had it on the regular. I could not wait until she gave birth to a beautiful bundle of joy and could enjoy the fruits of her labor (literally). But this woman never once complained. She never complained about having to sit all day to receive her medication or walk to the clinic every single week instead of every month to get her BP checked. She carried herself with such grace and poise at all times despite hardly being able to fit in any of her shoes due to swelling.
When I returned from my visit to the states at the end of October I was overjoyed to see her walk in one morning holding a little blanketed bundle. She had a baby boy!! And he was the apple of his mommys eye. She would come and sit next to me while she waited to be called telling me about how beautiful he is and how he was worth all of the suffering. I told her what an amazing job she did and that I never would have had that level of strength to endure with such perseverance to the finish line. I suppose if like Lozette I had already felt what it was like to carry a child for 9 months and then lose it before it ever turned 2 years old I would also take on a supernatural power to create the healthiest baby possible no matter the cost. And thats just what she did. Everything was going wonderfully.

Then one morning we got to clinic and there was an unusual influx of people waiting for us when we arrived at clinic. We were running around in a frenzy trying to get set up and get started so that on a wing and a prayer we could see everyone before dark. The sick kids started to get triaged when a woman came up front and said that one of the former pregnant ladies from our program had their baby and was not doing well. We told her to bring the lady to us. My heart has never sunk harder than it did when I saw them lead my beautiful Lozette up to the front and sit her down. Not my friend! Not my beautiful strong friend who had already endured so much. When she came up to the front it was clear that she was having a hard time taking a single breath. Her feet went back to being overly swollen and she was sweaty just like she was when she was struggling during her pregnancy. Her pleading eyes looked at us and she said ''mw santi pa bon (I dont feel good).'' We took her vitals and confirmed that she was very obviously in respiratory distress.  She did not understand what was happening to her or why. She was so scared. I knelt down on her level and explained to her that we know she does not feel well and that we will do everything in our power to find a hospital to send her to as fast as we could. She grabbed ahold of my hand. Then she would not let go. She began to close her eyes and focus on breathing in and breathing out. Clinic was bustling around me but all I could to was stand there and hold my friends hand and choke back the tears that were threatening to explode in front of almost 200 women and children in our clinic watching us. I held her hand for about 45 minutes. Some of those minutes were spent holding her up as she leaned on me with two hands and rested her head against my arm as if trying to feel some semblance of comfort and safety. Halfway through that time when she felt a little calmer she looked at me and said please I am worried about my baby. I have not been able to breastfeed him for the last 3 days since I started feeling like this and he has not had anything to eat. Please do something for him. I promised her I would be right back by her side to hold her hand as soon as i checked her baby and got some formula mixed up to fill his little tummy. I got a bottle mixed up and gave it to Lozettes sister to give to the baby. Lozette seemed relieved at the sight of that. I resumed my position next to her. Eventually that day we sent her to a hospital where she was put on a ventilator to give her lungs a rest for a few days.

 Just as we suspected she was diagnosed with post partum cardio myopathy.  That is a heart condition that sometimes develops after a woman gives birth and if not treated can be fatal. PPCM presents itself arbitrarily.  That means that nothing Lozette did or did not do was to blame for the formation of this condition. It is literally by chance (well we know that nothing comes as a surprise to the One who holds all past, present, and future). My heart was so broken for this woman who I watched struggle so hard to carry that little life. And just when it seemed that things would finally be okay for her, this happens. This also means for a woman in Haiti with PPCM that she may never be able to get pregnant again without the large possibility of dying before carrying the baby to term. So this was the last new baby she would get to have. He was destined for greatness.
Lozette remained in the hospital for about a week and a half. I was able to visit her once and she seemed to be stable and appreciated seeing a familiar face. She was finally discharged last Thursday.  This past Monday she came to clinic to bring us her prescription and discharge papers. I was so so happy to see her and she seemed to have improved greatly. I sat down next to her and kissed her on the cheek and gave her a hug. I asked her how she was feeling and she said a lot better thanks to God. I asked her if she saw her baby and how he was doing. She looked at me straight in the face and in a soft whisper of a voice she told me that he died this past Saturday.
WHATTTT?!?! WHY GOD, WHY? Why did it have to be her. Only 2 days after she was discharged from the hospital her child died. We had just seen him less than a week before to give more formula and he looked fine. How could this have happened. How could my God let this happen? She proceeded to tell me that he had a lot of diarrhea and vomiting and died a few days after it started. The best we can guess is that maybe the water his formula was being mixed with was not treated and maybe he got cholera.
This happened days ago. And it is still constantly on my mind. Im grieving for her. I do not yet have children of my own but I know what it is like to love a little human so deeply and completely and I cannot imagine what she is going through. Every night she goes to sleep with no one to tuck in or breastfeed in the middle of the night for late night bonding.  All of that work those last 9 months only to have him taken away a month later. One thing I do know is that God has a plan for Lozettes life. And I have to trust that it will be bigger than the void the death of her son created in her heart. But right now it sucks. It sucks so bad. I can't help but hold onto a little burning anger at the injustice of the hand she was dealt. It is my deepest desire that she feels comfort and love and support not from me but from the only One who can make her feel comforted and loved and supported. Until she is able to sense that, I will continue to enjoy seeing her come to clinic to chat and get her meds. Despite the tragedy shes still radiant as ever. I pray that in the face of such suffering I too could carry on with that same measure of grace.

I was hoping that my posts from Behind the Belly would highlight the hope and future that CHM is working to help provide for the pregnant women of Carrefour, but you also need to be aware of the stark reality for our moms despite our best efforts. And sometimes its hard to swallow,  its hard to not let feelings of 'whats the point of even trying if it wont even make a difference' creep into the back of your mind. But the key to remember is that maybr God brought Lozette to CHM so that we could be the encouragement and companionship she needs as she walks through this time in her life. And if that is the case, as I can only speak for myself, I am honored.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Behind the Belly

Hello Family and friends and supporters,
My, it has been a while since I have posted about clinic! {Foster}mom life has overtaken me to say the least. Now that we {Maydelie} have gotten in the groove of school and we have gotten clinic back into a manageable groove, I am able to take time to reflect on the days and their individual happenings. One of the most recent musings I had was about yesterday. As I was reflecting on the {long} clinic day that I had just had (it was already 7pm and dark and I was not yet home) I was realizing how much of a blessing clinic has been for me and its not always about us being a blessing for those we serve.

Due to the sheer girth our pregnant mom program has grown to, it has become the one part of our clinic day that tends to take up a lot of our time some days, but I have grown to realize what a treasure it is. I get to see older veteran moms sit alongside the young first time moms and chat all day. I get to see women who are not sure if they are pregnant and/or didnt realize they were pregnant. I get to see moms proudly parade their little bundles into clinic after they have given birth. There is something so heartwarming about each and every story. Sometimes there is sadness, sometimes there is joy, and if I do not keep my eyes open for it, I will miss the beauty of what the Lord wants me to see. I have been learning to not only see the swollen bellies in front of me, but rather to focus on the story Behind the Belly. So today I give to you your first installment.

For example, yesterday, like any other thursday clinic day, it came time to gather our pregnant ladies and begin seeing them one by one. Once we separated all of them there was one older woman in the back of the room who was alone, didn't look pregnant, and did not have a kid with her. We asked her why she was here. She said she wasnt feeling well. We informed her that we had a clinic for children and pregnant women only and that if she needed an adult consultation she would need to find a different clinic. She just kept saying that she didnt feel well. I tried to glean some more info by asking her what made her feel that she wasnt feeling well. She just kept saying that she was not feeling well. She eventually shared that she had some dizziness and that sometimes her body hurts. I told her that unfortunately due to the amount of children we still had left to see, we would not be able to help her today. She then shared with me that it had been about 3 months since she had seen her last period and she didnt know if maybe she was pregnant. NOW THAT I COULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT!! I gladly offered her a nice little cup in which she could go pee in and I got my pregnancy test ready. When she returned with the "specimen" I conducted the test. Not 4 seconds after the dipstick touched the pee, 2 faint lines immediately appeared. Now I got excited for her. We would be able to put her in our pregnant mom program and provide her with crucial tests and vitamins for her new pregnancy.

As I began to fill out a file for her I realized the weight of what just happened. She shared with me that she has no children. But this is not her first pregnancy. No, she had previously given birth 4 times. She shared with me that all of them had died. One of them at the age of 2, died but she never knew there was anything wrong with it. One of them at the age of one month, but again she never knew anything was wrong with it. And two more separate pregnancies, she lost both babies on the day they were born due to unknown circumstances. The last baby that she had given birth to was 3 yers ago. It hit me that the news I had just flippantly shared with her probably welled up a great deal of emotions for this lady. Im sure there was some fear, excitement, joy, nervousness, sadness, and a great deal of caution.

As I contiued to fill out her dossier I began to do some of our routine tests on her (i.e. blood pressure, weight check, etc) I found that at just 3 months pregnant her blood pressure was extremely high. We were able to give her some medication to help manage her blood pressure, and start her on some vitamins. I was able to share with her that there is hope and that she is not alone and we will come alongside her during this pregnancy to help ensure that this new baby, this promise of new life, has the best possible chance at survival. She looked at me with the slightest bit of mist in her eyes and said thank you. And thank you for giving her hope for this new life inside of her. I think she will be one of my very favorite upcoming births!!

This is not even the only one. There are tons of other stories just like it. I get to play a small part in this on.the.regular. I am totally the lucky one. And it is an honor that God has saw fit to use me in this way  for this season of my life. Stay tuned as I try to start sharing more of these stories "behind the belly."

I would love for you to share this story with friends that you know, and encourage them to also come alongside of me as a ministry partner. If you or someone you know would like to support myself and the small part I play in the scheme of Children's Health Ministries you can make a one time or recurring monthly donation at: OR you can send a check addressed to Children's Health Ministries to 8049 White Sands Blvd, Navare, Fl 32566 with LYDIA DEPUTY in the memo line.

Friday, July 10, 2015

By His Wounds, Not Hers

(this post was written over a week ago but never got a chance to be published. stay tuned to the end ot see an update)
         Ever since I started realizing that Haiti wasn’t all about the cute little kids in the orphanages, I started to see that behind every cute little kid lies a whole world I know nothing about. I began to actually see these kids and their families and realize that there has got to be another way outside of institutions. Working with Children’s Health Ministries, I have seen the love and care that these parents have for their children. The drive to fight for them, and fight to keep them alive even when all they have to give them is the love in their hearts and a holey tin roof over their heads.

         Unfortunately, at the same time while being surrounded by so many caring and concerned parents who want nothing but health and life for their children, you see that one lonely disheveled girl sitting in the corner singing softly to herself. The little girl in the corner with the nappy unkempt hair, sweaty face peppered with a skin infection is not a product of a loving and caring parent. This is not her first rodeo with CHM. She was malnourished once before and even had to get inpatient treatment. Now her mom has had another baby, another cuter, not sick little baby boy. This only adds to the misery of her life. Each week, she is brought by a neighbor to clinic where she sits there all day blending in with the background of the hustle and bustle of clinic. Eventually, her mother shows up with the baby because her son is being tracked through the baby program. Usually about halfway through the clinic day, she can be found in the front sleeping while standing up with her little body bent in half resting her head on the seat of a wooden bench.

          The mom is there all day but has zero interaction with her daughter. No love, no hugs, no water, no food. It is a known fact among the other parents that the mom beats her. And often for no reason at all. When the mom is asked why she beats her 3 year old, she tells us that it is because she goes to the bathroom in her bed. We try to tell her that beating her child is not the correct response to that incident. The mom refuses to take responsibility for her actions. She does not listen to us when we tell her that her daughter goes to the bathroom in her bed because she has diarrhea due to a lack of treated drinking water; although free Clorox is provided to her for doing so.  We wrack our brains with how to help her. This mom has already told us that she doesn’t want her anymore and wants to put her in an orphanage. Then she tried to offer her to one of us. We know the best place for a child with living parents is at home with them, but how do you hold fast to that when every day of this child’s life is miserable? How do you address the rampant skin infections on her face and body when you know after you treat them they will come right back over and over again because nothing in her life will have changed?

          So each day, the rest of the moms and their children sit at clinic waiting to be seen, overlooking the little dirty girl that sits in the outskirts of the crowd. Each week she comes back, looking a little bit worse, but it’s not like they notice her. One time when her mom came to clinic, she left with her baby and her little girl, but her daughter was barefoot. She never came with shoes, but the sad thing is, her 7 month old brother that doesn’t walk had nice shoes on.

         There was this one time when I actually saw misery step aside and let joy shine through. When she looks at her little brother she tries to contain it but she can’t help but let a smile slip into the corners of her lips. She sometimes holds onto one of his feet from a distance as if to say, “I’m here. You have nothing to worry about.”

          Maydelie’s situation challenges everything I think about the way the family unit should stay together here. At what point of realizing that the child will only know the feeling of misery most of her life do you begin to think of an alternative? What alternatives are even out there? She is not a poor little Haitian girl in need of saving. She {and her mother} are in need of being seen and shown the love of the Savior. She is in need of people to notice her and what she is going through. She is in need of someone to let her know that this is not the way that life should be. Sometimes her eyes lock on mine and I try to think about what is going through her head, but those beautiful brown beauties look so dead and lifeless. This is not the way life should be people. I don’t know what the solution is yet, but I do know that I can share a little glimpse into Maydelie’s life so that you all can see her too. And maybe one day the right person will see her and offer a solution for her and her family to strengthen and heal them as a unit.

Yesterday, the neighbor brought Maydelie to clinic. Her feet have become swollen with edema because she is again malnourished. The neighbor also showed us that the mom had beaten her with a stick on Monday (mind you it is now Thursday) and the welts were still raised and swollen. Maydelie walked with a limp because she was in pain. It has begun to be very clear that we can talk to this mom until we are blue in the face but it will not change how she treats her daughter. We have realized that if she stays in her current home situation, the mom may actually kill her daughter. Something had to change. We discussed options of what we could do. In the I agreed to take her to live with me temporarily while we seek help from a social worker and figure out next steps. It was evident that Satan was alive and well in our clinic yesterday. Maydelie's mom ended up showing up to clinic with a bunch of relatives and friends. The mom showed up toting a machete claiming she was going to chop her childs head off. This confirmed for us that we needed to move swiftly and get her in a safer situation. Talks were had, zone officials were called, loud discussions commenced, and then at the end I was left with this sleeping lump in my arms. Off we went to spend our first night together and the beginning of our journey to what I hope will be healing and safety for Maydelie. So friends, please pray for us. Pray for Maydelie. Pray that I can do my best at all times to show her the love of Christ. Pray that even though she does not speak to me yet, or show any emotion other than pain, that I will be able to meet her needs. I do not know what the future holds for Maydelie. I do not know what the future holds for her life and the life of her family, but I know who holds all the futures. My biggest hope and prayer is that I can show her that by His wounds we are healed, not hers. 

For as long as she is in my care, 
I will sing over her:
You have a Father, 
He calls you His own,
He'll never leave you,
And hears you when you call.
He knows your name,
He knows your every thought,
He sees each tear that falls,
      and hears you when you call.