In my early twenties, I spent two and a half years living in Haiti.
I met my husband there. I raised my two youngest siblings there – both Haitian, both awesome. I shared a home with teenage mothers and their babies and they shared their lives with me. I taught English and was taught Kreyol. I was there before, during, and after the Earthquake in 2010.
I now have my own two daughters and, to their benefit, I learned much about motherhood and life from Haiti and Haitian women. I am a better mom because of my time there and I am a better person because of living there.
Living in Haiti taught me that it takes a village: to raise children, to survive, to live well, full lives. Immediately post-earthquake there were women breastfeeding the babies of other women who were undergoing surgery and procedures in the field hospital. Everyone pitched in to get children fed and to keep them safe. Women leaned into each other rather than pulling away in pride.
Thank you, Haitian women, for teaching me humility and community.
While stopped in a traffic jam in Port-au-Prince one day, a scene unfolded in front of me. A school-aged girl was being relentlessly teased by a boy who was snapping a belt at her. She turned away and crouched down, seemingly defeated. To my surprise, seconds later she turned around with a rock the size of a grapefruit and threw it at him. She and many women I’ve met, whose belts and rocks take different forms, taught me that when the cards are stacked against you, bet on yourself anyway. When the haters and the bullies and the oppressors think they’ve beaten you, be that little girl.
Thank you, Haitian women, for teaching me what it looks like to rise up.
The day after the earthquake in 2010, the nannies showed up at the children’s home ready to work. Partly because they loved those kids and partly because it was their job and they needed the money. They knew life goes on and they weren’t going to be left in the dust, actual or metaphorical. They knew all too well that time doesn’t stop when the rug’s been pulled out from under you.
So many times in motherhood there are moments I want to take a timeout for a pity party. But life keeps moving all around me, whether I like it or not. I learned to press on in the big things and the little things. In the tantrums and the tragedies. This world does not revolve around us, as much as our selfie-obsessed, privileged mindsets think it does.
Thank you, Haitian women, for teaching me resilience and fortitude.
One of my favorite Kreyol words is degaje. It means to make do with what you have. Haitians are champions at this. My own experience living in Haiti gave me a daily crash course in what it means to degaje and it has surely come in handy as a mom. Forgot to go grocery shopping and have no plan for dinner? Hello, three-ingredient rice bowls. Diaper broke while out running errands so you have to use a Paw Patrol band-aid to keep it together? Yup, that happened. Learning to degaje in the daily stuff has challenged me to incorporate degaje in the way I think about life in general.
Thank you, Haitian women, for teaching me to be resourceful.
While living there, I helped and was helped. I gave and was given. I suffered loss and I experienced great joy. I have seen much and yet barely scratched the surface of that remarkable little country. It is not easy to be a woman in Haiti, nor a mother. But there are so many there humbling all who bear witness to the wisdom and grit, beauty and grace that they have in spades.
If you want to learn more about organizations that are humbly coming alongside and serving Haitian women and families please check out Heartline Ministries and Haiti Design Co. They love Haitian women and are rockstars at being resources for them.