And so I’m home from three weeks in Haiti, but was it three weeks, or was it a lifetime?
Fifty-one pages of my journal are thronged with the sights and sounds, the smells and sensations, the spellbinding moments, the great surgings of emotion, and with the myriad striking souls that now throng my heart.
How ever shall I transform those pages into a few short blog posts? I scarcely know where to begin!
I guess I’ll begin at the beginning.
I plunged from the airplane into chaos. First to negotiate was the quagmire of confused passengers, choleric airport staff, indecipherable language, and morass of a-tumble luggage.
Next to set my nerves sizzling was the drive to MamaBaby. It was the wildest ride I’d ever been on, though before I’d make my harrowing return to the airport twenty days later, I’d brave four virtually identical trips on transports to and from the hospital.
Alex, MamaBaby’s unflinching driver, threaded his way at breakneck speed through the narrow streets strangled with pedestrians, motorbikes, cars, and Mack trucks, and with the dogs and goats and great, fat pigs that rummaged through the heaps of rubbish that stretched as far as my eyes could see. My ears rang with the jangle of horns and voices while the fumes of trash fires and exhaust burned my throat.
Then, of a sudden, MamaBaby loomed into view, and the relative winsomeness of the place and its people instantly began to soothe my ruffled soul.
I was granted twenty-four uneventful hours to meet the incredible staff and my fellow volunteers, to sleep away a peaceful night in spite of the riotous music that rattled the windows till two in the morning, and to launch into my wrestling match with Kreyol before the waves of mothers and babies that followed my arrival began to lap at our shores.
We were summoned from the next day’s breakfast table to a race down the roadway with a hastily-gathered collection of gear streaming in our wake to tend a woman who’d given birth to a tiny baby boy in the shelter of somebody’s doorway.
And then, with moist brows pressed against into the curves of my shoulders and sinewy arms wrapped around my sweaty neck, while rubbing backs and stroking bellies and crooning, “Bon. Bon travay, mama. Ou ka fe sa, Ou gen fo,” woman after woman snapped her fingers and clicked her tongue and sang “Mesami!” and “Why!” and pressed baby after baby after slick, wiggly, wailing baby into life.
The midwives were wise and skilled and seemingly tireless, the wee ones bright-eyed and resilient, the mothers strong and brave. Thirty-one of them walked to MamaBaby in labor, eight of them were sent on to the hospital, twenty-three of them stayed to birth, all of them are forged upon my heart.
Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll tell some of the stories that resonated most with me, but the stories won’t be accompanied by photographs, as I took no pictures of the women I served. Somehow, I felt I just shouldn’t.
I’ll tell about the midwives who birthed MamaBaby, and about the people who run MamaBaby, too, and I will include photos of them. I’m so grateful for the opportunity they granted me to slip in beside them and their astounding work.
Many thanks to those who sent me to MamaBaby with supplies and funds, they were needed far beyond what I could have imagined.
And innumerable thanks to my selfless husband for sending me off and away to Haiti at his own expense and with generous blessings. He’s already said that I may go again. And again. And again.
Visit MamaBaby Haiti on line to learn more and to find out how you, too, can be a part of their wonderful work.
Photographs by Kim, painting of mother and child by Rony Francois
Thank you so much for the gift of your time!
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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