This is Lenise and her daughter, Nica.
Lenise came to work for us as a live-in nanny a little more than a year ago. At that time, we didn't know she was pregnant. I don't know if she knew or not, but after several weeks of her looking bigger and bigger and Nick and I playing the “is she pregnant or did she just eat a lot of rice?” game, I just buckled and asked her.
“Lenise, are you pregnant?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “that's just the way my body is shaped.”
“Oh!” I said and tried to pretend I wasn't embarrassed I had just asked her that.
Lenise's mother, Felecia is also works for us as a live-in nanny. She's worked for us for almost 3 years now. She's the greatest Haitian granny ever. We actually employ two of Felecia's grown daughters because we like that she gets to live together with her family. Besides, she totally keeps them in line for us. We now live in a ZERO drama house (staff-wise) because of the way she doesn't take any crap from her daughters. It's pretty great.
So back to the story.
A few minutes after I had asked Lenise if she was pregnant, Felecia comes upstairs and says, “Gwenn, here's the thing. Lenise is NOT pregnant, but she hasn't seen her period in over 4 months. She's not sure why.” ;)
Having a BFF here who is a midwife is helpful, and so we sent her over for a consultation at Sarah's clinic, Olive Tree Projects. Sarah did a pregnancy test, and sure enough, Lenise was pregnant. (This was not a surprise to us.)
Lenise got prenatal care at Olive Tree and little by little we learned more about her story. She is only 19 and already has a 2 year old daughter, Fedia, whom the dad has custody of. It's a long, complicated story and I don't really have the time or energy to discuss Haitian gender roles and women's “rights” in Haiti, but suffice to say, the more Lenise shared, the more Nick and I became convinced that we needed to help her in this situation.
She stayed with us working through her pregnancy. She had a healthy pregnancy with regular prenatal care. She had a fantastic delivery with no complications. Lenise took about 2 weeks off. We hardly saw her or the baby during that time. She stayed in her room with Nica and Felecia and Saintcia did her work for her and diligently helped her care for the baby. Nica nursed well right away and she was off to a good start. It was great having a baby around the house and Nica was the easiest-going baby ever.
In early August Felecia and Lenise came to talk to Nick and I. Lenise was planning on returning to Thiotte. The girls' father told her that he was no longer going to care for Fedia and that Lenise had to decide what to do with her. She decided to parent both girls. With as good of an employee as Lenise has been, surprisingly, Nick and I were not disappointed at this news. In fact, we were both really encouraged. We love that Lenise is going to parent her daughter. She's worked it out to watch her niece as well, and together the working members of the family will be able to support her as she offers childcare. Having several employees in the same family helps the whole family, not just the ones who are working.
After expressing our support for her choice to parent, we asked Felecia if she had anymore daughters that were interested in a job. She didn't have another daughter who was available, but she did have a niece. (Marijo, age 19-- she's already started working with us.)
Yesterday was Lenise's last day here. My kids wanted to make her cards and have a goodbye party. So we did. Nick made a big pound cake. The kids made crowns for Lenise and Nica. We serenaded them with a song called, “N'ap sonje'w Lenise!” (We will miss you Lenise) to the tune of Happy Birthday. Nick and I gave her school supplies and some money to help buy school uniforms for Fedia.
And we said goodbye well.
This morning Lenise and Nica headed out. Felecia went with them-- she took a week off to go help her get settled in and prepared for school.
Thiotte is far. I am not sure whether or not we will ever get the chance to see Lenise & Nica again. But either way, I love the way that we got to love and serve her family as she loved and served ours.
(R-L: Felecia, Saintcia, Nica, Lenise)