A couple years ago, a good friend of mine from St. Petersburg, FL texted me a photo she snapped of a book she saw in the store. The book summed up many conversations she and I had had over the course of our friendship and perfectly defined a lofty fear that went before us as young married women. It was titled 100 Reasons to Panic About Having a Baby.
So here I sit, with my baby sleeping sweetly on the bed, toys haloed around her and her pacifier next to her head, having recently fallen out of her mouth. As I sit and watch her, I can say that I still have fears, but they our outweighed by an indescribable peace that came with motherhood. Even as I’m writing these words though, I have a hard time believing that they are coming from me. I mean, for me even to describe myself as a mother still seems strange.
But nonetheless, it is a reality. After leaving Paul in Haiti and moving stateside in mid-February – much earlier than planned due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, I spent about 6 weeks working at my old ophthalmology job in St. Pete and living with our Pastor and family, to whom we owe so much. I felt healthy and enjoyed participating in a faux life that mirrored my life prior to Haiti, all except not having Paul by my side.
I flew up to South Dakota for a benefit we were having for Mission-Haiti at the beginning of April, where Paul and some of our Haiti staff joined us for a celebration of what God is doing in Ti Rivye. As planned, Paul and I went for an obstetrician appointment and it was then that I realized my blood pressure was sky-rocketing. I was told I had preeclampsia and was put on what I called “medical house arrest” and was not allowed to return to Florida and continue working.
Despite seven weeks of sitting on the couch, getting bigger, having two sonograms a week, taking and recording my blood pressure 5x a day, and watching my stomach do the wave from a tumbling baby inside, I still didn’t even try to process or grasp the reality of how my life was about to change.
While I laid on my left side on the couch in my parent’s basement watching endless hours of Family Feud and Parks and Recreation, Paul was in Haiti just rocking the job he was made to do. He and the two teachers on the ground, with the help of our US Director from time-to-time, ran team after team in addition to keeping the Christian Academy and the sponsorship program running beautifully. Not to mention the millions of other decisions and responsibilities that come along with being the Haiti Director of the mission. I’m so proud of him. Although he won’t hesitate to say that his heart was in the states with me.
At the beginning of May, the rest of him joined me in South Dakota as we prepared for my 37-week induction. Even that Monday morning, with a bag packed, walking into hospital and being fitted with a plastic bracelet that would be on me for almost a week, it still wasn’t real.
Even through the 40-hour labor it wasn’t real (which a friend pointed out, is a full week’s worth of work.)
In all truth, I can’t even tell you it felt real when they placed little Tiona Jwa on my chest in the middle of the night on May 11th. I looked at Paul and said, “I don’t know who they just put on my chest, but I think she might be ours.”
Five days after we walked in those doors, we walked out with a 5-pound human being. It is just a crazy experience. Paul was so cautious he had me sit in the back of the car with her on the trip home!
Before we knew it, it was 2 ½ weeks later and Paul was getting on a plane to head back to Haiti. I was to wait 6 weeks until I joined him. It’s unnatural and painful. My heart broke for him to miss that much of her first couple months.
I joke that my “surrogate husband” was my mother in that time. She, recently having had shoulder surgery, was off of work. I would be her hands sometime and she would be my emotional support others. And, not to mention, willing to just be there to watch baby girl while I jumped in the shower. Although it was not an ideal situation, being away from Paul, not being at my home, it was the best situation it could be. It was a real growing time for Mom and I. And she didn’t mind cuddling a new grandbaby for as many hours as she could before I took her away.
Which I did. I met Paul in Florida at the beginning of July and after a baby dedication, showing her off to friends and Paul’s family, we made the trip HOME to Haiti. Tiona’s been a champ through it all. I’m excited for her life here, as long as the Lord wills it. I’m happy she will have a bi-cultural experience, get to meet many different team members who come down, and hopefully grow to see where she can meet needs of others. But more than anything, we’re praying that she Jesus captivates the heart and determines her footsteps, the ones she has yet to take. All other hopes and dreams for her pale in comparison.
For now, every smile is an adventure. Even today, she grabbed a rattle for the first time. As I watch her, I think of Jesus. I think about Jesus, the one who created all matter, knowledge, and truth. I think about how he became a baby, like Tiona. Completely dependent. To see that kind of humanity and humility makes his journey through life to bring life to us so much more tangible, incredible, and almost unbelievable. Praise Jesus for his sacrifice of power to bring us to eternity. May we all think about that the next time we hold a helpless little one.
Paul and I would like to say thank you for those of you who have sent prayers, support, and even gifts to us in the last 5 months. Please know your encouragement is a blessing beyond words. We covet continue prayers for health, development, and protection for Tiona, as well as continued unity and strength of relationship for Paul and me as it will be a bedrock for her.
You know, all my life, I fought growing up. I drug my feet through each graduation stage: from starting to wear a training bra, to graduating high school, to paying my own bills, and so-on-and-so-forth. But the idea of having a child of my own was the final chapter in adolescence. But as Paul and I have used so many times in our relationship the phrase “Mwen Pap Tounen” (No Turning Back) has rung true. Here’s to so many adventures, responsibilities, joys, sorrows, decisions, giggles, and dreams ahead…Cheers!