When I first heard the idea, I couldn’t help but get excited. A Spring Break adventure in Haiti with our fearless travel buddies! The idea brewing was a trip to the beautiful South, backpacking through remote cloud forest known for rare orchids and wildlife, camping out on one of the loveliest beaches in the country. What better way to spend a week off from work?
As we discussed details one Sunday night over sweet tea and peanuts, I was reminded of our Spring Break trip last year. We hiked from outside Port-au-Prince over the mountains and to the southern coast of Haiti in a trek that was both grueling and cathartic. There were two days of intense hiking through rugged mountains with packs. The 16+ miles each day and a few thousand feet of elevation change left us exhausted and delighted when we finally made it to the coastal town of Marigot. The few days that followed involved playing on the beach, swimming under a waterfall, and finding our way back to Port-au-Prince via public transport in lieu of hiking back over the mountains.
This year’s trip had the makings of an even more memorable and extreme adventure. Nathaniel, the organizer, diligently made calls and gathered information, which can be a difficult task in Haiti. He learned more about camping and hiking in the area from the overseer of the park, and even called the mayor of the beach town to make sure it was alright for us to camp there. The pesky questions I asked were being answered and a solid plan was emerging.
And yet, as the days went by and the trip approached, I started feeling a sense of uneasiness instead of eager anticipation. Even with a well-laid plan, concerns came into my mind. Most of them pointed back to our little girl, expected to arrive in June. What if I slipped on some loose rocks and took a hard fall like I had in Colorado in the summer? Would she be okay? What if I was injured and it took hours and hours to get to the hospital? Would she be in danger? What would hiking in tough terrain with a 30-pound pack be like while pregnant—it was usually fine, but would my body feel different now? Would I hold the group up? Was the open beach really a safe place to camp? Would people assume that the “blan” had lots of cash and use the opportunity to rob us—or worse? Questions spiraled around in my mind.
In many ways, the risks involved in this trip were no greater than those of last year’s trip. The only difference was me. Gulp. With that realization, guilt started to bubble in along with the questions. Was I being too soft? Have I allowed myself to view my healthy pregnancy as a disability or illness? Was I being selfish and unreasonable to have these doubts about the trip? Was I letting myself be controlled by my fears? And, a little further under the surface, was motherhood going to be summed up in missing out on the fun stuff?
All of the questions kept churning in my mind. They went around and around, like sand and water swirled together in a mason jar. The view through the jar was murky at first, and there was little clarity. But, as I quieted myself, thought and prayed, my anxiety let go of its undulating grip, and the jar was left to sit still for a little while. Little by little, the questions settled to the bottom. As they did, the water became clear. In those moments of stillness, both the fear and the guilt seemed to subside. The questions that had been stirring in me were not answered, but they somehow seemed less important.
Out of the settling water, something new started to become clear. A certain peace. A kind of acceptance. The frenetic movement of the noisy questions was replaced by a loving presence, whose voice I am grateful to know and recognize. God’s words were not audible or distinct, but still seemed to say, “Be present in your life at this moment. This daughter in your womb is a gift, not a burden or obstacle. Honor her, who is growing within you. Honor your husband, who is at your side. Honor your own body, now the carrier of new life. Allow yourself to accept this time of your life as beautiful and rich.”
From this place of listening, so much emerged. Acceptance. Compassion. Renewal. Joy.
Also, almost as an afterthought, a decision. Our friends would travel without us this time. Though it still stung to share the news with them, underneath, there was peace.
Instead of the adventure to the South, Robbie and I put together our own plans, mostly at the last minute—a few days of rest in our apartment, then a few days alone together at a friend’s cabin in nearby mountains, with a finale of a couple of days at a local beach with friends. The result was perfect—baking goodies, hiking for miles (I’m not dead, after all!), sunsets that made me gasp, quiet mornings of watching birds and leaves dance, playing cards by candlelight on cool evenings, laughter, walks on the beach, and falling asleep to the sound of the waves.
Yes, this is where we are right now. And now more than ever, I can see, it’s beautiful.