Transfusions of Grace

Saturday, March 29, 2014

We walk through life and find, no matter how much we attempt to avoid it, we can become and often are victims of some surprising, painful, and unexpected events. We try to control our lives and environments enough to avoid such things, but inevitably we'll find ourselves in a place where the shock knocks us off our feet. The grief leaves us cold and bleeding on the floor while we struggle to grasp hold of something to put pressure on the wound and keep our souls from bleeding out. 

 Our minds go crazy, madly trying to find a way out of this mess we've been met with. Out. We want out. We want a different story. We want the problem and its family of drama and life changes to...just. Go. The. Hell. Away! We want a fix. We want to fix "it". 

But most often what we find, while struggling to stop this hemorrhaging of our soul all over the place, is grace.  As the transfusion of grace begins, we find our weak and anemic souls reviving again. 
We find peace in acceptance and grace. The grace to accept will always eventually rush through our veins if we'll consent to its transfusion. We find that, in acceptance, grace doesn't need to fix things. And when those moments, where we lacked oxygen, are met with infusion of grace, we revive changed and healed. Never the same, but alive and open to the grace that has transformed our very being.  When we look back at ourselves hemorrhaging on the floor and realize the miracle of grace we experienced, we are left awe struck before the Giver of Grace.  We are changed.

Prenatal Program

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Some of you have been asking for more details about what we do at Heartline Maternity Center. This will be a series of posts in which I introduce you to the different programs we have. Grab a cup of coffee and some chocolate (our favorites) and enjoy!

The World Health Organization reports that the maternal mortality ratio is 350 for every 100,000 live births in Haiti. The maternal mortality rate here is sixteen times higher than the United States and twenty-nine times higher than Canada. Only twenty-six percent of births in Haiti are attended by a skilled health professional.  Our desire at Heartline is to be a safe place where women can receive loving and respectful care and education through the midwifery model of care.

Ultrasound with Heartline staff
We have 40-45 pregnant women who come to the MC each Thursday for prenatal program. Most months we do 5-7 births.  There’s a much greater demand for maternal and infant health care here than 5-7 births a month, however, we feel that keeping our numbers small allows us to give quality, personalized, and respectful care to the ladies we serve. The morning starts with vitals for every woman.  Once vitals are done, everyone gets a high protein meal of eggs, fish, and rice.  For many of them this will be the most protein they will eat all week.  Nutrition often ends up being an issue for the mothers we care for.  Their pregnant bodies are expanding blood volume, growing tissue, cells, and a life inside of them and their need for protein is largely increased.  In a country where diets consist mostly of stomach filling carbohydrates and starches, this can present problems in pregnancy and birth.  Blood pressures go up, kidneys are compromised, fluid is retained and we begin to battle one of the top five killers of women in the third world...preeclampsia. 

After a protein packed meal has been cooked and served by some of our staff, all the ladies gather in one room to sing, pray, and have class. Classes are usually taught by staff midwives or nurses and consist of education on nutrition, the birth process, STIs, family planning, breastfeeding and many other subjects.  Education is a significant part of what we do at Heartline MC. In a culture where Catholicism, Christianity, and Voodoo are a melting pot of beliefs in the day to day life of many Haitians, we often see practices that are harmful to mothers and babies.  In providing education and truth to women about their bodies and their babies, we hope we will help them succeed in making safe choices for their health as well as the health of their babies.  After class, our ladies receive full prenatal check-ups by either a midwife or nurse.

Labor support
Labor support

When the time comes, the ladies who have been in the prenatal program throughout their pregnancy usually deliver here at the MC (Maternity Center).  We love being able to support and care for them during labor, delivery, and postpartum.  Once they give birth, we encourage new mothers to stay in our postpartum area for several days.  During this time we focus on their recovery and successful breastfeeding.  Only forty-one percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies in Haiti.  In a place where formula is expensive and water is often contaminated, the choice not to breastfeed can be the difference between life and death for babies. 
When postpartum recovery is well on its way and breastfeeding is established we take our new mommas home.  For the first six months after birth, we follow up with them weekly through our child development program. We love being able to build relationships with our ladies as we walk alongside them through pregnancy, birth, and the first several months postpartum!   

Learning to breastfeed

Taking a new momma home


Sunday, March 2, 2014

I’m getting nauseous at the very thought of it.  Every once in a while I think it’s a great idea to try running for exercise.  After all, people run full marathons…it can’t be that bad if a person can run 26.2 miles without stopping. 

The last time I ran, I walked into the gym and much to my dismay the only piece of unoccupied exercise equipment  was a treadmill.  I much prefer the elliptical.   It breaks up the bounciness of running and for someone who doesn’t love to exercise it at least keeps me from feeling like I’m in a never-ending torture chamber.  On this particular one treadmill open day I climbed on and started a brisk walk to warm up.  Treadmills bore me out of my ever-loving mind!  You’re on them forever and the number of calories burnt climbs slower than a turtle up a tree. Torture. Chamber.  To add some variety and try to break up the mundane of brisk treadmill walking, slow-climbing burnt calories, I decided to pick up the pace a little.  I turned the speed up until I got to a comfortable jogging pace. Wait, wait, wait.  That’s a total oxymoron. Comfortable jogging?!  I started out thinking, “This isn’t so bad. I really should make myself run more. Why don’t I do this more often?”  My optimism started to fade when the bouncing and my stomach ganged up me.  “Oh no. Here I go…the same feeling I get every time I run. I’m going to die.”  I looked down and thought I'd been running for at least five minutes.  Wait. What?! There was no way…those red numbers on that torture machine had to be wrong. It said I had been at a jogging pace for 2.5 minutes.  I had two choices.
1. Stop now and save the contents of  my stomach or 2. Keep going and vomit all over {a very full} Grapevine Activities Center.  I, of course, chose the former. I jumped off the torture machine and willed myself not to lose my stomach contents.

Now that you know how terrible running is for me, you must know how amazing I think people who can run long distances are.  Besides being a great physical feat, to run long distances or really any distance for that matter, speaks volumes of a persons will and strength to me.  I really know nothing about running since I find it torturous, but I’ve heard more running talk over the past five months than I ever thought I would.  I’ve become interested, intrigued, and amazed by the power and passion of a few long distance runners who have chosen to use their gifts to raise awareness and support for the people of Haiti. 

Beth McHoul, founder and director of Heartline Maternity Center, and sista midwife is training to run the Boston Marathon. Her run is one of passion and love for the people of Haiti.  She’s running to raise awareness and funds for literacy, for education, and for maternal health. At Heartline our mission is to intentionally walk alongside impoverished men, women, and children in Haiti, meeting critical physical, emotional, financial, educational, and most importantly - spiritual needs.   
 Will you join me in supporting Beth as she trains on the roads of Port-au-Prince and runs for the people of Haiti?

If you want to read an amazing running story that will bring tears to your eyes and spark a little passion in your soul, read about Run for Life Haiti.  Barry ran 315 miles across Haiti in twelve days!  His goal: to raise support and awareness to provide the women of Haiti with quality healthcare. 

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