A lot has happened in these 5 weeks, but I'll try and fill you all in! My first week back was so full. I barely blinked and before I knew it, it was Sunday and a bus full of ladies had arrived from very far away. I got a page that my ladies were on the ship, my favorite moment! (see this post) As I walked into reception it was immediately apparent why these beautiful ladies had suffered obstructed labor that left a hole in their bladder. They were all well under 5 feet tall! Most of them looked like little girls even though they had all been mothers at one time.
Madagascar is so different than any West African country I've been to so far. The people are more quiet, and reserved; they dress differently; the country is green and lush; but the reasons women suffer fistulas is the same here as it is everywhere: young girls that are underdeveloped; lack of access to quality emergency obstetric services; and villages so far away from hospitals it would take days to walk to help. The ladies here carry the same stoic shell; they hide well the pain and misery-buried deep and covered with hard work and a smile when prodded. Sometimes I forget how much they've endured in their short lives. Pregnancy is not always a joyous occasion for a woman here. For some it's a guarantee of a difficult labor, loss of a child, and loss of function.
But there is hope! Function can be restored, hearts can be mended, and lives changed. Last week we had our first Dress Ceremony. A celebration not only of their physical healing, but also their emotional healing. A new dress is a symbol of a new life, a new hope, a new beginning. How precious are these women!? I love to see their transformations...they go from shy and quiet to silly and funny.