I don’t think many of us like to admit our mistakes. I know I don’t.
Then again, I don’t know if the story I’m about to tell was a mistake.
It was a lesson, though; I do know that for sure.
Mama Noel has had me heartbroken and shaken since the day I met her.
I won’t forget that day. Ever. I was dripping in sweat, having climbed
up half a mountain to meet some of the sweetest kids. They kind of
piled out of their shack like clowns do in those tiny cars at the
circus. Nine children total, ranging from ages 2 to 21 came out one by
one. They were all accounted for by their at-the-time very pregnant
Nascha, the youngest, was so sick. She literally had bugs crawling out
of her ears from a severe ear infection. The children showed signs of
malnourishment and spent their nights sleeping on a dirt floor. The
mom showed me how the house of tin was giving way and when it rained
their house became a giant puddle.
I’ve told this story so many times now. After meeting this family and
falling in love with them, I wrote their story right here on this blog
and was able to raise over $9,000 to build them a new house. God was
so faithful to me as I walked beside them and was so faithful to them
as He began providing in miraculous ways.
So, we began building their new home and I walked beside mama as she
neared her due date. Being pregnant with her tenth child and having
had a previous stroke, she was considered to be very high risk.
Towards the end, we ended up admitting the entire family to our rescue
program at Tytoo. They were housed there until their new home was
Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way when the baby came. Mama Noel
had spent nearly 36 hours in labor, me walking beside her most all of
them. We spent the first night at the hospital, walking back and forth
on the sidewalk outside of the hospital’s front gate.
They don’t have maternal suites here in Haiti, let alone open beds for
women in labor. Literally, this nine month pregnant woman was lying on
a wooden bench as she yelled through her labor pains. As the sun rose
the next morning, the nurses sent us home, saying she wasn’t ready
yet. We were back at the hospital around 6 p.m. that day and baby was
born around 9 p.m.
I have to admit, I was kind of excited to see a baby be born. I had
played out the scene so many times: I would hold hands with mom as the
baby came, there would be a high-pitched cry as this new life came
into our lives. We’d wrap him or her in a blanket and I would carry
him home as mom rested in the back seat. It would be just like the
But, this baby didn’t come out crying. I held my breath, waiting for
him to let out his first breath. But, he never cried. The two nurses
kept saying, “li pa bon, li pa bon” it’s not good, it’s not good. I
remember watching them pick his little wrinkled legs up and dropping
them with there being no sign of a reflex. I remember just bawling at
this point in the story, and my friend Frank giving me the biggest
bear hug of my life.
We ended up taking an ambulance to Port-au-Prince and the baby was
announced dead up arrival. Mom was then admitted to a different
hospital for hemorrhaging and bleeding. A couple days later, she came
home and we grieved together. It was then that I decided I would try
my hardest to make the future for this family different.
We ended up spending $8,000 on their new home. It was furnished with
new bunk beds, a kitchen table and painted bright purple. All the kids
were enrolled into school and with $1,000 left over we decided to use
$200 so mama could start selling fish at the market again and the
remaining $800 would be given over the course of the next 8 months for
food. We had many talks about the plan for the future: it would be
different! She promised me no more babies.
I loved seeing her girls playing up on the school’s playground instead
of spending their afternoons hauling water like they had to before. I
loved seeing them be full of energy, because hunger didn’t loom on
them anymore. I loved seeing mama’s excitement after a day spent at
market. She was getting a second chance and it was a beautiful thing.
After eight months, when the money was finished, I decided to
“release” them on their own. I had helped them through their
emergencies and built them a new home. I felt mom was finally at the
point where she could stand on her own two feet. So, last September I
stopped visiting them, with all the confidence in the world they would
This is where I wish the story ended. Tune the happily ever after.
Close the book. At that time I thought I had done it all right, but
would later realize that maybe I had gotten it all wrong.
By late October, I had received news that Mama Noel was pregnant
again. Yes, pregnant. With her eleventh child! After losing her last
one, nearly dying herself and after working so hard to get back on her
feet, she was back in the same situation.
I became so angry at first. Frustrated, disappointed and let down.
Then I just became so incredibly sad. Back to angry, on a roller
coaster of emotion. I knew I couldn’t help her again, not to the
extent I had before. I just couldn’t. But, then guilt settled into the
cracks of my healing heart and I couldn’t figure out what was the
right thing to do anymore.
I had several nightmares of her bleeding, the baby dying and her
children showing up at my gate as orphans. I haven’t really told
anyone about these, but you can’t not experience something like I had,
having watched her last baby be born stillborn, and act like this next
pregnancy was okay.
This was her fault, not mine. I realize this argument, but her life
was in danger and I knew I would forever carry guilt if something
happened. But, I knew I just couldn’t help again. The cycle would just
repeat itself and not only were my resources burnt out, but I kinda
was too. (insert a lot of motivation for the Lazarus Fund)
So, for the past 8 months I have been praying for the health of both
mom and babe. Not many days went by that I didn’t think about this,
but I had to trust both my God and my instincts on this situation.
Yesterday morning, Monday, was off to another busy start. Many people
are suffering from a fever with symptoms of severe body aches,
headaches and rashes right now in Haiti, coming from mosquitoes. As I
drove to Tytoo Gardens, I found one of my ViBella employees on a
motorcycle. She could barely walk because she was in so much pain.
After settling her in a bed near a fan, I made my way to the office.
As I began responding to e-mails that I had been avoiding since
Friday, Taunya (a full-time North American staff member) came rushing
in saying, “Mama Noel’s newborn baby is here.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I was totally caught off guard
and immediately worried, but I found myself coming upon a healthy, 8.8
pound newborn baby girl. Tears welled in my eyes as I took her in my
arms. I seriously couldn’t believe how big she was. We made our way to
the clinic and learned that three hours previous, Mama Noel and her
sister had been rushing to a doctor on a tap-tap (public
transportation) and she gave birth right then and there. Yes, her 11th
child was born in a moving vehicle! They were bringing the baby to the
clinic to be seen and two hours later we transported mom to a hospital
to make sure she wasn’t losing too much blood.
After many months of worrying and having nightmares, a happily ever
after made a way in the midst of pretty ugly story. As I cleaned the
baby and dressed her, it felt like a piece to a happily ever after
story. A story I feared the ending of for the past few months. I felt
so relieved, joyful even.
I’ve learned that God doesn’t make mistakes. We, humans, do all the
time, though. Maybe I helped them too much at first, maybe not enough.
Should I have done more? Will there ever be an answer to these
difficult situations? Will I ever stop seeing moms with too many
babies and babies with not enough food in their bellies?
But, God doesn’t make mistakes. We do.
Should Mama Noel have gotten pregnant for an eleventh time? Probably
not. But, God wouldn’t have brought this beautiful healthy baby into
the world by mistake. Should I have kept visiting in September? Would
she have gotten pregnant had I kept visiting? At what point does it
stop being my responsibility to help?
It hurts to carry these questions some days. On those days the world
just seems heavy and it’s a little harder to breathe. But, God doesn’t
make mistakes. He didn’t make a mistake as He led me up a mountain to
their shack that very first day, nor did He make a mistake by
providing the funds to get them a new home with beds.
I think the mistakes lie in our irresponsibility when handling God’s
blessings. Mama Noel had been blessed with all the tools to see a
better day, but somehow ended up jobless and pregnant, repeating a
vicious cycle. I’d been given all the tools to help her, and somewhere
along the way made a mistake by allowing the vicious cycle to be
repeated. I know it’s her fault that she ended up pregnant, but maybe
I should have kept holding her accountable.
I guess I just don’t know. There are just sometimes too many rights
and too many wrongs. It’s hard making decisions when lives are at
But, now there is a new life to account for. A beautiful baby girl.
And even though I don’t know what her future looks like, I know she’s
not here by mistake.
Would you please keep this baby girl and her mom in your prayers?
Along with the many other moms who are struggling to keep their babies
alive and well? Please pray also for the people of Haiti to be healed
of the fever epidemic that is in full force right now.
Poverty is such an ugly, messy thing. I’m sure many more mistakes are
to come as I look for ways out of it, but I put my trust in a God who
doesn’t make mistakes.