The day started out with attending Easter service at a local church in town. We were told that Haitian's dress up nicely for church and it would be a good idea to dress appropriately. Glen donned a casual pair of slacks with a button up short-sleeve shirt that he had to borrow out of the closet in our room. I was thankful that I had thrown a dress and a pair of wedges into my bag to bring. I put it on and we walked out to the front of the house to get into the Jeep...only, instead of the pink Jeep waiting on us, there was a Haitian man on a motorcycle. Um, hmm. Here in Haiti, this is a "taxi." I looked at Glen, laughed, and thought, "Oh boy..." Glen and I jumped on, and Carrie (the guesthouse host) and Liz jumped on another. Off we went...me with my bright, multi-colored, 100% silk Presley Sky dress and 5 inch wedge heels on...hanging on to the motorcycle for dear life! What a spectacle, I am sure. By the time we got to church, my thighs hurt from clentching that motorcycle so tightly.
We went into the packed church and took our seats. I felt as though we stood out like sore thumbs, but much like yesterday, not an awkward or questioning look was given. The Haitians are neither warmly welcoming, nor are they cold or intimidating. They just are. A few minutes before service began, a leader of the church came up and said hello and asked us if we would like to stand up and introduce ourselves. We smiled and thanked him, but kindly said no thank you.
There was a huge choir, and they did plenty of singing. The words to each song were projected onto the wall, and we did our best to sing along. Glen of course seemed to really get into it. At one song in particular, toward the end of service, the chorus seemed to be repeating, but of course we had no idea what the meaning was. A Haitian man who spoke English approached us and knowing we likely did not understand, translated the words for us:
"Jesus is not dead. He is alive in our mouths. He is alive in our heads. He is alive in our bodies."
After he walked away, I felt the connection. I felt it in my heart and had to make an effort to not tear up.
After the service, we walked down to the hospital- 'Hopital Ste. Therese.' We were able to see where we would be working- the Labor and Delivery unit, Antepartum unit, and Postpartum unit. We were also shown where the OR is, as well as the Pharmacy- should we find ourselves needing a medication for a patient. It caught me by surprise how small the "Labor and Delivery" unit was...it's really only a small room, about the size of our office waiting room back home. There are 4 beds, all alongside eachother, divided by curtains.
It is not possible for me to verbalize the conditions of the hospital. Nothing I can say can describe it adequately. Nothing will do it justice. I can't describe the smell, or the heat, or what the combinationn of those two create. I can't describe the very old, crumbling, neglected building that is called a hospital.
Over the course of the afternoon I realized how easy it would be begin doubting what good our presence here does. The conditions are so terrible, you can't help but be overwhelmed by the poor conditions and ask, "What good does a doctor and a midwife visiting for 3 weeks do?" Really...what good is it? How much can 2 people help? And in the end, will it make a damn bit of difference? I found out though, that as terrible as the conditions are, the conditions, care, and outcomes have VASTLY improved over the years. Slowly, change and improvement is being made. It may seem dire and hopeless to those newcomers like Glen and I, but to those volunteers that have returned year after year, change is being made and is blatantly seen. To hear that lifted my thoughts and my heart.
After church, we went through the supplies we brought, sorted them for what we would keep for our personal use while here, what would be kept at the guesthouse for students and visitors, and what we would donate to the hospital. We then sat with Liz and made gift bags for the near-term moms who show up to clinic for care. Not only is it a way to provide a few basic items, but it is an incentive for them to come back for more prenatal care and/or birth. Each bag included a baby blanket, onesie, hat, and a cloth diaper. We made as much as we could, but within 20 minutes had run out of baby items. I so wish that we could have brought more.
After lunch and a nap, it was time to head to the orphanage. The children get fed every day at 3:30pm and the doors are open for volunteers to help. Back on the taxi motorcycles we went. We walked into the infant room and even more so than at the hospital, I had to make an effort to hold my emotions within and keep it together. Thankfully, the conditions were great. It was clean, the caretakers were lovely. It was just seeing all of those babies in a room lined with cribs. So many little mouths, and bodies, and minds, and emotions. So many lives that needed and deserved individual love and attention, but just simply no one to do it.
We were immediately handled bottles of warm formula and each found a baby who had not yet been fed. We sat on the cool cement floor, with our babies in our arms- talking sweetly to them, loving on them, and feeding them. It was in those first moments that it was re-affirmed to me that this was good...it is ok that we are only two people, who will come and go in the matter of weeks and still leave Haiti behind just as it is. Nothing will be changed simply because of us or any other two people. But we are supporting an organization who has and will continue to make change as a whole entity, over the span of many, many years. But best of all, and at the most basic level...as we sat there on the floor with those babies, we made a difference to them. The attention and the love we gave and the smiles we received will hopefully some day play a role to making them loving, compassionate human beings.
After we returned from the orphange, we took a 30 minute lesson in beginning Creole. It was fantastic! We got down the basics that we will need to maneuver through prenatal and postpartum appoitments, as well as birth. We asked our tutor how to say many things- "Hello, how are you feeling?" "Do you have any problems/pain?" "Are you feeling the baby move?" (Which, on a side note, literally translates out to "Are you feeling the baby walk?") "Push!" "You are ok." And lastly, "You are doing good!"
A 30 minute hike up the hill behind the house, followed by 20 minutes of yoga, dinner, and Liz french braiding my hair for me (what a MESS this mane of mine has been!), and our day has now nearly come to an end. Indeed, it was a full day- spiritually, physically, and emotionally. No better day for all of that than on Easter Sunday, as it was all a reminder of love and sacrifice.