It’s coming up on a year since I, for the third time, ran and finished the Boston Marathon. This year I’ll show up and cheer my running sister and therefore I get all of the fun, passion and joy without any of the work. That’s a benefit of nearing 60 – you get the joy while passing on the work to the “smaaht, young people.” I still run and have for 20 years. Just recently I noticed, while running in Haiti, that I find comfort in my surroundings. Dirty cement walls, broken buildings with street vendors sitting out front, coffee makers sitting next to toilet plungers for sale, donkeys, pigs, street dogs, plastic jugs of kerosene, and on and on, the random list goes of what I might pass. I jog by a mom with her child we delivered, and stop for a quick chat, several people greet me by name, I am known. When in the 20 plus years did this become home? Why is it a place that resembles Gaza does more for me than running in the fields of Vermont? Since when did the familiarity of a trash pile make me feel at home? Oh yes, rural Haiti is so very beautiful but not the city where I live. Yet I find a loveliness here, a knowing, a belonging. Broken me running along a broken street. Yes, I’m home.
Broken. I’m going on day three of broken sleep. Two deliveries and one gal in early labor, who is demanding to have her baby and thinks she should have delivered days ago. In between these labors we have program and yesterday was Child Development. We have a very poor, quiet mom who comes each day to take home milk for her 3-month-old baby that she delivered with us. Our ladies pump and we fill in the rest with formula when we have to. This lady fell into boiling water when she was a child and severely burned her chest and the scar tissue left behind yields little milk. Her last two babies died. We assume they starved to death and we are helping to make sure this one doesn’t. Yesterday she nonchalantly told me that her 15 month old died the day before. He had a cold. She gave him “chico” (third world cheese puffs) for breakfast and then he died. While absorbing this info I hear that a 5 year old visiting with his teen mom told our housekeeper that he sees men beat his mom. This is a girl we love dearly. I went home deflated.
Meanwhile Beth KJ, one of our midwives, took to chatting with the grandma of the baby yet to be born. Her daughter, who is in the earliest of labor, is sort of refusing to go home till this baby is out. Grandmas are fascinating in any culture and here they come with years’ worth of cultural information. What a story she had. Her own labors took many days so her friends and family took it upon themselves to speed things up. They gathered round and kicked a dog together thinking this would get things going. Poor beast.
Then when the baby finally did come, instead of giving him life-giving colostrum at mom’s breast, they gave the baby a concoction of amniotic fluid, mom’s blood and mom’s waste to drink. These are folks that love their babies just like you and I do. These are women that are trying to help and keep death from stealing their children. When a country lacks infrastructure, education, health care and good nutrition, then superstition rules the day. Superstition kills the babies and all too often the moms as well. We hear story after story that seem incredulous to us but are just fact to the one telling us.
Today we did our weekly teaching at the government hospital. We sing, we chat with each mom, we hope the nurses catch on and join us. I was drawn to an edematous, unresponsive mom with a man and sitting at her side. I tucked the baby under mom’s heart and dad tenderly held the infant at the breast. Mom, who has eclampsia, seemed unaware. Dad told me she had been seizing and he hopes she will be okay since she has 2 other kids at home. We prayed and as we did the baby began to nurse at the empty breast of a very sick mom. Woman after woman is preeclamptic here. This enemy of moms and babies fills the ward claiming lives one after the other.
It’s a broken world and here we are, all runners trying to make it to the finish line. Grandmas with their voodoo teas, men with their pounding fists, hospitals without medicine all fill a world we can’t fix. There is no stopping; there is no quitting. Only running step by step, helping all we can, for those we can, for as long as we can.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:1,2
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