I may be a mother now, and live in Haiti, but that doesn't mean I know what it feels like to be a Haitian mother. I have some patients who are Haitian mothers and have stories that are indicative of how hard it is to raise children in this country. Here are their stories.
The first story is of a woman who gave birth to her daughter, Isadora, just one month after I had Eleanor. She came to see me because she could no longer breast feed. She had severe post partum cardiomyopathy, a disease which is much more common in the third world and involves heart failure after giving birth. Researchers don't yet know exactly why it is more common in poor countries, but believe malnutrition may be a contributing factor. Her legs were swollen, she wasn't able to breathe well, her milk was coming out as clear as water, and she was too weak to hold her underweight child. We put Isadora on the formula fund, and put her mom on medicines to help her heart get stronger. Unfortunately, two weeks ago, I learned that Isadora's mother passed away, just 12 hours before her next appointment at the clinic. Isadora is not doing very well, either. A friend of her mother is raising her, and trying her best to give her bottles correctly, but she was not boiling the water for the formula properly, and Isadora has not been gaining weight. I gave her caretaker some instructions on how to better treat the water that she puts in the bottles, and I hope to see a healthier baby next week. Thank you to all of you who donate to this ministry, so that we are able to purchase formula for babies like Isadora.
The second mother I'd like to tell you about is a young woman who came to me with her 1 year old son. She came to see me because she had a very bad skin condition. I knew that the condition was more likely in HIV positive people, so I sent her to the laboratory for a test, and it was positive, as I had suspected. When I gave her the bad news that she was most likely infected with HIV, she did not seem surprised. She hung her head and told me about how hard it was to raise a son when the father was out of the picture. She said that she was humiliated by the way she was living, but that she couldn't bear to see her son go hungry, so she had been taking money for sex. She sat there crying as her son grabbed her by her sore arm and squirmed around for food. I asked her if she was going to church, and she said that she was attending a church, but couldn't talk to the pastor about her problems because he didn't approve of the way she was living. I asked her if she wanted to repent and turn her life over the Lord, and she said "I believe in the sacrifice Jesus made for my sins, but I can't accept Him until I get my life straightened out". I reminded her that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, and that if she would repent and come to Him, He would accept her just as she is, and help her to turn her life around, in His strength, not her own. She wanted to pray, so we prayed together for Christ to enter her heart and help her live differently. I pray that God will show her a way to provide for her son without compromising herself. I pray also for the pastor and members of the church where she is attending to accept her and help disciple her, instead of spurning her.
The third story of motherhood here in Haiti that I'd like to share involves a bridge in a city called Carrefour. It is a busy, dirty suburb of Port au Prince, not too far from Christianville. The bridge is well-known as a "dumping ground" for abandoned children. Several women, feeling that they have no other recourse, dump their babies over this bridge into the riverbed below from time to time. I have a patient who came to me one day with a small baby girl. She was a sweet little 2 month old baby with Down's syndrome and a precious smile. The woman showed me the baby and a vaccination card. She wanted to know how old the baby was and if the baby had any problems. The woman said that she had been passing by that bridge in Carrefour and found this girl, abandoned there, with her vaccination card next to her. We believe that the mother of the child must have gone to get her daughter vaccinated, been told that her child was mentally retarded, and decided that the burden of a special child was too much for her, so she abandoned her at the bridge. The woman who brought the little girl in to see me was just a bystander who decided that she had love in her heart for this little one and wanted to take on the difficult task of raising a child in Haiti. I told the woman that the child was most likely about two months old, and had Down's Syndrome, which would mean that she would develop more slowly than other children. I warned her that the child might never talk, and would most likely require attention well into adulthood. She accepted this and remained committed to raising this little girl. We put the baby on the formula fund, and she is doing amazingly well. Here is a picture of this precious girl now and the brave woman who took on motherhood in this difficult place.