The young woman wore dressy sandals on her feet with smudges of mud and dust on her ankles, but her top half was wearing a very cute green and orange flowered dress. In the middle was a little round tummy smeared with ultrasound gel. She is seventeen years old and pregnant...how far along, she has no idea. When I put my hands on her belly, I had a pretty good idea that it was about 18 weeks along. The ultrasound came up with 17. She lives with her aunt and doesn't know where her mom or dad are, or if they are even alive.
It's "Interview" day at Heartline Ministries Maternity Center in Port au Prince, Haiti, a day when pregnant applicants verify their pregnancy with a urine test, and hope to get into this program that will give them weekly pregnancy care and health services including their birth, all the way to 6 months postpartum. There are only 50 slots in the program. Today, 25+ showed up and sat for hours for a chance to be in this lucky club. They waited a long time, as it was busy; this morning, the 6th mom of the week delivered at this little birth center. 6 new moms, none have gone home, and Heartline has beds for 2, officially. The rest are cared for in office space and the birth room. 2 mamas nearly ready to go home both dressed and moved over to share one bed as a couch, where they ate breakfast and nursed their babies. The new delivery got the clean, vacated bed and settled in with a sigh. It's so nice when a birth is OVER, both for the mom and the midwives!
The midwives and staff didn't get a lot of time to sigh, however...Besides Interview day, each Friday is also Family Planning day, and the covered porch was full.very full, of women who came for a 3 months of birth control. We gave nearly 80 Depo injections and I inserted 2 IUD's that will give 5-10 years of contraception. I also stitched the post-partum mom, took blood pressures, and examined the newborn who is a healthy 7-pound boy named "Reggie", but this was minor extra work. Meanwhile the real Heartline staff midwives and doctor did ultrasounds, prenatal visits, treated a mama's high blood pressure, and conducted the interviews. I really missed my nurse-"peeps" from home who came with me on a recent trip, (Jen and Alicia,) due to to the aforementioned hypertensive lady and a new mom with big breastfeeding difficulties!
At the end of the day, two of the mothers were ready to go home. I piled in along in the ambulance/SUV with the moms and their babies and their bags of donated baby supplies. Midwife Tara almost ran over a pig deep in the muddy rut of one of the roads...yes, this is urban Port au Prince. We escorted each mom to her house- both tiny affairs with concrete floors and corrugated metal walls and tarps for shade just outside. One old Granny really lit up as her new great- grandbaby was brought home to her safe and clean and healthy. We prayed with the moms and babies, for their health,safety, protection. That's not the afterthought-- it is the heartbeat of this amazing work in Port au Prince, that is so small, but so true, so poignant, thereby so powerful, and nourishes not only these Haitian women, but this American one, too. Bon nuit from Heartline, Port au Prince, Haiti.