Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 9--Jogma

{Name: Jogma        Dream: Go to college}

Let me start off by saying that when I first sat down to write about Jogma, I ended up writing 7 pages! I'll save you the long version (that's for the book, HA!), and give you the short(er) version.

I can remember my first few interactions with Jogma, nearly four years ago. I couldn’t get over her creativity, intelligence, imagination and high-pitched giggling. I remember thinking that her life must be interesting--she has 32 siblings because her parents run an orphanage in Liberia. Jogma’s parents treat her just like the other children--she shares her bed, she eats out of the same pot and she has just as many chores. Jogma’s the oldest child; a big sister and role model to all of her siblings. She’s also the ‘entertainment coordinator’. We have spent so many hot afternoons under the shade of the plum tree, with Jogma creating the afternoon’s program off of the top of her head. She would giggle as she introduced the “children’s choir all of the way from Sierra Leone” or “performers from America” and then some of the children would jump up and sing a song or dance themselves silly. So much laughter has occurred under those plum trees!
And then Jogma was suddenly a teenager. She was attending school outside of the orphanage. Her friends began to hang out at the orphanage, and then only sometimes would they sit under the plum trees, because most days they were typical teenagers--too cool for that kid stuff. Thankfully, Jogma and I had formed a special friendship, and she would still sit and talk with Aunite Ashley, and we spent hours on the front porch sewing together. Once I began to realize that she was no longer a child, I started giving her responsibilities and including her in the planning of lessons for the older girls. Lots of sewing, baking and more laughter occurred!
When I had to suddenly leave Liberia last year because of malaria and a broken foot, I remember saying goodbye to Jogma. She was in tears. Seeing her tears told me that she really did enjoy our time together, and it was more than a child/adult or student/teacher relationship. We were friends...good friends. I was away from Liberia for nearly 8 months while I regained my strength and while I practically had to learn how to use my left foot again. I longed to be under the plum trees laughing, or sitting on the front porch sewing with Jogma.
When I returned to Liberia, one of my biggest fears became a reality. You see, Jogma was one of the few teenagers, especially when it comes to girls, that I work with that are on track with their education. She was 16 and in the 11th grade. She had excellent grades at a local Catholic high school. She studied, read books (Harry Potter!), helped her parents run their businesses and was essentially a caretaker for all of the children. Jogma had also become good friends with classmates and neighbors...and Jogma was pregnant. I returned to a Jogma that I didn’t know. She stayed inside all day, she was failing her classes, her smile and laughter ceased to exist and that sparkle was no longer in her eyes. I began to fear the absolute worst--her sudden personality change was because something terrible happened, like rape. 
She would call me in tears. But when I would come, she didn’t want to talk and would quietly sob. She was kicked out of school, and she no longer had friends Her parents were extremely disappointed and angry. Neighbors were talking and spreading rumors. She couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t know how to fix things, or what I could even say to make things better. But I would go, and sit, and listen. I would try to dance around the whole baby thing because she would never talk about the baby and she didn’t even seem to acknowledge the fact that she was even pregnant. I would try to talk about names or if she wanted a boy or a girl. I feared that she didn’t want the baby because she was silent. But, one day, I got a call from Jogma--she was so distraught that I couldn’t even understand her. All that I knew was that she wanted me to come. 
That was the day I believe things changed. There were alot of tears. She was disappointed in herself and ashamed. She knew that she had let her parents down. She just needed her parents to stand by her during this difficult time. She needed to know that she was still loved, despite her poor decision. She felt isolated and she felt useless because she wasn’t in school. That’s when I let her know that, no matter what, I would love and support her. If she needed to talk, ask questions, or just get away, I would be there. 
{Jogma and I sewing on her porch one Friday morning}

Jogma and I had a standing Friday morning date--we would either sit and sew or shop for supplies together every Friday. I knew she looked forward to this time every week, and she loved riding around in the pickup truck to shop with me. We went to doctor appointments together and went to the market to get sewing supplies or things that she would need for the baby. We looked through old magazines for quilting ideas and flipped through cake decorating books. She’s my kind of girl!

We were waiting...and waiting...for any signs that the baby was on its way. We had bets and predictions--when would the baby come, and would it be a boy or a girl. Jogma was pretty miserable, and we joked that that was the sign that the baby was almost here. I took her on bouncy truck rides to ‘bounce the baby right out of her’ and told her to walk walk walk! We (Deb and I) got a call one night that it was time! We went to pick Jogma up from the orphanage and took her to the clinic. They checked her in and got her set up in the birthing room. Once we knew that things were not going to progress quickly, Deb and I went home to get some sleep. Jogma paced back and forth in that hot room all night long. We went the next morning to check on her--she was exhausted because she literally walked around all night long--but still things were not progressing as quickly as we had hoped. We went back later that night for visiting hours, and when we were one our way home, her mom called us to let us know that her water had finally broke! That was just the beginning.

We got an early morning call (like at 4am) from Jogma’s mom to tell us that the clinic was discharging her and wanted us to take her to another hospital because the baby was breech and they weren’t prepared for c-sections. We picked up Jogma and her mom and took the quick 5 minute drive to the nearby mother/baby hospital. When we walked into the maternity ward, it was clear that Jogma had just entered birthing hell. It was dingy and dirty, women were screaming, there were used medical supplies under our flip-flopped feet, there was an ant parade going across the floor and to top it off the staff didn’t have the supplies they needed, they were tired and most didn’t have a bit of compassion in their body. We left Jogma there a few hours later and went home for some sleep and to wait until visiting hours. This cycle continued--morning visiting hours, home for sleep or to get other things done, taxi service for family/friends, night visiting hours, late dinner and late to bed--for the next 2 days! 

By the fourth day, we had had enough. Jogma was exhausted and in a terrible amount of pain. I remember one time I went to visit her and they had her sitting out in the middle of the room (where everyone was shuffling in and out), and if she cried out in pain, they quickly told her to be quiet and not to cry. I was furious, so I told her that she’d earned the right to cry and for her to let everyone know that she’s having a baby! I don’t think the nurses appreciated me. By this time, Jogma had been in labor for around 72 hours. Her water had broken two days ago. She wasn’t progressing and she hadn’t eaten or slept in 4 days! Deb and I met with the doctor and practically begged him to put her out of her misery. He straight up told us that he didn’t want to do a c-section because “surgery in this country was risky” and he wanted to wait a few more hours to see if things changed.

A female doctor from South America showed up out of nowhere and basically told us that they would wait two more hours, but that ultimately she believed that Jogma would need a c-section. Then we started talking about what that meant--we needed people to donate blood. Her parents wouldn’t donate blood; they thought the hospital would just sell it. So Deb and I had our blood tested. I’ll admit, I hate giving blood! I haven’t done it since high school because it took me hours to recuperate and I struggled to fill the pint bag up fast enough. Combine that with being in a third world country, not really knowing if the lab tech knew what he was doing, not fully trusting that the needle or the process was safe and knowing that I had bought two sugar donuts on the street for my breakfast. 
Because God has a fantastic sense of humor, I was a perfect match for Jogma and Deb was a universal donor. We explained that we didn’t have an adequate breakfast, so we needed to go find something to eat. We headed downstairs to the outdoor market stalls by the hospital gate. Cookies, crackers, water and Coke were the choices--we loaded up on chocolate biscuits, glucose crackers and each had a bottle of Coke. We sat outside and stuffed our faces with the cheapest, worst junk possible (everybody was starring at the white women who were downing chocolate cookies at 9am) and shortly after we were told that the doctor had called for the c-section. We hiked up the 4 flights of steep stairs to the lab.
{The first glimpse of Joshua!}

About 45 minutes later, we went back to the maternity ward to check on the progress. Deb walked into the maternity ward, she popped her head back out and motioned for me to come. There was a tiny, beautiful bundle wrapped up and laying on Jogma’s bed! Big dark eyes were just looking around the room, taking everything in. There was no crying, just contentment. The baby was not wrapped in the girl lappa that Jogma and I had purchased together, but instead, the baby was wrapped in a yellow, blue and green lappa. One of the nurses came out and handed me the fuzzy pink baby blanket that Jogma had bought, and that’s when I realized it was a boy!

Because we had become a spectacle around the hospital over the past 4 days, everyone congratulated us and they wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. Practically the entire yard was celebrating--security guards, nurses, fellow patients, visitors, women running their market stalls outside the hospital gate--but the best celebration was being able to go back to the orphanage and share the news with all of the kids and show them the baby’s first photo. The front yard was full of complete joy and celebration! So much celebration that half the neighborhood came running! Everyone wanted to see the photo, made a comment about ‘the old man’ and proceeded to thank Deb and I with a very Liberian “tank you, yeah?”.

The next few days were spent visiting Jogma from 7am-8am and 5pm-6pm during the visiting hours. We were usually shuttling people to and from the hospital, and then we’d just sit in a big room and pass the baby around. We kept asking about the name, and just referred to him as Small Joshua after one of my fellow teammates. Hopefully Jogma was decided on Joshua because Small Joshua stuck! After four days of labor and nearly a week recovering in the hospital, Jogma was finally discharged! She was getting around slowly, and was still in quite a bit of pain, but she was sick and tired of the hospital with the constant noise, crammed rooms, people extremely sick and some even dying. 
Bringing her and Joshua home from the hospital was a great celebration! I had to take every pothole and turn as slow as possible, which is difficult to do in Liberia, because the smallest bump put Jogma into a terrible amount of pain. When we pulled into the orphanage yard, the kids came running out, singing and dancing, and the neighbors started to gather to get a glimpse of ‘the man that hammocked Jogma plenty’. I’m pretty sure Jogma was just ready for bed!
Because my departure from Liberia depended on Joshua’s arrival, once Jogma was discharged from the hospital, I began to make plans to travel home. I was set to leave Liberia on August 24th--more than a month after I had originally planned on leaving Liberia, and just a week or so away. I would go and visit Jogma and Joshua every day--to check on her pain, to make sure she was taking her medicine and to see if Joshua was eating. We would sit on the bed and oogle over the sleeping baby, talk about her hospital experience and just be silly girls. I got the insider’s scoop from Jogma, and I gave her the scoop on what all was going on outside the maternity ward while Jogma was in the labor zone. Jogma continued to have a good amount of pain and was getting around very slowly. 
On the morning of my departure date, I went to the orphanage to spend some time with Jogma. She ended up going to the hospital to get her stitches taken out, so I arrived to Joshua crying. I asked questions and figured out that Jogma had been at the hospital for a few hours...and Joshua was hungry! I called Deb to see what was going on, and Deb informed me that they had to cut Jogma’s wound open and drain the infection and that they were readmitting her. We were to pack up her and Joshua’s things and our driver would come for Joshua, Jogma’s mom and her things. I was disappointed and I really felt for Jogma--more pain, more time in the hospital--and I knew I wouldn’t be able to see her before I left for the airport. I ended up having to call her from the departure lounge to say goodbye. I told her I would be praying for her and that she needed to keep her head up and do what the doctors told her to do. She needed to focus on getting better and taking care of herself and Joshua. She needed to slow down and let her body recover. I also told her that I would leave a large amount of sewing supplies for her so that once she was able, she could get back to sewing! 
I came home and, about a week later, got the first report that Jogma and Joshua were not well. These reports were in my inbox for the next three weeks. I was worried and so I called Jogma. It was so great to hear her voice! She sounded more like her normal self. She told me she was ‘trying small’ and I was just hoping that was the truth. Then I started asking about Joshua. I asked if he was doing fine, to which Jogma replied, “oh, Auntie Ashley, he doing fiiiiine. He big-o!” That’s when I knew everything was ok.
It’s like she suddenly went from a young girl to a strong and beautiful woman. I guess that’s what motherhood does to you. I loved watching her interact with her son. I laughed when someone else was holding Joshua and Jogma would watch to make sure they were taking good care of him. 
I cannot wait to get back to Liberia and watch Mommy Jogma in action! At first she was hesitant and wasn’t sure what to do. I would encourage her and tell her that she will figure out things along the way. She will learn what Joshua’s cries means, she will figure out what makes him comfortable and she will learn what works best. I also can’t wait to see how God uses Jogma. Not only is she a dear friend to me, but she is a dear friend to so many of the girls in her orphanage, as well as to the girls in the orphanages that she’s taken the time to teach sewing to. 
Sometimes there are people in your life that teach you lessons. Jogma is one of those people. She is smart and determined. She perseveres. After seeing her suffering in labor for four days, in a great amount of pain, and with silent tears streaming down her face, I realized that Jogma is strong! Stronger than me. She has so many hopes and dreams, and she is ready to work hard to reach for the stars.  She is caring and compassionate. She is talented and uses her abilities purposefully. She is full of life, love and laughter. I don’t think I can say enough good things about this beautiful woman.

Pray for Jogma. Pray as she continues to adjust to motherhood. Pray that she would find rest and that she would just enjoy being a mom. Pray for the relationship between Jogma and Joshua’s father. When I left Liberia, he was still very much a part of Jogma and Joshua’s life. The poor guy was a sleepless, hungry and nervous wreck during those four days of Jogma’s labor. They want to make things work, and I pray that they really can make things work, and that they will become a family in the future. Pray that Jogma is able to reach her dreams--she wants to finish high school and go to college. Above all, pray that Jogma would feel God’s presence in her life and that she will know Him as her Father and Savior.
{Jogma and Joshua last week. He's already SO big!}
If you would like to support Jogma, take a look at Jogma's sewing creations in the Good Gifts Market! All of the money raised from her headbands and clutches will go directly back to Jogma! You can also keep an eye out for more beautiful creations from Jogma once I get back to Liberia!


Jenny said...

Loved this story - I would like to purchase one of her clutches, but I'm not sure where. I did go to the Orphan Relief page, but didn't see a pay button. If you can let me know, I'll do it immediately.

Just thought - would it be possible to send a small gift with you to the little boy that we sponsor through Orphan Relief?

Thanks, Jenny

Ashley said...

Hi Jenny,
If you want, you can just click on 'Donate' on the right hand side of my blog and pay for the clutch that way. Then just send me an email with which clutch you'd like, as well as where I can ship it to.

Yes, you can send a small gift for your sponsored child (who is it?!), and I can take it back to Liberia with me next month.