Hands shot up. An emphatic ‘yes’ sounded in the dingy hall from three teen girls, a father, and myself. My hand was in the air? I don’t do blood and medical procedures and yet, my hand was raised, my mind raced. When would we ever have the chance to experience this again? I didn’t have to watch if the surgery became too much but I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see a baby born in Haiti.
“The mother gave permission for you all to attend. This is a missions hospital so they are used to having others attend surgeries and procedures.”
We’d come from hauling rubble and cinder blocks. Filth and dust decorated our shirts, shorts, and shoes but it didn’t matter. Hand sanitizer squished between fingers and rubbed palms. A blue cap and mask adorned our heads and we were ready to enter the surgical room. Yes, without a gown, gloves, or booties.
We waited with anticipated excitement while the mother received her spinal and then the five of us shuffled into the room and lined the wall. Large brown eyes peered at us from the surgical table. I shifted with discomfort, feeling like a gawker, as this little mama lay nude awaiting surgery to bring her baby into the world. Unlike in America, our view was from the foot of the bed, instead of up by her head.
Orange iodine wash scrubbed across her belly and wiped clean. Blue surgical draping spread out over her body. The extra draping clipped to the oxygen tank and whatever was near her head to block the surgery view from the mother.
And surgery began. Cutting and cauterizing. The smell of burnt flesh wafted through out the room. If I passed out now it would be embarrassing. I can do this.
A male voice whispered beside me.
“Why is she having a c-section?”
“Oh, I’m not sure.” Our nurse friend exchanged words with the surgeon in Creole.
“It’s for a separated placenta.”
Tears pricked my eyes. No, no, no. We shouldn’t be in here. Fear and panic gripped me and raced up my chest. This is bad. So bad.
“This may be very bloody and it may not have a good outcome.”
Please Jesus, let this baby be okay. Please Jesus, let this baby be okay. Please don’t let us traumatize these teens with the death of a baby. Oh please, Lord.
Tears rolled down my cheeks and nose and into my mask. What were we thinking? Why didn’t we ask why before we came in this room? More silent prayers to my Lord who holds life and death in His hands and knows the outcome of this birth.
The uterus came into view. More cutting, tugging, pulling, and blood; lots of blood. Please Lord, let this baby be okay. The surgeon reached in and pulled out a tiny little one. Lifeless.
Silent sobs racked my body. I glanced at the girls lining the wall beside me. Eyes full of tears stared back. This can’t be happening.
The nurses whisked the little one over to a table and went to work to try and revive this precious little boy. Their bodies blocked the door. No escape. Ugly cries filled our bodies as we remained silent to avoid alerting the mother.
Minutes felt like years as we watched in horror. No life. It was over. They covered his little body with a tiny blue blanket.
When the nurses moved aside our group of five hurried out the door. We ripped off our caps and masks and threw them in the garbage, huddling together to cry.
“I’m so sorry. I know this is hard to understand. This is Haiti, where death is very much a part of their lives. And this baby is now with Jesus, in His arms, and he doesn’t have to grow up in Haiti.” Our nurse friend tried to comfort but our minds were not able to process those words. Not yet.
We walked back to the compound, crying and snotting, while others stared as we left the hospital.
Our hostess met us in the dining room of our home away from home. She hugged us and spoke sweet comforting words over our group.
Our group leader/youth pastor hugged me. “I had a bad feeling about this. I didn’t think they would do c-sections in Haiti unless it was for an emergency.” He said. Why didn’t that cross my own mind? Ugh. I’m a mother of four. How could I not think about this?
The girls and I made our way back to our bedroom and flopped onto our beds to grieve.
Lord, how do I help these girls process this situation that I cannot wrap my own mind around? Have we traumatized them for life? What will their mothers say? Oh, my aching heart. Lord be with this young mother and bring her comfort. Amen.
When the tears dried up in our room, I left the girls for a short time so they could talk amongst themselves and I could pull myself together. I returned a short while later to gauge their reactions.
“I know this is so hard and nothing I say can make it better. One thing you can take away from this situation is empathy. One day when a friend has a miscarriage or stillbirth, you will have a very different take on it. It is often ignored and not acknowledged as the big deal that it is.” Heads nodded in response.
“What I want to know is if anyone regrets going into this surgery?” I posed the question and sent up a silent prayer. Were they scarred for life? Would this taint the rest of the trip and block out all of the other amazing experiences we’d encountered up to this point?
All three girls responded with, “No.” Each tear stained face spoke in truth. Heartache, yes, but no regrets. After all, this is Haiti. . .
Click here for part two and return tomorrow for part three of this story. It doesn’t end here and I promise it gets better.
When the Lord lays this mama on your heart, please lift her up in prayer.