Days 54 to 56 – Fragility and Resilience of the Human Condition

Me and Maria, a nurse’s aid, in the DR after the birth of this beautiful baby

Warning: this post will be sad and possibly considered graphic for some. But living Full On isn’t about always being stoked and easy to read. I have had 4 hours sleep total in three days. Lately I’ve been helping out the midwife group even more, as one of the midwives is on an extended maternity leave and another tore her rotator cuff. This means I am often Full On pooped when on call. But despite the fatigue, I wanted to share  briefly about living full on when you are tender inside.

The past few days have indeed had me living and experiencing fully. I had a deep appreciation of the fortune in my life and counted my innumerable blessings after being reminded of the deep suffering people can experience in this world – A family at the hospital had lost their child, only 24 hours old, from an accident. I can’t even imagine the heartache and the places their souls and minds must go after that.

Then I remembered my friend and fellow midwife, Joanne Jorissen Chiwaula. She founded the African Mothers Health Initiative in Malawi, and I had the utter joy and honor of going to graduate school with her. She described how they had shelves where they would put the babies that had died that day, which happened every day, and they wrapped them in bright African cloths. I had an image of those shelves with bright bundles representing social injustice and the human condition.

I remembered volunteering in the Dominican Republic and going in to catch a woman’s baby and next to the labor bed, on the cold cement floor in a cardboard box, was a stillborn baby just tossed in there. I cringed in horror, first thinking of this mother I was helping and that she might have to see that right before giving birth. I took my foot and gently pushed the box out of the way as she struggled onto the table, apologizing to the baby in there with my heart. I silently cried inside as I tried to stay present for my laboring mother and her baby.

Later, some friends in the chocolate industry in the D.R. sent a driver with a Mercedes to pick me up in the “bad” neighborhood I was in. That was awkward.

After making sure I didn’t feel scared where I was staying (I loved it! Salsa club just around the corner!), they asked about my day. When I told them my experience in the state hospital, they were in disbelief, even going so far as to say my observation of there being no running water in the hospital – at least on labor and delivery – was a “mistake.” One woman there was even a pediatrician, but she trained in the US and worked in a private hospital. They weren’t bad people. Just sheltered – and passively not facing – the realities of their country,

I told them gloves were a luxury, and I brought mine from the US (on advice) while he local staff washed the ones they had in bleach and hung them in the sun, where they broke down quickly and would tear as you put them on. I had to carry my gloves on my person in a hipsack, as they’d get stolen by the staff wanting to protect themselves from HIV and the other predominating communicable diseases there.

I had flashes of the stillborns I had delivered here in the US, because birth is a “miracle” for a reason – and there are lots of things can can go wrong simply because it can, and can’t be prevented. I remembered delicately handing the swaddled silent babies to their mothers and the thick silence and holiness of the air.

After knowing about this family’s loss recently, I was reminded of all these events in a montage of memory flashes. I became heavy when I thought about how so many people experience this so much more frequently in other countries. I remembered my mother casually telling me that in the Philippines (she’s a Filipina herself), they often say pregnancy is “one foot in the grave.” Dang!

This suffering happens all over the world. And people still get up, and make breakfast for their family, go to work, play with their other kids and laugh with them, and they watch the sunset…the resiliency of humans – and here I particularly bow down to the women of the world – is awe-inspiring.

I let my heart fill with compassion,felt the sadness fully, and let it move through me. I was filled with a conviction to not turn away from the suffering of others. I also vowed to not get pulled under by the suffering of others, because that doesn’t serve anyone either.

The human condition is so fragile, yet resilient and bold. Tonight I go to bed grateful for my life, my blessings, and my ability to change the world and make it a better place.

PS: One book that really opened my eyes further to the huge role of poverty in social injustice is Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power. Check it.

Note: Ana Neff is known as the Ziji™ Mentor. She helps individuals awaken their lives and personal success with confidence, clarity, and passion. Her monthly Ziji Up! eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting