Our friend Noel's sister had had her baby. And I was going to go along with my neighbor, Stacey, to meet her family and congratulate them!
We didn't waste any time getting into the truck and heading out, and fortunately, we didn't have far to drive. There are no streetlights along the road through our village, Saccanville, and I don't think anyone outside of the seminary where we live has electricity, so there are no house lights, either. When the sun goes down,
However, the headlights on the truck revealed that the street was not deserted. People walking... People standing in small groups, talking... People carrying loads on their heads or pushing carts... Dogs barking and chasing passing cars... Children running...
We parked the truck on the shoulder of the road and crossed over to the small house where Noel's family lives. Noel is one of nine children. A few of them are grown and have children of their own, but for one reason or another are still living at home. Noel is grown and in school, studying nursing, and she still lives at home. And then there are a few younger than Noel still at home, too. From the way it was described to me, there are about 10 adults and 7 children living in this two-room, dirt-floored, stick-walled house.
Wait, make that 8 children now.
This is Noel's new niece, about nine hours old. They weren't sure exactly how much she weighed and she didn't have a name yet. (I still haven't heard if she's been named yet.)
And these are a handful of baby girl's cousins, all crowding around Stacey's camera to see the photo she took of them.
Even as I tried desperately to follow the multiple streams of Creole dialogue all around me, I was overwhelmed by the stark differences between the circumstances in which this little person entered the world and how my own babies arrived.
Noel's sister, Herloud, said that she started having labor pains around 8 am on Monday. The baby was born just two hours later. There was no hospital. No epidural--yikes!! No obstetrician. No doulas, no nurses to weigh the babe and take her vitals. No blood tests or hearing screenings.
There were--not two--not three--but FOUR baby showers for my firstborn. I'm quite certain there are no baby showers here in Haiti. Our house was stuffed with car seats, swaddling blankets, baby bjorns, crib bedding, diapers, wipes, frilly little pink and purple outfits with matching socks and teensy tiny shoes.... We had a baby swing, three bouncy seats, and baby bath seat, oodles of Johnson & Johnson baby wash and lotion and diaper cream. There were teething rings and toys and board books and hair bows and bottles and a bassinet and SO. MUCH. STUFF.
Herloud's baby rested in the one family bed in the only bedroom of the house. There was one other room in the house, but it served as a nighttime parking spot for their motorcycle. None of the baby gear that is familiar to me was present in that home. I didn't see one single package of Pampers. There was no crib. No comfy rocker for middle-of-the-night feedings.
When they said she hadn't been named yet, I was taken aback. I thought about the oh...FIVE different baby name books I have owned and the hundreds of hours spent during my pregnancies debating name options at length, all with the goal of having the most perfect name ever ready to go on the birth certificate.
In many ways, this baby's arrival was so very, very different from baby arrivals I have known.
In some ways, it was very much the same.
I knew that momma's smile. The smile that didn't stop beaming from her face the whole time we were there. The one that plainly said she was in heaven. Completely over the moon for her perfect little baby girl. Yep, I've been there.
And that baby girl was born into a family that was thrilled to welcome her. There was a buzz of excitement rising from that little house--pure joy emanating from each person. There were proud grandparents, doting aunts, and obnoxious cousins clamoring to touch, smell, see the new baby up close.
Here was one of God's own miracles, with her soft baby skin... a head of wavy, black hair... little, wrinkly fingers stretching out... God bless you, little one!
On the day you were born the round planet Earth turned toward your morning sky, whirling past darkness, spinning the night into light.
On the day you were born gravity's strong pull held you to the Earth with a promise that you would never float away... While deep in space the burning Sun sent up towering flames, lighting your sky from dawn until dusk.
On the day you were born the Earth turned, the Moon pulled, the Sun flared, and then, with a push, you slipped out of the dark quiet where suddenly you could hear...
A circle of people singing with voices familiar and clear.
"Welcome to the spinning world," the people sang, as they washed your new, tiny hands.
"Welcome to the green Earth," the people sand, as they wrapped your wet, slippery body.
And as they held you close they whispered into your open, curving ear, "We are so glad you've come!"
~ On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier