Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

A memory of someone

In the winter (like February maybe?) before our family left for Kenya my wonderful girlfriend Natalie invited me to a women’s retreat.

I have to say that I generally find all sorts of reasonable excuses for why I can’t go to these kinds of things.  They just generally aren’t (or weren’t) my speed.  Too much awkward chit-chat.  Sometimes too much information from one person who overshares and dominates conversations.  People wanting to give unsolicited advice, dorky book bags with even dorkier iron-on graphics, and on and on.

Anyhow, I decided that I would go just for the benefit of spending time with my wonderful friends Natalie and Erika.  It was at the beach, and I still had some good skipping out skills in me that were perfected in highschool.  I figured if the sessions were too boring, I’d head to the beach.

So, short story on the retreat was that it was pleasantly surprising in the time I got to spend by myself and reflect.

The reason for me writing this post is that Natalie’s friend, LoriLee was the worship leader and piano  player during the conference.  She was unabashed in her worship and playing.  If I could paint a visual picture, you would see a dark haired, skinny women, standing at a keyboard, bouncing up and down and she banged on the keys.  She was one of those people who played the chorus OVER and OVER.

We kind of made some inside jokes about it.  I had never heard the song she banged out on the keyboard, but after that conference it was BURNED into my brain.

After coming back from Kenya, and a few short months later (I think), Natalie shared with me that her dear friend had died of a brain tumor.  The next day after going over a year and a half without hearing that banged out song, I heard it on the radio,  and it felt like LoriLee was singing it right at me.

Today, every time I heard that song, I think of Lorilee banging on that keyboard, of a wonderful retreat with my girlfriends and some great time to really reflect.

What song, or smell, or sight brings up a specific memory for you?

By the way, the song is My Savior My God by Aaron Shust,

 

Life is short

In the past month I have been so reminded of this fact.

My dear sister’s husband came down with a horrid illness that led to hospitalization, then acute rehab, and now home.  He has a long road of recovery & we are all praying  that he recovers all of his language and brain function.  Life changes in a second…..even when you live in a place like the US that seems relatively safe and routine with state of the art medicine, and technology and all of the things we surround ourselves with.

A friend returned from Kenya this last week.  She is a regular supporter of Karibu Centre and conducts regular trainings with the staff there.  A wonderful woman.  She brought with her the news that the husband of our househelp Elizabeth, had died.  I’m guessing he’s a few years older than I.  She lived right next door to our home at Karibu Centre, in the slum.  I met Elizabeth early on during our time in Kenya, she was one of 5 core women from the slum that volunteered to help Ian and I cook food for the feeding program that started Karibu Centre.  Elizabeth had spunk.  A tough woman who was interested in these wazungu.  A woman willing to pound stone all day long into ballast (gravel) just to earn a $1.50….because idle hands don’t feed  a family.  A few months before we left Kenya, and before Ameena arrived, Elizabeth came to work in our home.  It was an adjustment for both of us.  For her to be privy to American customs and ways of interacting.  For me to have this rough and slightly awkward woman in my business.    I am trying to imagine the circumstances that might have led to his death.  Thinking of Kenya, it could have been a sudden case of cholera, a misunderstanding that led to being beat to death, a matatu/truck accident, or trouble at work (he was a security guard).

And then dear Ameena.  My sweet baby is approaching a year old this next week and I can hardly believe it has come and gone so fast.  She truly is a unique baby.  Happy in spirit almost all of the time, quick to smile and laugh.   Easy going and pleasant.   She is the product of  such longing and hope, and a pregnancy experienced in a different culture and place.  Truly she had to end up a special baby!  I squeeze her, take in a breath of her smell as I rub my nose on her cheek and close my eyes capturing it all in a memory.

With Ian’s temporary job ending after May, it is easy to get wrapped up in worry and anticipation of what might be next.  But, in remembering how life is short, and unexpected, and never what you think…..I’ll choose instead to be grateful and thankful for the moments of today.

Comin’ home

From the moment Ian and I committed to coming to Kenya we knew that we’d be short-term missionary-type folk, staying until summer 2010, which is now upon us.

There were SOOO many pieces that were brought together in this crazy adventure puzzle that it was IMPOSSIBLE for me and Ian to deny that coming to Kenya was something we were supposed to do.  We’d toyed with the idea of overseas missions when we were first married, but then grad school, and work, and kids came along and that was that.  And when the inklings of Kenya started to come up, believe you me, I worked pretty hard to find EVERY excuse on why it wouldn’t work for our family:

We had a great house & house payment.  🙂

I loved my job.

Ian loved his job & it provided well for our family & he wanted to advance.

We had kids aged 2 & 3 years.

I was pregnant.

We had dogs.

We liked seeing our family.

We were “settled”.

I got diagnosed with CANCER a week before we we’re scheduled to fly out. 

I didn’t want to be a “missionary” and “preach it” to people in the traditional sense.

We loved our amazing group of friends.

It was too much  work to figure out how to pack everything up to move to a foreign county.

But, you know what?  God has some amazing ways of working through the excuses, if you stop for a moment and let him.  Why do we think decisions or changes like this in our lives will be easy?  Imagine the disciples as Jesus called them to follow him.  They had jobs.  They had families.  They were going into the unknown & uncomfortable.  I can’t imagine that the prospect of leaving the comfortable seemed appealing and lucrative to any of them.

Our society has done us a great disservice in convincing us that we deserve to be comfortable and secure all of the time.  In being so, we miss out on the amazing adventure and blessings that can await us.  I wish that I could relay to all of  you what an incredible experience this has been…..to convince each and every one of you that you too could do this.  Do you really have any excuses better than the ones listed above?  Do you know that we have experienced death, disease, sabotage, physical attack, hatred, fear and all of the other weapons that Satan uses to discourage…..and in the face of those things we have had the wonder to experience birth, joy, mercy, compassion, protection, awareness, beauty, friendship, and stewardship?

In August 2008, on Ian’s birthday & the day that we found out we would miscarry what would have been our 3rd baby, Orphans Overseas unknowingly called to talk about this position with us.  Remember how I had come up with every excuse of why we couldn’t come here?   Being pregnant was my ticket to not “having” to listen to our calling.   And God, in his wisdom, knowing that I need blows to the head to listen, timed that loss with an open door….all on the same day.

So, we committed then to coming here to Thika until summer 2010 (NOW!) with the goal of getting Karibu Centre and it’s programs up and running.  And, today I can say that we have been more than successful despite huge obstacles here.  I can also say that if God had given me another  “blow to the head” saying that we needed to stay longer, that we would have listened to that too.  But, he hasn’t, and we feel confident in our original plan to return home and make way for the next phase of Karibu Centre.  I can not wait to watch how things progress here and to see the ways this amazing program will continue to impact everyone involved.  I am also excited for those who will follow us and how they will be forever changed simply by being willing to leave the comfortable and come here to partner with the staff, residents, children and community.  I am also so grateful we took the chance, followed our hearts, and now will carry this experience deep within us for the rest of our lives. 

We’re on our countdown to comin’ home & I can’t wait to share with you over the next 2 weeks some of our favorite things about this experience.

17 Days until we hop on that plane!  Please pray for this transition for our family and for Karibu Centre, we have grown to love the people we live among and leaving will be tough!

 

 

 

The morgue

If you’re a facebooker and follow the Karibu Centre posts or see my status updates then you will know that on Monday we got the devastating news that one of our vulnerable pregnant moms had a nonviable baby.

She was 40 weeks when she got the diagnosis, a day away from her estimated due date.  She had felt the baby moving just 2 days previous and had pains like her body was preparing for labor.

After 2 full days of being poked, prodded, and taking a variety of medications to induce labor, she delivered a baby boy this morning.  Stillborn. 

The doctor called our house and let us know.

I went first thing in the morning with Naomi, our housemother who watches after the girls.  Our girl was sitting on a  bed with another women and her baby, in the room where women go after delivering.

Can you imagine?  You’ve just finally delivered a stilborn baby after 48 hours of finding out, and then you are expected to “recover” in a room of about 15 women and their newborns.  Torture.

I asked the mom if she had a chance to  see or hold the baby.  She replied, “No, I was too scared” which isn’t surprising considering that in most hospitals in Kenya a woman labors alone and is told very little of what is going on.

I asked if she might like to  see the baby, if we were with her.  “Yes,” she replied.

The housemother and I went to the nursing staff (4 employees sitting at a desk in the hall chatting like it was happy hour at a bar) and inquired if we might see the baby.  “It’s in the nursery” they asked.  “Uh, no……it’s dead,” I replied.  Seriously, I have to say these kinds of things????  Thank God the mom wasn’t standing there with us.   They looked back at me with this look on their face that read CRAZY WOMAN and said, “You want to SEE it?”  

“YES!” 

Now I guess that it might seem strange to someone, but my reasoning was twofold.  One, you never know what goes on in these kinds of places and I wanted to see with my own two eyes the condition of the baby and that it was actually deceased.  Two, this mother had carried this baby for 40 weeks and it seemed pretty reasonable that she might hold it or at least look at it if she chose.  That whole bit about acknowledging grief and what an incredible loss this had been for her.

We (myself, housemother and mother of the baby) went to locate the morgue where they said the baby had been taken.  We were stopped by the man in charge who indicated that it was much too busy currently with people picking up bodies for funerals.  I thought, “Really?  She can’t take a minute to say goodbye to her baby?”  

I really didn’t understand what was going on, although I should have read between the lines.  The housemother walked the mother and I back towards the maternity ward and we left the mother to go check on another girl that we had brought to the clinic for her well-baby check up.   The housemother and I walked towards the van, but then she veered off on the entrance road like she was leaving the hospital.

She looked back at me as I was going towards the van and the well-baby clinic and motioned for me to come with her.   “What are you doing,”  I asked.   “The doctor is meeting us” she replied, and proceeded to walk outside of the hospital grounds to one of the main roads.  We walked a short distance on the dirt shoulder of the road, passing  the line of matatus that were waiting to pick passengers up.  And then I realized we were going to the public entrance of the morgue.  We came to an opening in the hedge, and the opening to the morgue, and there I saw a huge gathering of people.  All waiting to view and possibly pick up their deceased for burial.  It was quite a sight.  I imagine for them too.  When have they ever seen a white chick at the morgue with her tiny baby strapped onto her chest Kenyan style?

The housemother and I went inside and she said a few words to the man we had seen earlier who had said it was “too busy” for us.  Ahhhh, I thought.  I got it then.  He didn’t want the mother with us.  The man proceeded to speak to the housemother in Swahili, speaking fast enough and with difficult enough words that I couldn’t understand what he was saying….but his tone and body language sad enough.  He was annoyed and mad that we were bothering him.

The housemother came out and told me that we couldn’t see the baby because it was piled together with other ones in a bag.  I shrank back from her in horror.  “In a bag?”   “Who put them all in a bag?”   The housemother didn’t know and so I said we were going back in there to ask.

We went back into the “office” of the morgue where there was barely room for 4 people to stand.  The man must have heard me and understood me because he said, “Ask your question.”   I didn’t hear him at first, or realize that he was speaking to me so he repeated himself, quite forcefully.

I asked who had put the babies all together in a bag?  The doctors?  Nurses?  Him?

Now that I think about it, he didn’t really answer that question but just said, “You can dig through and find the baby.”  I thought he meant right then, so I started to follow him into the next room where I assumed the bodies were, and he turned around, pointed at me and yelled, “Not with her!”

Ok, he had a point.

I went outside and waited with the 30 or so Kenyans and took Ameena off of me in preparation for going inside.  I handed her to our housemom Naomi with the awareness that everyone was watching me as I did so.

And then the man opened the door to the office, and the double louvered blue doors to the morgue “room” and the people formed a line and walked through  the office door, through the morgue room and back out.  They didn’t pause or look at anything that I could tell, they just passed through and were done.

One wooden coffin was brought out by a funeral company and placed in a van.  I’m not sure what happens with the other bodies…if they remain or if they are collected later.

And then the man closed the double louvered doors to the morgue room.  A few seconds later he appeared at the open door to the office and yelled in my direction.  I assumed that meant I should go in.  It did.

He led me into that morgue room which must have been about 10×10 feet in size with a medium table in the middle, a cabinet against the wall, a dirty bucket of water on a much dirtier floor.  There was an adult body under the sheet behind me on a stretcher and another in the corner uncovered that I didn’t linger on.

Then the man went to a bright yellow plastic bag (about a 30 gallon one) and told me to look for the baby. 

“That’s full of babies?”

“Yes.”

“How many babies?”

He shrugged.  He was so nonchalant I almost couldn’t handle it.  But then again, this was his job, and this was everyday for him.  “Maybe twenty,” he responded after a moment.

Suddenly another man appeared, and he opened the bag and started bringing babies out.  My eyes welled up with tears and I covered my nose to avoid the smell that was permeating the entire room.

The babies were each wrapped in the lassos or kangas that the mothers had brought with them to the hospital.  The kangas are used before delivery as a cover-up for the mother, at delivery to wrap the baby, and afterwards as a cover for the mother when they are going to shower or nurse.   In this case, they remained with the baby after delivery.   Each baby was swaddled completely in the kanga, and was labeled on their torso and on the wrap with a piece of tape indicating the name of the mother, the date of delivery, and where the delivery had occurred. 

I asked if all of these babies were from the hospital today.  The men replied no, that they were kept together for disposal.  I cringe even typing that word, but that is the word I heard over, and over, and over today.

The 2nd man continued to pull babies from the bag.  Tiny, tiny babies and also what appeared to be full term babies.  One label read “home delivery”.  I began to cry over the sight of each of those babies all stacked on each other in a bag as they were.  Would we really find the baby?  We were nearing the bottom of the bag and I was getting pretty nervous when the man finally pulled a little bundle out labeled with the name of  our mother.

“That’s it” I told him.

He read the name to confirm.  “Yes, that’s it.”  I asked if he could open up the wrap so I could see the baby.  He looked at me as if to say, “Really?”   I nodded.

He opened the wrap and there inside was a little boy.  Perfectly formed.  Tiny, tiny, his face a miniature version of his mother. Still covered in lanugo and blood from birth.  I asked the man to wash the baby off as I wanted to take a picture in the event that the mother wanted to see what the baby looked like.   There was no way we could possibly bring her into this place to experience this.  I wouldn’t and won’t tell her what it was like.

The man washed the baby with water from the bucket I had seen against the wall.  I wanted to tell him to be gentle, but I didn’t.  I wanted to  take that dirty cloth from his hand and bathe the baby myself.  But I didn’t.  I couldn’t do anything. 

 I took 2 pictures.   

He asked if they should preserve the baby.   I said, “Yes.”  

And that was it.  We walked out of the morgue, and then I realized that Naomi had been with me, inside that room, without Ameena.  I had a frantic moment where I was searching for who she might have given Ameena to, and then I saw an old woman sitting on the cement edge of a large flower bed, holding Ameena covered in the kanga I had used earlier as a sling to hold her in.   I went to the woman, collected Ameena,  and then Naomi and I left the dirt lot of the morgue and walked back to the hospital.

I then proceeded to collect the birth notice which indicated that the baby was born dead.  Fortunately I knew exactly the form  to get as I spent 2 full weeks fussing for Ameena’s birth notice in order to get her Kenyan birth certificate that was needed for US documents.   The birth notice would be required of us  in order to obtain a burial plot from the municipal council.

We returned to the young mother and told her that we had seen the baby and all discussed arrangements.  Almost everyone here seems to prefer she forget about it, leave the baby at the hospital for disposal, and pretty much sweep the whole experience under the rug.  She would have been pushed to do just that by everyone involved and likely discouraged from anything we consider normal grieving.  I have demanded that we allow her to make the choice about what to do.  I have made certain that she understands we will arrange for whatever she wants so that she can be allowed a healthy grieving process.  She wishes to bury the baby.   The young mother indicated that she couldn’t bear to think of her baby being “thrown away in the trash.”   I don’t disagree with her choice one bit.  I’m proud of this young mother’s strength and thankful that we can help her voice be heard and wishes respected. 

I’m thankful that I was the one who went to the morgue, and saw that sight of the babies in the bag, and not this mother.  I’m thankful that when and if she sees her little boy, he will be clean and wrapped neatly in a beautiful soft blanket inside a beautiful coffin.  That her first and last visual memory of him will be him resting  peacefully…just as I know his soul is.

I am thankful that we have been here at Karibu Centre and that we have helped so many women have safe and successful pregnancies.  I am thankful that this young mother will have a funeral for her baby surrounded by loving staff and fellow young mothers.  I am thankful for the prayers of comfort and peace that have been prayed for us all this week.

Baby Aurelio

Baby Aurelio (I’m sure I’m spelling it wrong, but you get my gist) and Mama Aurelio, Joyce, have been visiting our home twice a day since last Saturday as the antibiotic for his pneumonia needs to be refrigerated.

We are happy to see Joyce and this sweet little boy so much!

Yesterday Mama  Aurelio  took her boy to the district hospital orthopedic clinic to schedule the cranial ultrasound…and came back having had it already!  I was thrilled to look at the report which indicates that structurally, everything seems to be there and intact.  What a relief.  There was concern that there might have been frontal lobe damage/deformity in  the brain as well as to that area of the skull.

Joyce seemed relieved.

I can’t blame her.  I’m relieved too.

Mama Aurelio still has a very long road to travel.  She is an orphan attempting to raise a baby in a slum on the income of her boyfriend who drives boda boda for a living.  It is not uncommon for her to wake up in the morning without food to eat.  Can any new mother imagine that??   I’m grumpy if someone isn’t helping to bring me the food right after I give birth, let alone there not being any.

We are seeing what we can do to support Joyce, but also to have appropriate boundaries as it was her decision to leave the Pregnancy Support Program at the Centre a few months ago…..knowing that she would be on her own.

Please pray for strength and good health for Joyce and baby Aurelio.  And for wisdom for us!

To put it all in perspective….

One of the things I really enjoy about being here at Karibu Centre is taking the women in to the hospital when they are going into labor.

It works out this way because only Ian and I are able to drive the  Centre van, and often, it just seems better to have me walking into the maternity ward at the district hospital (who’s gonna bother this seriously pregnant woman?) than the one white guy in town.  The staff at the hospital are familiar with me and the other Kenyan Centre staff that go there regularly (the house mom for the pregnant girls & our social worker) and they rarely give us problems if it is outside of visiting hours, or if we want to do something (like walk right into the labor ward) that everyone else is prohibited from doing.

Anyhow, a little over a week ago, I went through the normal routine of  taking one of our girls in to the hospital.  And she had a beautiful baby boy, with no complications, on Good Friday.

There was however a wrinkle in the wonderful day.  Another girl gave birth that same day, a wonderful young mom who lived at our Centre for a while, and then voluntarily left to go live in the slum next door with her boyfriend.  After a lot of conversations with staff, this young woman had decided that she preferred her freedom and living with the boyfriend over some of the benefits that could be afforded by living here at the Centre (good nutrition, vocational training, medical care etc). 

This mom gave birth to a wonderful baby boy.   With a malformed head.

Staff came and reported this to me, and couldn’t really explain the difficulty, so when we went to pick up our mom and her little one, I asked the hospital staff if I might see the baby.

These are the instances when I experience white privilege.  I’m not proud of this privilege that is afforded to me….for no reason other than the color of my skin or my perceived socioeconomic status.  But, I’m not gonna lie either, I take advantage of this privilege when it allows me to help out these young women and children.

The baby was being kept in the nursery (our equivalent would be ICU), and the nurse wanted to know what relation I was to the baby.  I explained that this young mom used to stay at our Centre, that she was on her own now, and would need help to give this baby medical treatment if it needed it, and that help was me.  I was let right in.  Unfortunately, money talks.

What I saw broke my heart.  A beautiful baby boy, seemingly perfect in every way except for the 3 inch diameter dent around the frontal lobe of his head.  When I questioned the nurse, she was adamant that it was a congenital defect and not birth related trauma.  She had me feel the dent, and true to what she said, I could not feel any skull there.    I thanked her for letting me see the baby, and she let me know that they would keep him there for about 4 more days to see if there were any other complications…and to take a xray.

I went back in to see the young mom, who was sitting on her bed (with the 3 other women who shared it) with her boyfriend next to her.  She is fortunate, there are so many young mothers here facing pregnancy and birth alone, without the monetary or emotional support of the baby’s father or family around.  I gave her a hug, assured her we would figure it all out, and told her what a beautiful boy she had.

As I walked out of the ward, with the usual crowd of very pregnant Kenyan women watching me (ok, gawking really), I had to wonder why of all the 12 or so mothers’ we’ve taken to the hospital, and who have all had routine healthy deliveries……why  the one mom who left before delivering had this complication?  Ian and I thought it over and decided that maybe in his wisdom, God was protecting the Centre from any possible liability, while allowing me to help this woman personally.  But we also know that God does not engineer tragedy, that it is a tool of Satan, and that we can be assured that God helps us work through the evil things of this world to bring glory to Him in the end.

So, with a heart laden with joy over the new healthy boy  and mom the Centre was bringing home, and sadness over the mom we were leaving at the hospital I came home to contemplate what our further involvement might look like.

Part 2 tomorrow.

I’ve been demoted

Eli’s newest deal is to threaten me with things like,

“You won’t be my mom any more.”  ”

I won’t love you, if you don’t…” and so on. 

I don’t generally respond to his threats except to shrug my shoulders and say something like, “That’s too bad”.

Tonight, he again said that I was no longer his mom.  I said, “Ok.”  He then informed me that Megan was his new mom.  Megan is our Volunteer Coordinator at Karibu Centre, also from Portland, Oregon.

I responded with, “Great, then you can go wake Megan up at 6:30 everry morning.”

“No” replied Eli, “I’ll still wake you up, you’re the househelp.”

Of course I love that  I’ve just been demoted by a 4 year old.   My only question is, if I’m currently the mom, then where in the world is MY househelp that is supposedly getting up currently with the kids at 6:30 am every day???  Cause as far as I know, and I’ve been here since May, I haven’t had househelp that hang out with my kids at 6:30 am so I can sleep….