Mostly, in Haiti, I spend my days here at MamaBaby Haiti blending my daily routines and relationships into a preparation for the unexpected. I have come to expect soft beautiful sunrises and sunsets and the sounds of animals all around me. I have come to expect the comings and going on the road and the familiar rice and beans served every day at noon.
But I have also come to expect trajedy and hearbreak. I have come to expect that the unexpected and the unthinkable will come to our door and that we will take a deep breath and somehow work it out.
Yesterday we drove, at sunset, to closest ocean shore and stood and watched the young boys go out in their father's fishing boat. We watched their laughter and how much they enjoyed chewing on sugar cane. We noticed the abundance of trees with grapefruit and sour oranges and bananas and the papaya trees whose bark glowed in the waning light. A small girl was catching a crab as her father checked the traps for the next mornings work. On the way home, we waved as we passed from village to village where people of all ages walked the dirt roads, visiting with friends and neighbors, eating outside over fires and selling small things by the road. We watched the teen agers courting and the children playing soccer with a piece of fruit in a dirt worn yard. And we all thought, despite how different ti was from our own life that there was such a goodness to life.
And then a mother comes in with her 8 week old baby who weights 2.3 kg and is covered with red, raw skin and rash for head to toe. The baby is barely alive. She has fed the baby garlic and salt tea for days. We slowly try to hydrate the baby; searching for what some volunteer may have brought here before. We ask questions. The mother had a heart defect as an infant that was never repaired. Her own mother refused the trip to Florida necessary for he surgery or perhaps it was not possible. The mother was told she can not breastfeed because of her heart but nothing else was offered. We try to get her to try to breastfeed but she refuses. She says the baby will die if she breastfeeds it and she believes this very deeply. We get a hold of a pediatrician who is has worked in Haiti for a long time and she says its better to not send a severely malnourished infant to the hospital. We also know that they are given an IV and sent back to us withe no long term solution or food.
So we settle in. She and the baby and a young cousin, sleep and eat and stay her with us. We try to get an ounce in and then two ounces. We bathe her and treat her as the doctor told us while a woman labors in the next room. None of us are sure she will live till morning and each person offers their own silent prayers and hopes and tries to make it better. We have midwives and nurses and a doctor on a cell phone.
Once years ago, I had a foster son from Vietnam who had what this mother suffers from. He could not be operated on because of the war in his country. I can see it all again in the way she breathes and the way she moves and her skin and I think I have seen this untreated heart before. His name was Phouc and he died in our home. The doctors hear tell her there is nothing more to do. I remember when OHSU told me there was nothing to do for Phouc and I should just take him home to die.
And this mom says to us, "Just save my baby. You can not save me." And so we try. I am an hour and half plane ride from Miami. We have our little band here but we are also so alone.
It is morning now and I can see, in my mind, the fisherman pushing their boats out into the sea as they have for hundreds of years; catching fish for the women to sell in the market. Watching the mountains emerge from the dark, lit from behind with a sun still soft and gentle.
Here the baby cries and we have made it through the night.
This baby. Her name is Esthere. And now I will, with all the love I know whoever you are who reads this has for all of us, go down and wash her wounds and feed her. I had to tell someone about her. I have to make her life real. I have to make it important so if you read this perhaps you will say her name today - Esthere- and she will be real and important for however long she or her mother may live.