Coffee Garden Birth

Easter morning started out rough.  I was tired from being up with the kids during the night and was feeling pretty lonely and down about spending the day cooped up in our house.  I think maybe sleep deprivation makes everything in life seem worse than it actually is.

Not to worry…the day got progressively better.

Mid morning my friend, Gabi, came to tell me that another lady in the village, Kati, had just had her baby.  I was really glad Gabi came to tell me, but a bit bummed too to have missed the birth.  She offered to take me to see her and since my hubby loves me and understood my mental health-ometer was peaking the “crazy” side, he willingly sent me off, even though it was Easter.

We headed off…Gabi, her daughter, Nawi, myself and the man-child…down the road, cutting over to a smaller road, down a hill (where Gabi insisted I let her hold Caleb for fear I would slide down “said” hill with baby in tow), through some houses, over a stream, and down into a coffee garden.  Gabi periodically yelled behind her at a group of young boys who were following us to…well, stop following us.  Apparently in the Menya culture no boys or men are allowed near a woman who has just given birth.  Big no no, people.  Eventually, she had to chase after them through the coffee garden with a stick until they disappeared and found something more interesting to do.

After walking for about 5 minutes through the coffee garden she pointed to an area off to the side in the grass and said, “That’s where she had the baby.”  My lame response: “Oh!”  Another 3 minutes later I noticed a small fire.  We walked closer and saw our friend, Kati, sitting next to the fire cooking Tapioc, her newborn baby wrapped up in a bilum (a PNG string bag), asleep and laying on a bed of dry banana leaves.  A relative, Sabeth, was resting next to the baby…her and her husband will be adopting this newborn as they have no children of their own and Kati and her husband have 4 other kids at home.  This is a common PNG custom…for another day and another blog post.

Gabi and I came and sat by the fire next to Kati.  I asked her how she was feeling and she said she felt okay.  Her stomach was aching, so she took some leaves from the Tapioc plant and put them in the ashes of the fire to warm up and then place them on her belly.  We chatted about the birth and they told me how Kati had woken up in the middle of the night with stomach pain and knew she was going to give birth soon.  I guess when it’s your fifth child you have a pretty good idea of just exactly when the baby is coming.  Her original plan was to have the baby at home…but since it was the middle of the night and there was sure to be plenty of boys and men around the house come morning time, she went to get Sabeth and then the two of them went down to the coffee garden instead.  She walked up and down the coffee garden to move labor along and finally, around 3 or 4 in the morning she sat down in the grass and pushed out a baby girl.  If it had been a boy, the labor would apparently have taken much longer.

Sabeth proceeded to tell me that after Kati gave birth, Sabeth herself sat on top of Kati and pushed down on her stomach to help get the placenta out. I tried to remain calm and expressionless while hearing this, but I’m fairly certain my face had a look of horror and shock at the thought of how painful that must have been for Kati.  Sabeth then cut the umbilical cord with a piece of long, sharp bamboo and buried the placenta.

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Baby girl

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Kati

I told them too about how I gave birth to my kids…or rather, how I had to have 3 c-sections.  I think they thought that was a little crazy.  I then told them that after I gave birth to my kids, all I wanted to do was lay around and have people bring me food…and that I didn’t go out much for the first few weeks.  Also, a foreign concept to them.

These women are amazing.  Have a baby in a coffee garden and then go back to work in the garden the next day.

 

Sidenote: My friend, Kati, and I have the same name…at least according to the Menya people.  I’m almost certain that her name is actually something closer to Kathy, but they call her Kati…pronounced (KAH-tee).  My name…pronounced KAY-tee, is apparently very difficult for the people here to say…AND also for most Germans too.  That’s cool…while in PNG my name is Kathy…or Kitty…or fatty fatty…

 

What’s your birth story?  Any crazy ladies out there give birth in a coffee garden?…or somewhere else completely unexpected?


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Happy Resurrection Day!

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High/Low

I realize it’s only Tuesday here in Papua New Guinea, but here are some High/Lows from us for this past week:

High: We finally have a couple doors hung inside our house!  It’s glorious being able to shut a door so a crawling baby can’t get into trouble.

Low: Now that we have doors, it’s easier to forget we still don’t have ceilings.  You can definitely still hear a crying baby with a closed door, but no ceiling.

 

Low: Caleb has Impetigo…ever heard of it?  We hadn’t either until yesterday.  He has blisters all over his bottom, hands, feet and around his mouth.  One of the ways we have “counted the cost” this week…living in a third world country where our children are experiencing third world sickness.

High: We have awesome missionary doctors who are on call for us 24/7. Thankfully, Caleb was diagnosed and started on antibiotics right away.

 

High: A friend dropped by this afternoon to bring me some bok choy, an avocado, mushrooms and sweet potato. I felt so encouraged to see her…and the fact that she brought me this food, I think is a sign that we are becoming good friends.

Low: Unfortunately I couldn’t visit long with her because of Caleb’s Impetigo being so contagious.  I think she understood though.

 

High: Putting the kids to bed tonight and hearing them giggle uncontrollably.  That never gets old.

Low: They also thought it would be funny to lick me while giving goodnight kisses.  That is beyond disgusting….and never okay.

 

High: Our co-workers and us share a 4-wheeler.  This has been a huge blessing since our houses are a 45 minute walk from the airstrip.

Low: Although everyone is okay…we have had a few recent mishaps with the 4-wheeler.  Please pray for no more mishaps…and that no one would lose a limb while using it.

 

Thanks for praying with and for us.  We love you guys.

 

What are your high/lows this week?


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10 Pictures

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Ellie

My friend, Ellie, lives on the hill above our house.  A couple days ago she got into a dispute with her sister in law while working in her coffee garden.  In the process of this dispute, her sister in law took a machete and made a pretty nice gash on the top of Ellie’s foot.  She was able to limp out of her coffee garden and down the hill close to our house, where she collapsed and fainted.  Our coworker, Penny, along with Dave and me, went up to meet her and do what we could to help.  Dave was able to stop the bleeding, which was excessive, and then she was taken to the local hospital by her husband.  The doctors at the hospital sewed up her wound and she is now back home and doing better.

Thanks for praying for Ellie as she recovers.  She was not put on any antibiotics because she didn’t have the money to pay for them.  Her foot is swollen and we’ll be keeping an eye on it and praying it doesn’t get infected.

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House Cry

It was close to 9pm.  It was a cool evening, so Dave and I bundled up.  We took a flashlight and headed outside.  We started the walk down the hill from our houses.  It was muddy because of all the rain we had gotten the past week, so I grabbed onto Dave’s arm in hopes I wouldn’t completely wipe out.  It was a dark night too, with barely any moonlight…and let me tell you…a dark night in the middle of the jungle is a seriously DARK NIGHT.  We made it to the bottom of the hill and then crossed a little stream.  Suddenly, we could see lights from a nearby house and I knew we were close.  I didn’t hear it right away.  The cries were coming and going in waves, but as we walked closer to the house it quickly turned loud again.  We stepped into a tented area and saw a huge crowd of people, all huddled around various small fires…many of them crying…many of them talking, some of them throwing themselves onto the wooden coffin in the middle of the room, and still others (the older men) singing a song they apparently only sing when someone has died.

I was quickly waved over to a group of ladies nearby.  Dave stayed in the back and chatted with some of the young guys.  These ladies were happy I had come to show I was sorry about this man who had died.  To be honest, though, they were initially more concerned that I had left my kids home alone at night.  Not to worry, I told them…our co-worker, Penny, was at the house looking after them.  This put their minds at rest.

We talked mostly in Pidgin, the trade language here in Papua New Guinea.  One of the older ladies nearby insisted I try to use the Menya language.  It turns out, trying to speak and learn a new language is not easy in a room full of crying, mourning people.  I went back to Pidgin.

At one point a friend nearby asked me if I wanted her to take me up to see the dead body through a window in the top of the coffin.  I was completely caught off guard and didn’t know what to say.  I had never met this man…he was living in another village when we moved to Menya.  But my friend thought I should see his face so that while I was thinking about how sorry I was that he was dead, I could be seeing his face in my mind too.  I didn’t want to look at the body, partly because I just didn’t want to see a dead body…and partly because this man had been dead for at least a week and he was still not buried.  I thought about the cultural implications of me going up in front of everybody to see the body…what would people think?  What would they expect?  Every other person I saw who had gone up to the coffin showed nothing but overly dramatic remorse of this man’s passing.  Would I also be expected to throw myself on top of the coffin and start wailing?  On the other hand, if I didn’t go up there, would my friend be offended since she had offered?  In the end I made an excuse about how I had just sat down…but maybe we could go up later.  She seemed okay with that answer.

About 20 minutes after we arrived they decided they would open the coffin and spray perfume on the body.  At that point many of the people sitting down got up and flocked to the coffin to see the dead man.  They sprayed and I got an instant headache.  “A little goes a long way” is not a concept they understand when it comes to cheap perfume.  But it made me thankful we were under a tent with no walls…at least we weren’t packed into a little room with no air flow.

I asked one of the girls I was sitting next to how long they would stay in this room, crying and thinking about this dead man.  “We won’t sleep tonight,” she said.  “We’ll cry tonight and show how sorry we are…and then tomorrow we’ll bury him.”

We didn’t stay too long.  It was late, we were tired, and inhaling the smoke from the fires was making us a bit lightheaded.  We said goodnight to those sitting around us and headed back into the dark night, up to our house.

We came home sad, tired, thoughtful.  I’m glad we went to show support to our community and neighbors here, but it was a sobering reminder of why we’re here.

Thanks for praying for us


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High/Low

Here’s a shout out to the Litonjua family for introducing me to High/Lows.

What IS a High/Low you ask?  It’s a personal high and a low…duh.
So here are my High/Lows for this week:

High: We’re making progress on the homeschooling front and Layla is turning into a little reader!

Low: Now that she’s learning to read, all those “cute” mis-pronunciations of words is now coming back to bite me in the butt.

 

High: Eli didn’t get his eye gouged out by pulling a swing down on his face.

Low: Eli pulled a swing down on his face and now has a nice deep gash to show off.

 

High: After a day and a half of no water, it’s back on and we are happy, clean, hydrated people.

Low: Finding out the water wasn’t really “off”…someone was just under our house and closed our water valve.  Not cool.

Double Low: Unable to flush our toilets when we thought the water was off…while also dealing with stomach issues.  Really not cool.

 

High: We welcomed 5 cute little ducks into our home.

Low: Apparently ducks can drown.  Who knew?  We didn’t.  4 ducks is just as good as 5…right?

 

High Dave went coffee picking with a friend and got to bring some home for us to roast ourselves.

Low: There’s really no low here…

 

High: Got to take a morning and hike up with my co-workers to the top of our hill to visit our neighbors.

Low: My main language helper is going through some personal rough spots and won’t be able to help me learn language right now.

 

High: Was able to experience and learn a bit of the Menya culture tonight…what they do when someone passes away.

Low: Another Menya person has died without the chance to hear truth.

 

High: Just ate some ridiculously good chocolate (thanks Kelly!)

Low: It’s all gone and I am now 5 pounds heavier.

 

Hope you enjoyed this small peek into our world this week.

 

What are YOUR High/Lows for the week?  We’d love to hear them!


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