My Trip to Haiti
My husband and I peered out the window of the jumbo jet that would take us to Haiti and the dreams we had anticipated for so long. Tears of joy streamed down my face as the reality of the moment sunk in and the plane started down the runway in Boise, Idaho that January morning. Little could I know that all my hopes and plans would be scattered like dust in just a few short days.
and I had been married just a short time when we were given the news that we
would never have children together. We
both had been married previously and brought six children between us into our
marriage. Yet, we longed and hoped for just one more child…a child of
our own. It took 8 long years and a
hysterectomy to finally put to death the dream of a child from my womb, yet the
dream of another child refused to die. I
researched international adoption and stumbled across a missionary in Haiti who
had newborn infants for adoption. We
followed the paper trail that lead us to the moment we had hoped and longed
for…our own children.
had a lay over in Miami for the night and were to be on the first flight to
Haiti bright and early the next morning. My
mind continued to race forward as my body tried to rest.
We were going to meet our new son and daughter in the morning…how would
they like us, how would we like them, would I feel like I did in the delivery
room with my own three children? These were just a few of the thoughts racing
through my mind. Sometime that
night I must have fallen asleep because I jumped when the alarm went off at 5
a.m. We hurried to catch the
airport shuttle and arrived in time to join the hundreds of others traveling to
Haiti. I stood in amazement as I
gazed at the check-in counter and watched people trying to load their trunks
with car shocks and other things. There
was a weight limit and everyone seemed to be trying to jam as much as they could
into their trunks while staying within the limit.
I wondered if we were supposed to be carrying dry ice in our luggage, but
we couldn’t think of any other way to keep the Quarter Pounders with cheese
cold until we got to the mission. The
hamburgers were a gift for the missionaries since there are no McDonald’s in
Haiti. We were finally ushered to
the large waiting area for the airbus that would take us to our babies.
Most everyone was black and we felt like a piece of rice in a bowl of
two-hour flight across the ocean seemed like an eternity.
I still remember my first glimpse of Haiti from the plane.
It was the most beautiful island I had ever seen. The ocean was a
beautiful aqua color and the contrasting mountains made me think I had arrived
in some kind of paradise. That
thought quickly left me as we left the plane and walked on the concourse toward
the immigration office. People were
everywhere! They all seemed to be
shouting, yet I couldn’t understand anything they said.
I numbly followed everyone else and got in a line to have my passport
stamped. I had neglected to use the
airplane rest room and was desperate to find a bathroom.
It was hot and the air had a different smell.
It wasn’t a bad smell, just different.
After finding a bathroom, we went and waited for our luggage.
We waited for a long time only to find that the suitcase with the
hamburgers in it was lost. Thankfully,
that suitcase also had all my husband’s clothes in it…I don’t think I
could have handled it if all my clothes were lost.
He seemed to take it in stride and wasn’t too upset by the minor
inconvenience of not having any clothes to wear.
We were the last ones out of the airport and were met by a little Haitian
man holding up a sign with our names on it.
We followed him into a parking lot where an American man met us. This was John, the husband of the missionary that I had been
corresponding with. He was shorter
than I envisioned him, with a scruffy beard.
He was wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes, and looked like he was
ready to melt in the heat. “Come
on,” he said, “let’s get going and get a Coke.” We piled into his Suburban and headed for our babies.
We stopped at the only familiar landmark in Haiti…the Texaco station.
John went in and got us some Cokes…and straws.
How odd, I thought, why straws? John explained that it was for sanitary
reasons that we would drink out of the straws.
trip up the mountain was an experience I will never forget.
As beautiful as Haiti appeared to be from the sky, it was a nation of
contrasts on the ground. People
lived in tin huts, they went to the bathroom just on the side of the road, not
many had shoes on, and no one obeyed the traffic laws.
John answered our many questions about the country and people of Haiti as
we traveled on the bumpy roads. I marveled that he knew his way around the
narrow, twisted roads. Finally, he
drove up to a gate and honked the horn. The
gate instantly opened and he drove up the driveway.
He told us he would get our bags and we were to get out and get our
babies!! I climbed out of the car
and was suddenly surrounded by many different people.
There were Haitian nannies, volunteers, other parents, and Dixie…the
one who made our dreams a reality. Someone
put a tiny little boy in my arms!! I couldn’t believe he was so small.
He was 8 months old…and so tiny! Then,
someone put a little girl in my arms…even smaller than the boy, with a full
head of black hair. Tears fell down my face as I gazed at these two precious
miracles…my babies!! I fell
instantly in love with them and couldn’t wait to get them home. Introductions were made all around and we were shown to our
room. We explained that the
hamburgers were missing, along with all of Steve’s clothes. John had a few shirts that he let Steve borrow for a few days
and the rest; Steve figured he was on a mission’s trip, so he could rough it.
spent the first few days getting acquainted with our babies, as well as the food
and water. I spent one whole day and night throwing up because I neglected to
stay away from the water…how could I have known that not drinking the water
also meant not putting it anywhere near your mouth? The luggage with the missing
hamburgers and clothes turned up just three days later and believe it or not,
the hamburgers still had a slight chill to them. John declared that any sickness
due to food poisoning would be worth it and promptly wolfed down a couple of the
a few more days it became apparent that all our paper work was not in order as
we had been told. Not only did the U.S. Consulate “lose” our dossier, but
also our son’s passport was nowhere to be found! Dixie had assured us that her
lawyer had told her that both passports would be available by the time we had to
leave. We tried to concentrate on the beauty of Haiti, the lush trees and
hillsides up at the Baptist Haiti Mission, the loving Haitian nannies who cared
for so many needy babies, and of course, our babies.
made arrangements to extend our stay for a couple more days in hope that the
passports would turn up and all the other paper work would fall into place.
Steve’s boss notified him that he was out of vacation time and needed to be
back to work by Monday…or else. We made plans to leave on a Friday and prayed fervently that
our children would be going with us. Friday morning came too soon as we loaded
the babies into the Suburban and headed down the mountain. Dixie explained that
in case the passports were found, the children still needed their medical
examinations and this would save us some time. She left the babies and I with an
old Haitian woman who was a Christian, but didn’t speak a word of English. The
woman lived in a building that was back from the main road, but connected to
many other buildings. I assumed they were like apartments. Dixie explained to
her why I was there and then hurried on her way. It was very hot in the city and
sounds of cars and people were everywhere. I tended to the babies and tried to
keep them quiet and prayed constantly. Suddenly a quick movement caught my eye
and I looked to see a dog that was nothing but skin and bones staring at me.
Dogs in Haiti are considered to be at the bottom of the food chain and most that
run the streets are wild. I offered the dog one of the crackers I had, but he
wouldn’t come near me. I threw the cracker to him and he gobbled it up.
Quickly, the old woman appeared from behind a curtain with a broom and chased
the dog away, yelling at him in Creole. Then, she offered me some water that she
dipped out of a bucket sitting on the table. I knew that someone must have
carried the water on his or her head from some place, and given the beginning of
my trip, I politely declined her offer. The babies started to fuss and she
offered me a couch to lay them on so they could sleep. Once they were sleeping
peacefully, I went back to the table and fed the dog some more. The old woman
came out a few more times with her broom and chased the dog away. Then, I saw
another movement near the babies. I looked quickly and saw a mouse scamper
across the room. It then dawned on
me that if something happened to Steve and Dixie, I had no way of calling the
mission for help. Panic started to well up inside of me as the heat and the
sounds and smells of the city closed in around me. I don’t recall praying so
hard in my life. Suddenly, one of Dixie’s helpers came in and told me that she
was taking the babies and I back up the mountain. I knew then, that my babies
were not coming home with me.
short time later I watched as Dixie and Steve dragged themselves out of the car.
One look at their downcast faces and I knew…our dreams of bringing our babies
home was over.
gently told me that they had looked everywhere for the passports and had been
unable to find them. He said we didn’t have any other choice but to go home
and figure out the rest of the mess from there. Tears poured down my face as I
held my precious blessings. How could I leave them? Luc had begun to say
“Dada” and hold his own bottle. His whole face lit up when he saw us.
Elizabeth was smiling and cooing at us. She was beginning to reach for us when
she saw us. How could I leave them behind? Dixie offered to let me stay with the
babies…but how could I stay? We had left our six older children at home with
friends checking on them every day. We were in touch every day with the
computer. How could I stay?
our luggage was loaded into the Suburban, we tearfully said goodbye. Elizabeth
was napping and would wake up and not know where we had gone. Steve sat Luc down
in the nursery and as he turned and walked away, Luc howled. Our hearts broke.
drove us down to the airport but we didn’t talk much. Dixie had promised that
if anyone found the passports they would call her and she would radio John. If
just one passport was found, Steve would put his job in jeopardy and stay the
weekend in order to bring as least one baby home. Suddenly, the radio
crackled…it was Dixie. She had bad news…no passports. Her voice cracked as
she told us that her helper had promised to keep looking, but that nothing had
turned up so far.
we were sitting in the waiting room with hundreds of Haitians, tears streamed
down my face. I was leaving my babies behind and didn’t know when or if they
would even come home.
looked at the lights of the city as the plane took off and I wished I had stayed
with my babies. Yet, I knew I had made the right decision in going home with
was a sad homecoming at the Boise airport that afternoon. No balloons, no
streamers, no signs, no smiles…only tears and empty arms.
Life quickly got back to normal with home schooling and the chores around the house. Steve put all his energies into finding our “lost” papers and Dixie worked hard at finding the passports. Elizabeth’s passport turned up just a few days after we left Haiti. It would be several weeks before Luc’s was found…and the date it was issued was the date Dixie had told us. To this day no one knows where it was.
six weeks we boarded a plane again. This time there were no tears, no great
welcoming committee, just business as usual. Luc remembered us and warmed up
right away, but Elizabeth would not even look at us. We had done most of the
paper work while we were there the first time, so we only needed to stay for a
long weekend in order to finish it all up. By the end of the weekend, I got
Elizabeth to smile at me. The Haitian nannies told Dixie there would be no more
parents coming and then leaving since we had spoiled Luc and they were left to
deal with his constant crying.
trip to Miami was uneventful as we played with our babies. The plane ride to
Minnesota started out just fine, but somewhere over Tennessee our stomachs
started to act up. By the time we were on our way to Boise we both were spending
more time in the bathroom than out of it. At one point, I just sat in the back
of the plane to be near the bathroom and left Steve with the two sleeping babies
in the front. Suddenly a steward who said “Excuse me, your husband asked if
you could come up front and watch the children for him so he could use the
bathroom” awakened me. I slowly opened my eyes and said “NO”. Later Steve
asked me who I thought was in the other bathroom every time I went. I didn’t
know he was sick too. I prayed hard as we flew towards Boise. I knew that our
children and friends would be waiting at the airport and I didn’t want to have
to run to the bathroom and miss all the fun. By the time the plane landed, I was
feeling better. Steve, however, seemed worse. In fact, he stayed sick for three
months and lost 30 pounds before he finally got the medication he needed from
the doctor to clear up the problem.
we walked down the concourse, all our children and friends were waiting for us
wearing fake glasses with huge noses! We couldn’t help but laugh. What a
wonderful time it was…introducing our new babies to our family and friends.
was quite late by the time we got home and Steve went straight to bed. The other
children and I stayed up and played with the babies. We gave Luc his first tub
bath and he loved it so much that he got himself, the bathroom, and all of us
soaking wet. Finally, at one in the morning, we were all ready for sleep. As I
laid the babies down in their new cribs for the first time, I thanked the Lord
for finally making my dreams a reality.