Connecting with Haitian moms


There is a unique phenomenon that I am trying to navigate with the Haitian moms in this setting. I will try to describe it to you.

If I had to guess, I would say that 1/4 to 1/3 of the women we are supporting are Haitian. At this public hospital, we are working with young doctors who either speak Spanish as a first language or as second language. Most of those who speak Spanish natively are Dominican and most who speak as a second language are Haitian. On any shift I have worked there may be two or three Haitian doctors. However, only the Dominican  doctors attempt to communicate with the Haitian mothers.

I know… Crazy, right? A Haitian doctor can be standing there hearing the mom speak in Kreole and not engage… or only engage en Español.

Navigating this medical environment en Español is a great challenge in itself. Making sure that I interact respectfully with the doctors is a priority. Some are very accommodating of our presence and invite us to participate in various aspects of the birth process and accept simple assistance with things when they find it makes their jobs easier. Others are more skeptical, so I am mindful about how I engage them.

Sometimes as I struggle to communicate with the doctors, a Haitian mom will begin to speak to me in Kreole.

May I take a moment to say how amazingly beautiful Kreole is? When they speak, it sounds like music and like honey rolling off of their tongues… Simply beautiful.

In those chaotic moments, when I have just realized that I did not understand what the doctor needed when they requested the lamp be turned on… or that someone bring a wheelchair… or understand what the doctor is saying after I ask what I am to be feeling for on the mom’s abdomen when I massage a mom’s belly to check for bleeding… or whatever else they say that is spoken so quickly that I am struggling to understand… I can get really caught up.

Often the Haitian mom we are attending to will begin to speak directly to me. In those moments, the only words I can muster are words in the language I have been trying to convey to the attending doctors: “Hablo Ingles… Hablo poquito Español… Repetes despacio, por favor…”

Before you think it is cruel of me to respond en Español, I must also make you aware that at least half of the Haitian moms I have encountered speak some amount of Spanish. So their effort to speak to me in Kreole is intentional and an effort to try to say something they did not want to share broadly with others.

When the Haitian mom’s begin to speak in their native tongue, I am hard pressed to find ANY of my Kreole… AT ALL… But the next thing they do is what hurts my heart the most. Most of them, after I respond in the only thing I can conjure up (which would be Español), divert their gaze from me and refuse to engage me again. It almost feels they sense a betrayal and now place me in the same category with those doctors who refuse to speak with them in their language in front of Dominicans.

ED07E891-B6B2-420B-926C-4312C8C5281F-4645-00000BAD006FD056Hold on…

I had to pause to make sure I downloaded Haitian Creole in my Google Translate App for work tonight. I realized it wasn’t downloaded properly last night while I was looking for a lifeline to the Haitian moms… and then I realized that it doesn’t provide pronunciation, so I hope I am able to remember some previous lessons about the Kreole alphabet.

I can tell you in another post about ways I am finding success with communicating with the Haitian moms. In this post, I just wanted to share this current challenge I am trying to figure out how to overcome over the next few days.

And please know that I do have a theory about why I am noticing this social cultural context in the hospital. I could be wrong, but it feels familiar. I notice a certain social context with the Haitian doctors as well that looks familiar. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. It could be for a myriad of reasons but I have my theory.

Perhaps I will share those thoughts in another post. I am headed to work now.

Send a sister some positive energy!🤰🏿🙌🏿🙏🏿👶🏾🤰🏾

 

Being DARK when Complexion Matters


There is ONE DAY before I leave for Hispaniola, but can I be honest about something? I have had some experiences in other countries that have made me a bit apprehensive about what the experience will be like doing this work in the Dominican Republic… especially when told that the Haitian women are treated a bit harsher than the Dominican women.

I already hear some saying, “Why are you even concerned with color?” or “It is only an issue if you make it one…” I would encourage you to expand your exposure to experiences broader than your own.

As I travel, I am finding that before I speak, people classify me. It happens in the U.S. as well, but it is different when I travel abroad. These experiences have spoken volumes to me about how I view myself, by the way… especially after growing up with people asserting how much continental “Africans don’t like African Americans.” One reason why I have embraced and emphasized the identifications that include “African” is because (while on the continent) before I opened my mouth, continental Africans embraced me as African and tried to figure out where I was from on the continent.

So far, my passport has been stamped in two countries: South Africa and Qatar. Gene and I traveled through Qatar last year on our way to South Africa and decided to spend the night. Gene IS ADVENTUROUS so he wanted to get out and walk around. I was noticeably the darkest melanated person outside of a gentleman working at the hotel.

I noticed that people looked at us a bit as we went in and out of stores. We went to what was the equivalent of a Currency Exchange to get some money because Gene wanted to go into shops and try some authentic food. We happened to be there during their prayer time, so we had to wait for the tellers to come back to their posts. We don’t speak Arabic, so it was quite the experience finding someone that could help us.

Anyway, when we arrived at a dessert parlor, Hadhim Dates & Treats, we chose our desserts and as the young man was checking us out he said to me, “You from Nigeria?” My husband explained briefly that we were from the United States. Hmmm… I began to understand that he saw my husband as one who may be from the area (somewhere in the Middle East), but saw me as an African. He assumed that my husband had gone and gotten him an African bride.

The next morning, we caught our flight and continued on to South Africa. Anyone who is familiar with South Africa’s racial classifications knows that there are people who may have the complexion of my husband or darker that are not classified as Black, but Coloured. (Coloured people are lighter complexioned or mixed race people, and had certain privileges Black Africans did not have during Apartheid.) That was a different experience for Gene. He was even told that he could identify as Coloured if he wanted to… He didn’t like that… It left him feeling out of sorts.

We even noticed that when Afrikaans people (and others considered white in South African) heard our “American accent,” they were enamored by it and us. They admired that we were from the United States. And before our eyes we watched these individuals change their interactions with us and begin to smile and treat us better than our South African family that was hosting us. We didn’t like that either. We are no different than Mama Maureen and our family that hosted us. We are the same people.

In both of these contexts in foreign countries, I understood that my deep complexion caused them to identify me as a Black African and my relationship with Gene as an interracial one.

I am not sure what context I am likely to face when I visit the island of Hispaniola. Hispaniola was the first island inhabited by European explorers and there is a unique dynamic that occurs there between the left one-third of the island and the right two-thirds of the island. Haiti is on the left side of the island and there is very little variation in skin tone compared to the Dominican Republic on the right side of the island which has been a country of people mixed with European, African, and Native American blood for centuries. Haiti and the Dominican Republic sit side by side on an island with histories as juxtaposed as the phenotypes of the people in the two countries. (Haiti has a rich history that influenced land acquisition in the U.S. that you can read about HERE.)

I wonder what THIS experience will be like for me… or will I experience anything noteworthy  at all? Will I be identified by my dark complexion and be classified based on the social contexts of the island of Hispaniola? Lol… I am sure they will know soon enough when I struggle to communicate beyond saying, “Mwen rele… Andrea…”

Still…
I am OPEN to this new experience.
I am OPEN to broadening my understanding about people and their cultures.
I am OPEN to learning more about myself and how I can best position myself in this world.

And I will let you know if being darker in complexion mattered for me in the DR, too.

Oh yeah… If you would like to contribute to the birth work I will be doing with Dominican and Haitian moms and babies, you can do so here –> http://www.drdoula.com/dr2017-donation1.html

I have almost reached my goal! Thank you for your support!

Home Alone…


“I am gonna miss you so much,” he says.
“What am I gonna do while you’re gone?” he says.
“Oh, I am going to miss you SO MUCH MORE, Babe…” I said.
“What will you do in this house all by yourself?” I said. “You don’t even have the boys here…”

You get FOUR GUESSES as to what Coach Gene has planned while I am away helping Dominican and Haitian women BIRTH BABIES in the Dominican Republic… While I am resting up from WORKING HARD on the night shift every night from 11pm -7am, his daylight hours WILL BE FULL!

I swear, he was acting SO PITIFUL and I was feeling SO BAD for him.

I was all like, “Babe… you gotta ENJOY this time! What would you do if you were a CELIBATE, single man with no kids?” I should have known he was up to something when over the next few days he got a twinkle in his eye and a pep in his step.

YOU GUESS what he has planned:
A. Going on several golfing trips
B. Taking a motorcycle refresher course
C. Taking a Conceal Carry Course and Gun Training
D. Going horseback riding at a local ranch

Go ahead… guess… you won’t get it wrong.

This joker… And here I was thinking that he needed his friends to set up play dates or something. He has plans and will be living LA VIDA LOCA! I was even trying to fuss about him spending money… Nope! He was like, “It was only $20…”

But seriously, I am happy for him! He has worked SO HARD for his family over the past 23 years of our marriage. He is such a WONDERFUL HUSBAND AND FATHER… I am so grateful he will have this time alone… where he only has to be responsible to and for himself.

I know every time he leaves me somewhere by myself I LOVE IT!!!! As a home school mom for 13 years and being consumed with the needs of my family 24/7 most of our marriage, I have come to recognize that self-care is a most valuable commodity.

SO ENJOY YOURSELF, BABE!!! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! ♥

Oh! Just remember… DO NOT BUY a horse… a motorcycle… or any of the other stuff… JUST ENJOY!

 

Dr. Doula