First night in Haiti

After over a year of serious planning (plus a number of years before that during which the dream took root in my heart), I was actually there.

In Haiti.

The real Haiti, the one that conjures images of dirt and orphanages and voodoo and poverty and primitive living.  Images that are, sadly, all too accurate.

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It was absolutely surreal.  I couldn’t believe I was really there, seeing the thatched-roof huts and middle-aged women peddling bananas and paintings and trinkets on the roadside.  Orphans swarming around my legs like puppies clamoring for attention.

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And yet, despite the crazy knowledge that I was fulfilling a lifelong dream, in a way, it all felt rather…mundane.

I had such romanticized notions of how Haiti would be, how inspirational and heartbreaking and life-altering the experience would be for me.  I had raised support from my church family in order to go, labeling it a “mission trip” and feeling rather noble.

But then I arrived in Port-au-Prince.  My friend and I maneuvered our way through the hectic airport, met up with the orphanage staff that had picked us up, traversed bumpy dirt roads for an hour and a half in a hot, dusty Jeep, and at last arrived.  This orphanage would be our home for two and a half weeks.  Just a blip in our lives, really, but at this moment, it felt like it would be a lo-o-o-ong stay. Suddenly I no longer felt equipped to handle the physical demands or the emotional aspects of volunteering with orphans.

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The kids were soooooooo freaking adorable.  When we first stepped into the nursery, dozens of babies and toddlers met us, faces streaked with snot and dirt, reaching up grubby hands to  be held.  Heart-wrenching.  Precious.  Also kind of terrifying, truth be told.

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Who was I to do anything for these children?  Yes, I could spend a few weeks with them, playing and singing and snuggling, but then I would return to my comfortable life and they would be left here awaiting adoption.  This particular orphanage is run in a very efficient and loving manner, and every effort is made to care for the children as well as get them adopted by loving families as soon as possible.  But given the nature of international adoption and the mountains of paperwork and money required to accomplish this, it takes time.   So my purpose there was to love the kids for a short period of time as a way of bridging the gap between their arrival at the orphanage and their eventual placement with an adoptive family.

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I’m ashamed to admit this next part.

That first night in Haiti, I regretted ever coming there.  I wanted my own bed, my own hot shower, my own home, and everything familiar and comfortable.  I didn’t want to be in Haiti, sharing bunk beds and showering only every other day for ninety seconds, living with a bunch of other volunteers who were undoubtedly better with children than I was.

I was a fraud.

I had traveled all this way, planned for all these months, and now all I wanted was for it to be over.  I wasn’t cut out for this type of service.  I felt like more of a baby than the kids I was assigned to love.

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See her bewildered expression?  That’s pretty much how I felt that first night.

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I’ll return to this story in upcoming posts, but for today, I want to leave you with this thought:  When have you struggled with unmet expectations, particularly when you’ve disappointed yourself?  How do you deal with that kick in the gut, the realization that you may not be all you thought you were?  Do you back away in fear, never to face those situations again?

Or do you persevere, allowing Christ to be the strength you lack?

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When we fear good news…

I made a big announcement on Facebook last week.  We’ve all seen them done in a variety of ways, some silly, some cute, some serious.  It’s the pregnancy announcement.

Hubby and I are expecting our second little one in February!  I took a photo of a little onesie we bought that said “lil cheese curd” ( my husband is a Wisconsinite) and posted it the other day.

While we are certainly very excited–we love our boy to bits and we always knew we’d want him to have a sibling–it’s also a bit of an anxiety-producer.

For those of us who have lost a child to miscarriage, this happy news can be tinged with doubt. Anxiety.  The fear of the unthinkable happening again.  Will this pregnancy end with a healthy child, or with heart-wrenching loss and emptiness?

Opening yourself up to the risks of carrying a child again can be frightening.  We were really fortunate in that after our second miscarriage, we saw an endocrinologist who ran just about every kind of test possible to narrow down the problem, and it was an easy fix.  No major interventions or surgeries needed; I just had low hormone levels and took supplements.  Knowing so many couples who have gone through much worse to try and have children, sometimes ending with empty arms after years of struggles, I felt so lucky that in our case, we were likely to have no more early-pregnancy losses.

Even so, the first trimester with our son was terrifying.  We told no one of the pregnancy, wanting to spare them the pain of a possible loss (and ourselves the pain of having to tell everyone sad news again).  We went to my specialist once a week for blood tests to check the hormone levels and for ultrasounds.  Let me tell you, those weekly visits were an enormous comfort, but at the same time, the scariest part of our lives at that time.  Every week, the night before the appointment, I would begin to worry.  I had gone through ultrasounds before when the doctor was silent, and I knew that terrible silence meant there was no heartbeat.  We were hopeful that everything would be fine with this baby due to the supplements, but no longer able to take a happy-go-lucky attitude about it.  Every week I was preparing myself  for another silent ultrasound, another surgery, another case of dashed hopes.

I suppose I could say that each week, the stress was alleviated slightly.  As we passed the seven-and-a-half week mark, when I had lost both of our other babies, our hopes grew.  The fears grew as well, but the closer we got to trimester two, the calmer our hearts became.  The endocrinologist empathized well with us, having experienced such losses himself with his wife.  He always told me, “You won’t truly relax until there’s a baby keeping you up at night.”  How right he was.  Our worries lessened after the first thirteen weeks, but we were still plagued by uncertainty.  We didn’t tell any family or friends until safely into the second trimester, and I think even then we still lacked some of the sheer joy and excitement we had exuded when we’d announced our first pregnancy.  We had learned caution.  Sadly, the miscarriages had robbed us of some of the happiness we should have enjoyed throughout the whole process.

Praise God, our son was born full-term, perfectly healthy, fifteen months ago today, and is the ultimate joy of our lives.  I won’t say that we love or appreciate him any more because of the losses we suffered before him–I think that’s unfair to parents who had so-called “easy” pregnancies and births.  Those parents don’t love their children any less than we do.  But we are mindful of the road we took to bringing him home, and when we think of that, we are so grateful.

Just over a year later, we learned there was to be a sibling.  Now, you’d think that after my pregnancy with Liam was so successful, we would have been totally relaxed this time around.  After all, we had pinpointed the issue and everything was fine with him, so why wouldn’t this baby be fine?  I don’t know; I just know that I panicked a little and called my doctors immediately and pushed them to get me supplemented right away.  I couldn’t fully enjoy the great news until I felt we were out of danger.  My husband was more rational and calm, thankfully, and helped me to trust God and what we knew to be true.

Still, we waited a few more weeks before telling anyone the news.  We have been much more confident this time, telling some family at seven weeks and others over the next several weeks.  We know there are always some risks, and things don’t always go the way we plan, but we’ve been able to enjoy sharing our good news with our loved ones as we visited them this summer.

The next big step was to tell the Facebook world.  While it’s not as important as our families, of course, the scary part is how public it is.  Many people will know once you post it on social media, and many more will find out from those people.  There is no stopping the news/ gossip once you’ve shared it online.  Nate was fine with it, but I hesitated for days before making my announcement.  In my mind, there was always that tiny voice of doubt taunting, “This might not work out the way you want it to.”  Whether that’s the evil one or just common sense, I don’t want to listen to it anymore.  I finally decided it was time to take a step of faith and share our good news.

Now, everyone in our lives knows there is a baby on the way.  The only people I haven’t told are my students, but we just started school and I’m sure they’ll figure it out pretty quickly, anyway.  I still experience little moments of weakness, worrying that something may go wrong.  Most of the time, though, I’m able to trust that God knows what He’s doing and He is always doing good.

I don’t know if everyone experiences this kind of fear when good news strikes them.  I feel like it must be fairly common, though.  We don’t want too much good in our lives for fear of it being taken away, just as it happened to Job.  I hope that you and I will keep learning to hold on to Jesus, knowing that yes, all our earthly joys are ultimately temporary, but that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace each piece of good news with sheer joy and thankfulness.