Category Archives: passion

Bee in a Cocoon

On the day we left Bolivia I got a tattoo of a queen bee on my arm. It was the third in a series of images I had placed on my arm with indelible ink over the course of one year. My first tattoo is a black lace butterfly. The middle one is a dragonfly. My bee is on top. I imagine there will come a day when the sleeve is complete with hexagonal honeycomb, a beetle or two, and leafy filigree. For now, I am content with my winged trinity.

Fourteen months after the acquisition of the bee, I find myself on my college campus listening to an entomologist give a lively lecture about bees. Dr. Roe doubles as my Anatomy and Physiology professor. She does a fine job teaching about the human body, but her passion for insects is quite evident. The discourse came about as an initiative of the garden group. Permission was granted by one of the leading Sisters of College of Saint Mary for us to run a beehive on campus starting next Spring. This will be a thrill!

Did you know that bees undergo metamorphosis in a cocoon? I didn’t. This fascinates me. Cocoons have been a reoccurring theme in my life over the last few years. I leaned in to study the images on the slide as she explained the three week transformation of egg, to larva, to pupa, to fully formed bee. The egg is laid by the queen. It hatches and is fed by nurse bees. As a larva it grows and fills up it’s six-sided cradle. Then the bees come along and cap the capsule, sealing the larva inside. What happens before the fully formed bee breaks out of this cocoon astounds me.

Did you know that inside its cocoon the bee becomes liquefied? All the cells, organs, and features that allowed that larva to eat and grow break down. “Gradually the pro-pupa becomes little more than a bag containing a nutrient rich soup,” according to this video demonstration of the process: Bee metamorphosis: remarkable internal changes. Do you grasp the sheer absurdity of this fact? The construct of a wriggling little structure becomes liquid. 

Then comes the reconfiguration. In that tiny, dark, soupy cocoon, the liquid swishes around to reconfigure and reshape into a pupa. It grows legs and hair. It’s brain and DNA formulate to give the little creature an instruction manual and purpose of life. The pigmentation of yellows, browns, and golds appear from that milky goo. It’s eyes bulge. Fragile wings grow which will allow that bee to survive and soar.

My eyes welled with tears. I am in a cocoon stage of life. This liquefied stage of a bee’s life spoke to me. In this darkness, safely capped off by my community, it’s okay if I melt. It’s okay, for this time, to submit to the reconfiguration process. It’s okay to feel like I am drowning for a little bit… because that will pass. My life is getting reorganized. I will emerge from this cocoon, resplendent and ready to fly.

For now, I need to be in a cocoon like a bee in a cocoon. 

Thanksgiving Gift

Patterns can be deciphered only after the passage of time. We hear beauty in music because we anticipate repetition, as well as remember what came before.

My life used to be driven by goals, small objectives to reach those goals, and problem solving along the way until those expectation boxes could be checked. My eyes fixed forward rarely glanced to the sides and abhorred what laid behind. I rushed ahead at breakneck speed.

Recently, like over the past five years, I have started to value awareness over accomplishment and affection over ambition. In this new way of looking at things I have loosened my grip on accusatory tendencies (both towards myself and those around me) and moved in the direction of unconditional acceptance of all people, including myself. I began to open my vision to more than only what lies ahead, but also to who walks beside me, and occurrences from my past informing my present reality.

Goals are good, but they are only part of all the good in this life.

Accomplishments help people, but they are not the only thing that help people.

Driven people, such as myself, sometimes get a lead foot. It serves us well, at times, to slow down and even stop the car.

Thanksgiving morning I sat in bed doing one of my favorite “slowing down” things: writing and doodling with a pencil in my notebook. As of late my prayers have become provincial and sporadic. Journaling moments have become as prayer for me. Even the drawings are my heart spilled out for my God to hear. He understands. I believe. That morning my thoughts and “prayers” turned to employment in the Sates.

For this fresh start to work we both need to work. I knew that was one of the stipulations we agreed on as we talked through the decision. I wasn’t worried or anxious. I knew, though, that with only my lonely little high school diploma to present to future bosses I had to fill out a resume with life experience stuff.  I also needed to be open to any kind of job that came my way. I had puttered around with putting on paper my past positions and dates of employment. I had done a few searches online to see what was out there in Omaha.

On Thanksgiving morning I made a list of what kind of job I would like to work when we get to the States. The basic gist of the list is this:

“I want to do something I enjoy with people I get along with and get paid for it.”

Reductive living is the name of game at this stage, my friends. I scratched a few more thoughts on the page about weekday hours which allowed time for study. I also noted the idea of working within a creative, purposeful team for a company which was upstanding in the community.

It felt insignificant and ho-hum at the moment. The day progressed with much merry making and lots of fun with a few other families gathered together to eat, give thanks, and play games. I got home late at night. After the little kids were put to bed I sat down to check on my friends who live inside my computer.

One of the messages stopped me completely. The brakes were full on, folks. I read and re-read to comprehend the words on the screen. I cried as I remembered my morning “prayers”.

A job offer!

It felt as though God slipped his arm around my shoulders and whispered in my ear, “Here you go; you don’t have to give up.”

See, the thing is, there was part of me that was grieving the giving up of a missionary life. We are coming off the field. We are seeking stability. Even my Isaac-like life as a missionary had to be put on the altar. I see the necessity of going to the States. It just makes me sad for so many reasons, and this was one of them.

This unsolicited job offer came from an organization fighting human trafficking in South East Asia!

It came from a dear friend, Laura Parker. We met about five years ago through our blogs. I was the first person who came to her mind when the position was being made. The job is Communications Manager doing the online stuff of: the bloggers community, facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc. It’s a part time gig.

They want to pay me, too! Where do I sign?

ER signing 12.12.14

Me officially accepting the job I start January 5th, even before we get to the States. I am so excited!

This gift came to me on Thanksgiving and I have not stopped giving thanks for it. I am so humbled to be invited to be a part of this phenomenal team empowering rescue and fighting to end modern day slavery.

When I sat down with my children to tell them about this new job I used my words carefully. “I will be helping an organization who operates in Asia to legally shut down places where people have women and children as slaves. These slaves are forced to do things with their bodies that they do not want to do. Using online connections I will help people get the word out so more people will join in to help free those slaves.”

One of the kids said, “So basically your job is a super hero.” I have such great kids.

The name of this amazing team of super heroes is called: Exodus Road. <– Click the link to read more.

"Rescue is Coming" Exodus Road t-shirt
“Rescue is Coming” Exodus Road logo t-shirt

I began this post speaking about patterns. A pattern is emerging. I am so thrilled to see it happen.

  • One of my closest friends, Andrea Baker, and her husband Andy lead an incredible ministry called Word Made Flesh Bolivia which serves to give abundant life to woman and children affected by prostitution. I have always admired their work.
  • Our former interns, Melinda and Romon Gore, have begun a ministry in the Dominican Republic to house underage girls who were victims of child trafficking and prostitution. Red Roots is all about bringing restoration to the broken. Love that!
  • My desire to become a midwife has led me to become informed about the dire issues worldwide regarding victimized women. The passion to become involved has been slowly growing.

It would seem that my path has been leading me in the direction of helping bring freedom to women.

I am humbled and honored to be invited to help in the abolitionist movement of my time.

Thank you to all who have been praying for us through this transition. This is one of many answers to prayer that we have been seeing. Though undeserving and still messed up I receive this kiss from Heaven and I am so very thankful.

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Where is God in All This

We sat on the concrete bench. My eldest son, only five or so at the time, looked out over the city from our perch. Cochabamba boasts of possessing the tallest statue of Christ in the world. We took some visitors up the hill to see it. As they meandered we sat.

“Mama, you know, God is nice to mean people, too,” he said without breaking his gaze.

“Oh, why do you say that?” I asked.

“Well, even if you are nice or mean you still get the air and the rain and the sun,” he explained.

———-

One of the most ancient names we know of God is ‘I AM’. Later we hear the words of Christ and know that I AM is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our eternal Lord inhabits the expanse of the Heavens and the Earth, He influences all of time and space, He exists.

To know and believe that God exists unconstrained by our human constructs, yet moving and being within them, is to trust that His character and power affect us all. Regardless of the definition one might give to the way she or he relates with God, or avoids relating with God, we are subject to the Sovereignty of His Majesty; Our Humble King reigns.

God is Love. Sovereign Love casts out all fear. He leads me beside still waters, in paths of righteousness, and through valleys shadowed by death, for His name’s sake. But I gotta still move my feet.

I AM in the air, the rain, and the sun.

I AM in the seen, the unseen, and the hoped for.

I AM in all.

I AM with the evil, and with the kind.

I AM with the doubter, eyes wide open, and with the believer, eyes pressed shut tight, in prayer, in denial, in defeat.

I AM with all.

I AM.

So I trust that He is in all this happening in and around me right now, as he has been from the beginning of time, and will be for all eternity.

Side by side we walk, He and I. Sometime I veer this way or that and He enjoys the exploration, as long as we are together. Sometimes I feel Him take my hand and whisper in my ear, and I lean into His woos. Other times He and I commune in the simple talks between friends, in the deep thoughts shared, in the confessions laid bare in intimacy. He is there, He is here, because He is.

cactus baby

A woman told me that when she was a child she carried one of her mother’s high heeled shoes in her backpack. She was so scared of God’s punishment that she armed herself in the case He should jump out and try to get her. Her plan was to throw the shoe at Him and run away.

Can I tell you that with all these hard times we are living there have been moments when I want to throw a shoe at God? But not so much in fear, rather in indignant anger. I thought I did everything “right”. I thought I followed all the rules. I thought I took the path of greatest devotion. I’m a missionary, for Christ’s sake!

All the while that I am throwing shoes of deserving dutiful devotion laced with manipulative attempts of purchasing a good life at God’s chest, He doesn’t go away. He takes it. He opens His Easter arms, smiles wide and tells me, “Come on, take your best shot, give it all you’ve got, get it all out, I can take it.” He doesn’t run and hide from my insults and fury. He is the I AM Who can withstand my deepest outbursts of rage.

Then my arms fall limp, battle sore and weary. He is, still. He bends His battered form next to mine. He leans my head on His bruised chest. He is, still.

God is in the voice of my counselor. God is in the tears of my friends as they weep with me. God is in the arms of my daughter wrapped around me. God is in this, all this, everywhere. I trust Him.

I trust Him to be able to take it when I question the silence. I trust Him to be able to take it when I want to blame, accuse, and judge. I trust Him to take it all and make it all into something that will be well, and good.

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Firsts Bolivia Gave Me

“It’s not like Bolivia is a blanket that we were using and now we are throwing it to one side. Bolivia is woven into me and it’s threads are a part of who we are forever,” I said with tears blurring my vision as I spoke with my oldest Bolivian friend sitting in front of me in the coffee shop today.

She gave me a butterfly ring as a going away gift, to match my first tattoo. “These are wings as you go on the next part of the journey God has for you.” I settled in and listened, as I have learned to do when I know the time has come to listen, to her speak out from her heart blessings, encouragement, sweet memories, and kind wishes. Bolivians know how to make heartfelt speeches. I was touched.

butterfly ring

Bolivia has given me many ‘firsts’. I came as a 25 year old mother of three small children, practically a blank canvas just getting started with life. Remember those lists I was talking about in the previous post? Here’s a fun one I did.

Firsts in Bolivia

1. Kiss on the cheek greeting

2. Sushi

3. Pedicure

4. Climbed a mountain to the summit

5. Got a massage

6. Went to a spa

7. Changed my mind about drinking

8. Learned I prefer white wine over red

9. Officiated a wedding

10. Served as a pastor

11. Ate Indian food

12. Stayed at a 5 star hotel

13. Got a tattoo

14. Got on social media

15. Used the sci-fi predicted miracle that is Skype

16. Blogged

17. Wrote a book

18. Bore a Bolivian child

19. Adopted a Bolivian child

20. Had major surgery

21. Learned Spanish

22. Held a baby abandoned on a the doorstep

23. Held the hand of a friend as she was losing her baby at 19 weeks of pregnancy

24. Fell in love with cactus plants

25. Got jumped at knife point

26. Owned a cell phone

27. Owned a good camera

28. Became the mother of teenagers

29. Co-founded an orphanage

30. Co-founded a school

31. Co-founded an international collective blog

32. Traveled internationally by myself

33. Traveled internationally with only my nursing baby as company

34. Traveled internationally with only my five children as company

35. Built a snowman with my kids

36. Won an award for my photography

37. Visited children who live in a prison with their criminal parents

38. Ate Bolivian food

 

Since I am now 38 years old I’ll stop there.

We are looking at a season of some new firsts for our family. Some will be fun, some terrifying, some silly, and some very serious.

Please pray with us about a huge first for our youngest, Kaitlynn. She will soon, by the grace of God, become for the first time in her life a citizen of the United States of America. There is paperwork, appointments, and other rigamarole to get through for this to happen. Not impossible, just needs to get done along with all the other stuff that is happening right now. Thanks so much for praying with us.

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Transition Tools

Bell Curve Transitions Chart: based on book by William Bridges describing the stages of the grief of transitions, the emotions accompanying those stages, and how we can process those emotions effectively to move through the transition to a new beginning
Bell Curve Transitions Chart: based on book by William Bridges describing the stages of the grief of transitions, the emotions accompanying those stages, and how we can process those emotions effectively to move through the transition to a new beginning

Since we started moving in the direction of moving I started moving towards resources to help with the move. More specifically, I started to gather aids to help our family with this impending Time of Transition.

One thing I have learned from being on the team of A Life Overseas is to not take the resilience of the children for granted. Third Culture Kids need to be given the gift of vocabulary to be able to communicate as they process their transient life. They need to know where they belong and how they fit; and it is our privilege as parents to guide their eyes to the truth of who they are.

I have also picked up on the fact that transition is inescapable in life. We can choose to be intentional about the work it is doing in our lives, or we can ignore it and become emotionally constipated and bitter. The emotional ups and downs and sideways and backwards and loop-do-loops that everyone in our family is experiencing all at once must be validated.

Funny thing, too, I have discovered that we are not the only ones doing this kind of thing. Tons of others have been-there-done-that and tons more are right here in-the-thick thickness of it all. Following is a list of some of the things we are using to help us through this transition. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box. Also, following the list I have included a very special request about a “dream tool” I would like to add to our Transition Tool Box.

Twenty Transition Tools to Try:

1. Counselor via Skype

2. Book – –  Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by: William Bridges

3. Book – –  As Soon as I Fell: A Memoir, by: Kay Bruner

4. Velvet Ashes Article – – I Have Listened to Your Stories, by: Melissa Chaplin

5. A Life Overseas archive – – Third Culture Kid

6. YouTube: Canadian lady, Robin Pascoe on Repatriation

7. Video from a French lady, Anne Gillme: “7 Tragic Mistakes Families Make When Moving Abroad

8. Email subscription through the website of the French lady: Expatriate Connection

9. REAL LIFE PEOPLE: Geographically close people who I can be intimately authentic with

10. REAL LIFE PEOPLE: I call, skype with, email, facebook chat, etc. who I can also pour myself out to without fear of rejection

11. Journal – – A magical awakening of my spirit stirs to life as my hand makes the shapes of letters, words, and phrases. As my ears hear the slight scrape of the pencil on the page the crusty, dry encasement of my soul scrapes away to reveal a clarity not known before the slow quieting of writing.

12. Reading aloud to my children – – I read a portion from a book or a new article I have found about transition, third culture kids, etc. aloud and then we talk about it. I ask leading questions to get them to voice what is going on inside of them. This has also built a beautiful trust within the siblings.

13. Charts around the house – – Like the image above

14. Lists – – I make some kind of list or chart every day for all kinds of things. Allowing myself to go a little overboard with the list making as we go through this transition has been soothing and helpful.

15. Crying, Laughing, Shouting, Sleeping, Watching Shows, Saying the Hard Things… living in the moment. For most of my life I shunned emotions. This has been a huge point of growth for me to value emotions, and not be scared of any of them. Attentive to my emotion at the moment I allow it to be expressed in a healthy manner, then I move on.

16. Coffee

17. Enneagram study- – This is an ancient tool aiding in self awareness and appreciation for the diversity in the people around us

18. Travel – – If I don’t have a trip to look forward to I can become stir crazy; I know this about myself. To keep sane I plan trips.

19. Exercise – – I jog

20. Nails – – Self-care is the catch phrase I hear often as I educate myself about transition. Getting my nails done is a tiny bit of that. Every time I see my cute nails I am reminded that it is good and necessary to take measures to care for myself.

Dream Tool:

Almost every missionary who has been through a similar transition speaks of debriefing. Most recommend this one in Colorado called MTI. Here is what a friend had to say:

“…the program at MTI is just wonderful for the kids. That is one of the reasons we went there rather than somewhere else. Just wanted to let you know, too, that the debriefing program is not actually counseling. They will recommend counseling afterwards if they think you need it but they don’t do counseling. It’s really just a place to share your story and process what you have been through. The most valuable part for us was being with others who were sharing their stories and realizing that even though locations and circumstances were different, we were all going through the same processes and we were not alone! Just normalizing our experiences was so beneficial. The program at MTI is also just one week.”

Here’s the thing folks, and I am just being real here, the week for our family would cost thousands of dollars. Oftentimes when a missionary is connected to an organization these kind of services are provided. As independent missionaries in a bit of a money bind this idea sounds unreachable to me. But I want so much for our family to being able to do this! Can you pray with me? Should God desire for us to attend a debriefing I trust that He will provide for it. Thanks friends.

Join the Facebook group a friend started for us if you would like to help with practical needs as we set up our new home:

Welcome Back Washingtons

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Life is Hard

helen keller quote

We tried really hard to be good missionaries in Bolivia. For thirteen years we tried so very hard. It started even before that when in my youth the passion for mission life burned in my heart. DaRonn and I met as teenagers and found commonality of desire for ministry, for setting out to change the world, for making our lives count for something. We rushed our young family off to a foreign land with such a sense of urgency.

Missionary life has many hardships. It’s hard to wrangle the tongue and make it make new sounds. It’s hard to ask people for money all the time. It’s hard to live amongst socioeconomic extremes whilst examining our own lifestyle choices. It’s hard being away from the comfort and acceptance of family. It’s hard reminding ourselves of why we are struggling with sickness in our bodies and maladies of the soul. It’s hard being misunderstood, judged, and criticized by those we are serving as well as those who are supposed to be on our team. It’s hard weighing the sacrifices we require of ourselves, our kids, and our family back home for perfect strangers. It’s hard when perfect strangers become dear friends and true family then we have to say goodbye.

We gladly assumed those hardships for the sake of the mission. We viewed the discomforts as necessary in order to win the lost. We pushed and pulled, we strove and struggled, we gave everything we had and took only loads of responsibility. We overextended ourselves. And then we broke.

Now we are leaving Bolivia worn down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our finances are suffering. Our family is in need of restoration. Life got way too hard.

If things are hard it is because we care about something. The hardship is indication of a set of values. The definition of our standards determine how hard (or not hard) something is going to be. Indifference about the outcome makes it not so hard because we would not give it any effort.

Sometimes hardship or hard times are imposed upon us. The desired outcome differs from the present reality. If the hardship came, and we didn’t care about what happened as a result, then that thing would not be hard because we would not be putting forth any effort towards changing that reality.

When things just kept getting harder and harder I began to ask some hard questions:

Is this hardship a necessary part of reaching what is hoped for? Do we know for certain what we hope for? Do we know for certain that the hard parts in our life correlate with that hope? What do I need to do differently?

Those kind of questions led to an overhaul of our lives. Granted, not all missionary careers follow the pattern ours took. Our unique path led us face to face with some realities we know need to change.

The ability to voice our values is helpful because then we can determine if the effort is worth it. We can look at what we seem to care about so deeply that is requiring this great force of effort from us and we can decide if this is actually where we want to put our energies. We assign worth to the outcome thus justifying the effort required of us to reach that place.

If we don’t think it is worth it, we’re not going to work for it.

If we do think it is worth it, we will work for it, we’ll assign creative energy towards it, and we will suffer hardship for it.

We determined that a clearer definition of our hopes is needed. Our efforts need to align more closely with our hopes. We need to set aside one set of hardships (the ones that don’t match our hopes) and take up a different set of hardships (ones that will carry us to our hopes).

We began in Bolivia with the greatest intentions. Over the years we have done amazing, wonderful, and fabulous things that have altered eternity, I am sure of it. The adventure of it all has been spectacular. Somewhere along the way, though, we chipped away too much, compromised, and became crippled.

Life is hard. We’ve heard that saying so many times. But why is it hard? Because we care. And because we care we will put forth hard efforts.

It’s hard to break destructive habits like overeating, smoking, laziness, etc. But the hardship is worth the efforts expended to attain a healthier lifestyle. It’s hard to acquire the relationship skills to overcome harmful patterns such as anger, blame, victim mentality, etc. But the end goal of a more peaceful existence with society gives us the motivation to do the hard work to learn a new way of relating to people. It’s hard to admit when things are not working and then start the even harder process of finding out why, what to do about it, and where to find help.

This decision to move our family to Omaha, Nebraska in the United States was reached after more than a year of deliberation. It is a hard, hard, hard choice. The implementation of this change is proving to be one of the hardest things we have ever done in our lives.

My Hopes:

  • I hope this move will remove some of the pressing obligations so that we can find a more livable rhythm
  • I hope this move will allow us to see more clearly where we want to invest ourselves
  • I hope we can find some healing of body and soul since there are more resources readily available in the States
  • I hope to be able to give our kids some really great opportunities, and that they will be able to connect with their heritage
  • I hope that we are not so far gone that this is “too little, too late”, that things can be better

One thing has been made clear through this all: we cannot do this alone!

Please join the facebook group a dear friend set up for us: Welcome Back Washingtons

There will be updates of practical needs you can help us with. I am so grateful that already a group of people has gathered around us to help us with this transition.

Please keep praying for us and for Bolivia.

Peace.

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Four Schools for Distance Study to become a Direct Entry CPM (Certified Professional Midwife)

I have narrowed my choices down to four schools. These provide distance study programs to become a Direct Entry CPM (Certified Professional Midwife). This path of schooling is distinguished by the fact that I am choosing to not become a nurse first.

These schools share a few things in common:

  • First 2 years – technical training
  • Second 2 years  – technical training, clinical hours, and attendance of a certain number of births with a certified preceptor
  • Finalization of the training – taking the NARM test to be certified

Ordered by preference, Est. total cost* ($US) for the 4 years of study

# 1 Institute of Holistic Midwifery, based out of Virginia, 10,300
# 2 Midwives College of Utah, 28,900
# 3 Nizhoni, based out of Michigan, 25,900
# 4 Aviva College, based out of Minnesota, 29,400

*Includes: application fee, administration fee, tuition, other school fees, NARM application ($1,000), book costs ($2,000), materials costs ($300)
*Not included: travel costs to attain the necessary clinical hours and attend the required number of births with a qualified preceptor

The U.S.A is playing catch up

My search pulled up so many fabulous programs based out of Australia, New Zealand, England, the Philippines, Belgium, and The Netherlands.  The midwifery situation in the U.S. seems to be tangled up in many political issues which has stunted its progression. It only makes sense for me to study with a program from the States because of my citizenship, paperwork realities, and financial aid options. For the travel requirements of the second half of my training the logical country to ping-pong back and forth from is the U.S.  so I might see friends and family while I am there.

As I continue to explore my options other more brilliant choices might present themselves – especially for the second half of my training. I am excited to see where this path leads, quite literally.

When

My realistic aim is to be enrolled to start classes August of 2015. That’s a year away. One year to sort out the financial side of things, apply (and get accepted), and find a way to get my hands on some text books. Doable, right?

Wanna help?

My natural inclination after so many years as a missionary is to invite you to participate in this journey with me. Thank you for doing that already by reading, showing interest with your comments, and for encouraging me along the way. I think a support group of people is so vital.

Another way you could help me out is to continue to pray for: clarity in my brain, creativity to solve the logistic realities, energy to see this through, provision, and connections with key people. Thanks for that!

I am really so very excited about this. DaRonn has been super supportive and encouraging, I love that! All my kids are happy for me too.

Toborochi Tree

This morning I had a revelatory moment as I pondered my favorite tree. I first fell in love with the tree during my time living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia so very long ago. My oldest were toddlers at the time and would call these trees ‘honey pot trees’ because they are swollen in the middles. In Bolivia this tree represents femininity because of its form and the pink flowers that fill their branches in the Spring. Even way back then I was drawn to a womanly part of nature. The deeper significance of that yearning has reassured me once again of the good path I am on.

Me next to a Toborochi tree April 2012, family vacation to Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Me next to a Toborochi tree April 2012, family vacation to Santa Cruz, Bolivia

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A Missionary, an Astrologist, and a Midwife walk into a Yoga Center

Sounds like the set up for a great joke, right? It amused me to be the missionary in this scenario; so to that extent it is humorous. Aside from my own chuckle this is nothing more than a statement of fact:

A missionary, an astrologist, and a midwife walk into a yoga center.

My exploration of midwifery training began with a good ol’ Google search. Using as many phrases in Spanish and English I could think of I searched for schools and midwives in Bolivia. Then I extended my search to Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Conclusion: midwifery in Bolivia is 1) rare and 2) rural.

Legality

Two seasoned midwives in other countries have suggested that my next step in midwifery training be to find out what the legal requirements are to practice midwifery in Bolivia. As I understand the laws the government is still figuring out the best way to incorporate midwives and their ways.

The law requires the midwife to be registered with the “Ministry of Health and Sports, Vice-minister of traditional medicine and interculturality” branch of the government. Registration is obtained by the presentation of a formal letter from a certain government official in your town or city of residence on your behalf validating and vouching for your abilities as a practicing midwife in that region for the previous five years. Upon approval this registration allows you entrance into any hospital or clinic to perform your midwifery skills. This is the process required of all those who practice traditional medicine to grant them validity and clinical privileges, such as: herbalists, naturalists, spiritual guides, witch doctors, and midwives.

I know that “Western” practices are far from infallible. I also know there is much we have dismissed or forgotten from our ancient ancestors due to prejudices, industrialization, and commercialization. These errors are essentially throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Yet, I am still coming to accept where the government has chosen to slot midwives. I am not yet at peace with it.

Rural Bolivian Midwives

In the Bolivian countryside and the small towns, which make up the majority of the land in this nation, the midwives learn their skills from the generation before them. Their aptitude is identified as young as 11 years old. Usually the skills are inherited and instilled from an elder in the family. It’s a beautiful thing to think how natural and communal it is to give birth in the villages. It is also a frightening reality that many of the practices are based solely on tradition rather than science. The rustic rural areas are located far from additional support services of modern medical facilities.

To put myself under the tutelage of a traditional Bolivian midwife in a small village would give me loads of experience with laboring women in-the-flesh. But I don’t think it could provide the level of training that I seek to obtain. I respect those midwives and I see their role as vital for this nation. I just don’t feel like that is the path I am supposed to take to receive my training.

The full list of those officially registered in Bolivia can be found online. I scoured the names and categories to find the ones registered in the department (state) of Cochabamba. There were 22 (out of a population of 1,900,000+). I did a Facebook search for each of their names. I didn’t find any on facebook. Most likely they are all in the small villages of our department.

Vivi
Vivi

Urban Bolivian Midwife

Through Facebook, though, I did find one “partera” (midwife) in Cochabamba. I wrote a little message to her introducing myself and explaining I would like to meet her to discuss the training options that exist for a person like me here in Cochabamba. I also googled her name and found a few articles by and about her. I was able to ascertain from a YouTube video that she became uneasy and unsatisfied with the entitled, prejudiced, and rude treatment of the doctors towards the women she began to seek out a different way. Her journey led her to become a midwife.

She responded to my message with kindness and suggested a time we meet. At first we were going to sit in a plaza and talk. The day of the meeting she texted me to say that a friend of hers had graciously offered the space of her yoga center for us to meet. I was so excited.

I found the place and remembered seeing signs out front that they specialize in prenatal yoga. The place was every bit what you would expect. Low lights, soothing decor, and incense lingering in the air. The yoga instructor ushered me in to Vivi, the midwife. Vivi is lively yet calm with a sweet countenance of peace and acceptance. She has a soft voice that resonates confidence. Her long hair, beaded jewelry, and flowing flowery garb reminded me of pictures I had seen of my parents’ hippie days. I loved her right away.

We sat at the small table in the kitchenette and drank herbal tea sweetened with natural honey. She shared her story. I shared mine. Then I asked about the education possibilities. She spoke of her dreams of a state of the art birthing center with a training arm here in the city of Cochabamba. Then she spoke of the challenges of money, initiative, and legality. I understood. She encouraged me to continue on this path and urged me to seek out the training in any way I could.

As we rose to leave we encountered one of her friends in the entry way. She introduced me to the astrologist and explained how they work together. Vivi has a few women who are expecting babies in the coming months. She does their prenatal care and then attends their births.

Beyond Bolivia

I was disappointed to know that training to be a midwife would have to come from abroad. I was surprised, too. I thought there would be a more midwives because of the practicality of the role in a society like this one. I feel sorry that the expectant mothers in the urban areas do not have the option of the services of a  midwife. It just makes sense to simplify and reduce the high number of unnecessary cesarean sections with a midwifery program. The great divide created by classism is shocking and quite abhorrent. Bolivia could benefit greatly from more midwives.

Now I have to look beyond Bolivian borders for a school. That search has begun.

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I Want to be a Midwife. Now What?

When? Where? How? So many questions at this point. I am not without options. I just know I am facing a few challenges.

  1. Age – Just turned 38. I know we never stop learning. I feel like my body and brain are up for this. I do feel also some urgency to make this happen sooner rather than later.
  2. Geography – Bolivian midwives are few and far between in the city of Cochabamba. More practice in the villages and rural areas. Not impossible to access to get some hands on training, but difficult. No formal midwifery training is to be found in all of Bolivia (correct me, please, if you have other information). If I were to work alongside a practicing midwife in a village I wonder if they would accept me, culturally speaking.
  3. Education – I have a high school diploma from the U.S. and one year of mission school training. No medical background, whatsoever. Many of the distance schools I have seen online require a basic nursing or paramedic degree as a prerequisite.
  4. Realistic responsibilities – My life is here in Bolivia: as a missionary, as a mother of 5 kids still at home, as a wife supporting a man who works to provide for the family. My seriousness in choosing now to pursue this passion (that has been steadily growing for about 8 years now) dramatically affects each of those realistic responsibilities.
  5. Baby steps – Right now I am gathering information from around the globe about how this can become a reality. I’m researching online. I am talking to people in the field. I am blogging about it in hopes to get some feedback. I made an Amazon wish list of 30+ textbooks and books I want to obtain based on a few different reading lists that distance schools made available online. I’ve begun to crunch the numbers for textbooks, distance training, etc.
  6. Apprenticeship – It seems that most programs are about three years long. Some you can start from zero, like I am doing. All require time and experience spent under an approved practicing midwife, which I totally want to do, but it seems that none are close by, thus demanding I place myself in a physically different location for a significant amount of time.  (I did meet a Bolivian midwife. For a upcoming blog I will be speaking about midwifery in Bolivia.)
  7. Money – This part stumps me, but doesn’t stress me out. Training, textbooks, and travel are all costly and necessary for this to happen. And right when we are trying to figure out about launching our three oldest kids in a few short years. Hmm. Somehow, though, I have a feeling it’s all going to work out.

Do you, my handful of faithful readers, have any questions for me? Are there some challenges I am not seeing that you would like to mention? Do you have any suggestions for overcoming these difficulties?

journey The process which has brought me to this place of action is very precious to me. I don’t want to skip any step because I know all of them are important. Ambition and zeal got burned up in my younger years. Patience and persistence will be my strength as I walk out this journey. I am grateful for those following me, walking this out alongside me, and helping me to birth this desire. Thank you!

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Birth Stories – 9 – Mercy

bunny birth stories logoMaking close friends is a necessity for survival when you are far from blood relatives. The Holman family has a few kids the same ages as a few of our kids. Mrs. Holman and Mrs. Washington have formed an especially tight bond. Yes, I just referred to myself in the 3rd person. According to Mr. Holman this is because I rock. I am so grateful for their friendships. I feel so privileged they allowed me to be present at the birth of their Bolivian born daughter, Mercy.

I was in the room the whole time Denise labored. She was so beautiful. The contractions would come and go. She would get quiet, go into herself for a while, and then as the pressure let up she would again engage in the conversation in the room. It wasn’t long. This was their 11th child. I watched, prayed, encouraged, and chatted.

The delivery room they took her to for the final moments of pushing was crowded, hot and teeny tiny. They weren’t there long, so I am sorry I didn’t ask to go with them. I learned then that if I want to walk this path I need to take the initiative to make it happen, not wait for it to come to me. I don’t want to be the one who hangs back left in the waiting room ever again. I know with all my heart that I want to be a midwife.

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