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Oceans


labadee haiti wooden boat
The taxi boat we rode on our trip to Cap Haitian/Labadee last June

You call me out upon the waters -

The great unknown.

Where feet may fail...


This is one story of how my feet totally and completely failed. But I found God again high above the ocean on a plane, headed toward Miami.


First of all, if you hadn't heard - we have a baby coming in August! We're so happy... and terrified... and all the emotions in between.


The Friday after Jay's death, I had an appointment for my first checkup and sonogram. I nervously waited outside the little house turned clinic for several hours, trying to not be grossed out by the lady beside me eating some unknown fruit and spitting the seeds in a pill bottle. Also I was trying not to drool over the chubby, brown eyed babies waiting for their check-ups.


I didn't know how terrible my day was going to end up being.


They couldn't find the baby at all on the sonogram. The nurses tried to calm me down by saying 9 weeks is pretty early yet, and my dates could be off. They told me that I could go to another place next week that had better equipment and probably they would find the baby. My husband tried to calm me down too.


But after what had just happened to Jay, I was completely terrified. And extremely hormonal on top of it. I sat in that car and cried like I have never cried in my life. Truly I wondered if I had been to enough Haitian funerals and saw enough wailing that the culture was rubbing off on me. And right there I gave up hope that this had any chance of being a normal pregnancy.


Thus began the most grueling afternoon ever. I wanted to find out what was wrong with me. For some reason, I've always been terrified of having an ectopic pregnancy, so of course I was convinced that that was the problem. I started thinking of going up to Oriani for the weekend and how I could die from internal bleeding up in the mountains. So I cried a lot. And then finally I just zoned out there in the car, as we bumped over the endless dirt roads, stopping now and then to ask moto taxi drivers directions, stopping at more than five clinics or hospitals only to be told that they didn't have sonogram equipment or that the doctor wasn't there.


In late afternoon, we finally pulled into a hospital compound that looked like some sort of aid organization with apartments surrounding it. The nurses wouldn't let my husband sit beside me and they saw how afraid I looked and seemed to almost think it was funny. They made comments about me in Kreyol and looked to see if I understood. I was completely dehydrated and nauseated by that time. We hadn't had anything to eat or drink really all day, and I had just had a bit of Jello before I left the house in the morning.


The doctor made me do a home type pregnancy test and then pushed around on my belly for a long time with his sonogram apparatus. Finally he said something like, "Well, there's other things that can make you show positive on a pregnancy test." He told me to go drink a bunch of water and come back, and he would have another look.


And so we bumped over more dirt roads to find water. I drank until I almost threw up. And we waited. Until dark. When most of the nurses bid us a cheery, "Good night." We never saw the doctor again, and I finally said, "Let's just go home."


At home, I begged my husband and my dad both to just get me a plane ticket to the States where I could go to a good hospital. It almost seems cowardly now. But I felt so terrified and broken after what had just happened to Jay, and my heart just couldn't handle more days of no answers.


So the next morning, as Briana's family, my uncle and aunt and cousins, were arriving in Haiti, I was getting my Co-vid test at the airport and leaving the country. My husband read Psalms 41 to me before we left the house. In Kreyol, that Psalm talks about how his enemies were whispering in his ears. My husband was convinced that this baby was from God, and that it would all be ok. He told me that this fear that had overtaken me was my enemies whispering. Verse 10 says, "God, put me on my two feet again." And that's what we prayed for before we left the house and said good-bye.


I cried in the airport of course. They sent two agents to come and see what was the matter with me actually. But I never felt completely out of control again after that prayer.


I was convinced my baby (if there even was a baby - by that time I had also read that a type of cancer causes you to test positive on a pregnancy test) would never be born, but on that plane high above the ocean, I found that I could actually pray again. I prayed that somehow this experience could make me less bitter - that I could really learn to trust God more instead of less. And I told God that I was sorry for believing that I was a "bad luck person" - sorry for not having the faith to believe in good surprises - sorry for always imagining the worst and for all the worry and fear that I have been struggling so much with lately. And no, right then, I did not have the faith to hope for a good surprise, but I just told God that I wanted to be rid of fear and bitterness in a deeper way.


I cried again when I saw the American flag in Miami. I cried because if I got sick in that airport, I knew someone would call an ambulance and they would take me to a hospital where I would be treated kindly and be given true help. I cried for all my loved ones in Haiti that have never been able to experience that feeling of safety that is the USA. I was amazed at the bathrooms in the plane - that they were so clean and there was hot water. And the airport had water fountains where I could drink clean water for free and working escalators. Everything was sparkling and shiny and clean. It's amazing how a 2 hour flight can put you in a different world.


And then I wolfed down a greasy cheese pizza and fifteen minutes later was gagging at the smell from another restaurant. And it almost made me laugh how that I was giving up on this baby already and here my body was still in full time baby mode - churning out hormones and disgusting symptoms as usual. And while I waited there, so many of you texted me about your own stories of losing pregnancies. The ones that impressed me most were where you said you still loved those tiny babies. How you gave them names and always thought of them and remembered them. And how you know you'll meet them in Heaven - completely and perfectly formed.


And I knew that I needed to give my body more credit for at least TRYING to make a baby - no matter what was wrong - babies are miracles - even when they're the size of a blueberry! And any life, no matter how tiny, deserves to be loved.


The next day, even though we arrived at 2 A.M. I woke my mom and dad up early and we headed to the emergency room. I was freezing cold and had on as many clothes as I could round up! We went to a big women's hospital/birthing center and found a little back Ambulance entrance and a little room marked Early Labor Detection.


There were no other patients, just a black doctor only a little older than my husband and a few nurses. He listened to my jumbled story and all he said is, "But what are your symptoms? Why do you think there is something wrong?"


He told us he wanted to quickly do a sonogram, and without even asking my name, had me plop on the table and got out the equipment. I squeezed my eyes tight shut - so afraid of what he was going to find, and all the sudden he said, "Look! You're pregnant - see the baby is right there where it should be and the little flicker you see on the screen is a beating heart!"


And of course I cried again and probably said a lot of nonsense stuff. He looked at me like my husband does when I get really emotionally out of control, but he does see many pregnant women so probably he's used to that. He took a picture for Zeze to see and told me to just go and see a regular doctor. We were out of there in 15 minutes and didn't pay a cent or do a single sheet of paperwork!


Going from the thought of possibly having an operation to sewing maternity clothes and having people send me baby gifts has been a bit of a stretch to my mind. But I'm so very thankful for what God is doing for Zeze and I.


I saw our baby again last Tuesday, and heard the little heartbeat. It waved its arms and legs at us and the ultrasound tech seemed to be almost as excited as I was. This week, it is the size of a strawberry, but I could see the little arms and legs and head tucked into chest just perfectly. It seemed oblivious to the big, scary outside world - and to all my fears and worries. What a miracle!


The tech said the way my uterus is shaped makes it hard to see the baby from an abdominal scan in early pregnancy. So I guess I'll know for next time. My body wasn't just churning out hormones, this little perfect baby was growing in there the whole time. And I want to trust the process a bit more from here on out.


I have a long ways to go as far as leaving fear behind. I'll leave the safe United States in a week, and hopefully spend most of the rest of this pregnancy with my man. I plan to come back towards the end and have the baby in the US.


And I'm missing my real life a lot already.


Since I left Haiti, I have hardly seen the sun. The sky has mostly been gray instead of bright blue, and the trees stand like skeletons in a landscape of brown and gray. When I leave my house, the roads seem empty - just cars, driving in orderly rows, stopping at redlights, every brake light lighting up perfectly. It's all beautiful and clean, but I miss the people - the teeming mass of humanity on the streets and random words to strangers and even people breaking traffic laws. The chaos has become more normal to me than this orderly, perfect life.


In the doctor's office, there are a few people waiting, but nothing like the huge group on the porch of a Haitian hospital - some moaning in pain, some giving advice, some wolfing down smelly foods. Everyone has their masks in perfect position and chairs are turned backwards for social distancing. I told my mom my husband would move those chairs and sit on them if he wanted to! She said she would be scared to! And I said what on earth would you be scared of - this is America and there's not even a security guard lurking around with a gun.


This Sunday I will worship with the people of my childhood - in the big cold church with bright lights and perfect clothes. And I still know the English songs by memory and I will get hugs afterward and feel very loved. And next Sunday, the Lord willing, I will worship in the little church with shiny tile, hard benches and a generator running in the background. And after the last AMEN I will get handshakes and side-of-the-cheek kisses and feel just as loved.


No matter which side of the ocean we find ourselves, life is full of great unknowns. Sometimes our feet fail. And sometimes we experience moments of courage - where our eyes focus not on the waves, but on God. Our trust is without borders. And we walk upon the waters.


The important thing is to know where God wants you. And make sure you are there. Make sure that you are living with your whole heart.


My life may seem crazy - full of chaos, gunshots, hungry families, and just living a tiny life eating rice and beans in a little padlocked courtyard. Sometimes it seems like it would be better if everyone could all just stay on the "safe" side of the ocean.


But I know what happens to me when I close my heart. When I stop living with open hands, when I clench my fists and say, "What are you doing, God? Can't you just let my life follow a sensible normal path for once?"


When I do that, the circumstances stay the same. I still see all the pain around me - the beggar child running after our car, the lady filling a water bottle from the muddy ditch full of trash and taking a sip. I ask my husband," Why doesn't she just DIE?"


And when my heart shrinks back from all this pain and I try to live with eyes shut tight and ears dulled out, I don't experience the happy times either. I don't experience the pure joy of relationship with my Haitian family and friends, so completely different than me in some ways, yet sharing the same humanity.


You cannot control your life. No matter where you live. Some surprises are good, and some will break your heart in two. You can shrink back in fear, or you can try always to live with an open heart.


Because if you try to shut your heart to sadness and pain, you will shut out the joy too.


So go out. In deep waters. Make sure you are in the middle of whichever ocean God has called you to. Many times, your feet will fail. But sometimes, you will know the magic of walking upon the water.

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