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.