by Kayla Raymond
I had begun a relationship with the Noel family during the summer of 2011, while visiting for most of my summer break. When I moved to Haiti full-time in the summer of 2012, I found a pregnant mama Noel. The family was already large, with seven children. The pregnancy was very high-risk as mom had suffered a recent stroke and was in her low forties. The family was living in a tin hut at the time, sleeping on the dirt.
I can remember one of my first visits with the family and Nashca, the youngest, having bugs swarm in her ears from a severe ear infection. The family’s situation was quite dire and I immediately started pouring all the resources I had into helping them. I wrote one of my first blogs and raised almost $10k to build them a new home. I delivered food to their house weekly, using my own money to feed them. I made sure all the kids were registered for the new school year that fall. I made several day-long trips to the hospital towards the end of the pregnancy to make sure mom and baby were okay.
The day finally came when she went into labor and as it would turn out, I had signed up for way more than I expected. We spent the first night at the hospital, pacing back and forth on a half-paved sidewalk, trying to make it through each contraction. The hospital only had two beds for delivery, so they make the laboring mamas wait outside on unbearably uncomfortable wooden benches until they were fully dilated.
I have a very vivid memory of myself lying on a wooden bench playing some type of game with shapes and colors on my Blueberry cellphone to help me get through those very early morning hours. The night sky was clear and you could see it lit with stars. I remember the humming noise of the hospital’s generator running and locals chatting late into the night outside the hospital gate.
The roosters started to crow as the sun began to rise. The doctor checked mama again and informed us that no progress had been made during the night so we might as well go home and rest and come back later. We returned probably ten hours later and I witnessed my first birth.
The birthing room had two tables with five gallon tubs at the end to catch all the blood and other good stuff that comes out during labor. There was an LED light that flickered above us and two Haitian nurses. I just remember it feeling so small in there.
Mama screamed and I’ll never forget the look in her eyes as she pushed and pushed. Baby was finally born and that little, new life never let out his first cry. The main nurse took him to an adjoining room and picked up his little legs and with a plop, they fell right back down. There were no reflexes. There were also obvious deformities and I knew there wasn’t going to be a happy ending.
We ended up taking an ambulance to a hospital in Port-au-Prince, over an hour away. I remember holding that little life in my arms, doing everything in me not to throw up because I was physically so hot, but also so unprepared for what was happening. Baby Noel was announced dead upon arrival at the hospital and we had to drive around the city for another hour finding a hospital to admit mom into because she had begun hemorrhaging.
i don’t know about you, but I think we all kind of romanticize the idea of seeing a baby be born. I think most people would jump at the opportunity to see a birth as it is one of life’s greatest miracles, am I right? I know that I had for sure romanticized the entire scenario, so when it all unraveled the way it did, my perspective of the world unraveled with it.
That first all-nighter at the hospital wrecked me. The pacing back and forth under a starry sky. The sitting on wooden benches that left me sore for days. The reality of what the hospitals really are like for the underdeveloped world. The lack of resources. Hell, the lack of running water! I peed in a dark, cement latrine that night.
Have you ever even recognized how lovely and clean and comfortable waiting rooms are here in America? I do every single time. It’ll wreck ya, if you let it.
That entire experience led me to not even knowing if I would have babies of my own for a couple of years. It’s actually why I believed God was giving me my first three, because I wouldn’t be able to carry and labor one into the world myself, not after all of that.
This last delivery with Zion was better because I went in knowing somewhat what to expect and wasn’t as nervous. Once we made it out of the delivery room and into the room on the birth floor, I felt so grateful. Another healthy baby. Another successful birth. Give this girl a pat on the back, would ya! Aren’t we women seriously superheroes?
And then I decided to take a bath in the jacuzzi and behind those closed doors, I wept. I looked at my naked, flabby postpartum body knowing what it had just done, yet knowing I would never know what my sisters in Haiti go through to have a baby. The flashbacks of baby Noel and that birthing room left me numb. How do we get to be so fortunate to even have access to the healthcare and hospitals that we have? I don’t deserve it, even for a second. I honestly would be ashamed if my mamas in Haiti knew what type of hospital I gave birth in: the type of care I receive; the food that gets to delivered to me as I rest in a self-adjusting giant bed; the ice packs for my butt and the warmed blankets for when I’m feeling cold.
I can’t even reason; it’s just so unfair. What a picture of God’s grace: we are all just sinners, deserving of dirty, dark latrines; yet we are lavished with luxury and jacuzzis.
The Noel story did not end with baby’s death, however. We were able to build them a new home, set mom up with a business selling dried fish at the market, get the oldest daughter a job at the orphanage and all the rest of the children into school. Today, I drive by their purple house on the way to the school, knowing they’re still okay.
Baby Noel’s grave was the first one to take up space in my heart and his death prepared me for Rosie’s, which was to come one year later.