Today, we are venturing to the village of Prospere!
John Ackerman (To the Least of These) has been working in Haiti for about 25 years. He is an amazing man who has given all of these years to caring for the medical needs of Haitians. He has a clinic in the village of Prospere and has graciously invited us out to the clinic for two days while we are here.
John picks us up today at about 7.30am and we embark on the one and a half hour drive out to the village. I really appreciate both John’s and Jean’s driving abilities. Driving here is definitely an art. Prospere is close to the Dominican Republic border and the land is beautiful and bountiful with crops. I notice that there are wells in the little communities we pass through. There seems to have been less earthquake damage here, further out of the city. And there are fewer walls. In the city, everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, is behind a wall. As you drive down the streets in the city, all that you see are walls with gates on either side. Often, it is impossible to see the buildings behind the walls, although some homes are easily visible. I noticed that the further out we went in the country, the fewer walls there were. Still, some pockets of homes have security walls around them, but many do not. A culvert with water runs alongside the road for a good part of the journey. People are bathing in it, playing in it, cooling off in it.
John has put word out that the pregnant women in the area are welcome to come see the midwives for a prenatal today. We do not know what to expect … maybe no one will show up … or maybe, just maybe, as we crest the last little hill and drive up to the clinic building, we will see so many beautiful pregnant bellies that it is overwhelming …and this is just what happens! Word is definitely out that we are coming today! There are pregnant women *everywhere*! We open up the door to the clinic, which is a 1 room concrete building that John has quite well stocked and from which he provides care to the people in this area. It is the consummate “where there is not doctor” situation … but in this little place, there is a compassionate man who is willing and capable to bring his knowledge to the people and care for their needs.
How will we keep order? There are so many women! Lisa and I are midwives who are used to spending around an hour with each prenatal, so seeing 40+ women in a few hours is definitely going to be a challenge. We tear up some index cards, write numbers on them, and then go out to the covered area where most of the women have congregated. On our first go at passing out numbers, we realize that we have 35 pregnant mamas to see … and that number grows to 50 as the women continue to show up over the next few hours.
Initially, Lisa and I are working together with Jean translating … but after a few prenatals, we realize that it will be much more efficient if we work separately with John translating for Lisa and Jean translating for me. We find a rhythm and hopefully provided some worthwhile care to the women. In the process of each prenatal, we are able to gather SO MUCH data! The women are so very willing to talk openly about their current and past pregnancies and births. Many babies in this village die (I have not compiled the stats that we gathered) and we are interested to find out from the mamas that, for the most part, the deaths happen between 7 and 14 months of age. So, the mortality rate doesn’t appear to be pregnancy or birth or even postpartum related. Although there does seem to be a potential correlation between weaning and the babies dying. This is only a problem that additional research can solve. I am intrigued and interested to find out if it is a trend in other locales in Haiti, or isolated to this area.
We end each prenatal by giving the mama another little piece of paper with a smilie face on it and telling them to return in a few days so that we can give each a clean birth kit for their midwife to use at the birth.
Midway through the day an older woman rushes in with a quite-pregnant mama and urgently states that “she’s in labor!!!” For a moment, Lisa and I are giddy (wouldn’t that great to get to do an unanticipated birth?!?). So I begin checking out the mama and as I chat with the older woman, I find out that she is actually a midwife. The mama is not in labor and the midwife just wants to talk with us. I love her creativity! From one midwife to another, I give her kudos for knowing exactly how to get our attention :). Little did she know that we were so very excited to “find” her and have the opportunity to talk!
Their faces are beautiful and their personalities are, for the most part, charming. Their names are wonderful … Cecelia, Chantelle, Makena, Natalie, Karlena, Magdala, Ophelia, Jeanette, Antoinette …
At the end of the day (which is really some time in the afternoon … but it’s HOT and it’s been a LOT of work to do these prenatals), we pile back in John’s truck and trek back to the city. The fields of corn and tranquility of the country are lost to the sounds of horns honking and sirens screaming as we arrive back “home”.
It was a good … no … a GREAT day. Day 2 of no expectations and Day 2 of being blown away by the kindness of the people in this country that is so hard-hit by disaster after disaster. I go to bed so very excited about all of the good data that we were able to gather and hopeful that we’ve helped these ladies in some small way.