Time for a temporary but major relocation…

Putting our stuff away for our time in the US.

In true Brockington-style, just as we settle into a healthy comfortable rhythm in Malawi, it’s time for temporary but major relocation back to the US to have our baby girl.  Leaving Malawi and CLI was a lot harder than we thought it would be, especially our clinic coworkers and friends.  We have really come to feel like Malawi is our home and it only took 5 months.

Any missionary will tell you that coming back to the US after a short or long term mission is hard.  You experience reverse culture shock, also known as acculturization.  This is similar to the culture shock one experiences when they go somewhere for the first time, but different because it occurs in what is considered your “home” country. Reverse Culture Shock occurs when reality does not meet expectation.  During re-entry often there is an “idealized view of home and expectation of total familiarity.” Basically you expect nothing to change while you have been away, but the reality is that now “home” essentially feels foreign.

Resting after a long day of packing.

Reverse Culture Shock actually occurs in stages (just like traditional culture shock).  The First Stage is “Disengagement” and often starts before you leave your mission field when have to start planning and making preparation for the trip home.  We did not make the decision until April to come back to the US and have the baby, so the disengagement stage was short for us.  Really we focused on work and the clinic as much as possible until early June.  This was really hard because we were having to plan out our time in the US, finding a OB-GYN in Saint Louis (where we would be staying), deciding what we needed to buy for the baby in Malawi so it would be there when we got back in September and then actually finding and buying it.  Also, Jared had a lot of transition of clinical and administrative duties to arrange and we both had to start letting go of responsibilities at the hospital right in the middle of some big program developments, which I think was the hardest part.  All of this on top of the fact that I was 7 months pregnant made it VERY challenging emotionally for both of us. Saying good-bye to friends we made and packing up all our stuff to go live as homeless-couch surfers in the US made the sadness and frustration worse.

Flight from Joburg to London.

The Second Stage is “Initial Euphoria” which I think is more common for short-term mission trips than long-term missionaries.  There is a lot of work involved for long-term missionaries who have spent months or years creating a life in their mission country. For us it was more stressful than exciting making the plane trip back to the US, but I think a lot of that is because of being pregnant and uncomfortable for most of the 10+ hour plane rides. To be honest though, there was a bit of euphoria the first time we see Starbucks in Heathrow Airport!  Getting to see friends and family again after a long absence is always great and full of hugs and laughs too.

For everyone in reentry the time span of this “euphoria” varies, but most often loving friends and family will tire of listening to your “missionary stories” yet will be polite about it.  This is a hard to swallow for some people because their stories and adventures in their mission country are all they have to hold onto of their life there.

Waiting in Heathrow for our flight to Houston.

The Third Stage is “Irritability and Hostility” and is easy to fall into once the “euphoria” of being back on US soil fades.  Commonly people will feel frustrated, angry, alienated, lonely, disoriented and helpless but have no idea why.  We have been on short term mission trips many times over the last 10 years and luckily we learned about this stage and how to combat it a long time ago.  Knowing that this is a normal and expected reaction to coming back to the US does not mean that we do not still experience it in our own ways, but it means we can help one another identify when its happening.  Unfortunately for me, all the pregnancy hormones and general discomfort from being VERY pregnant have made this phase MUCH HARDER for Jared and I both.  He is a superhero though and made it out of this phase in only a few days (a week at the most) this time.

Its actually funny how quickly you can become critical and irritated by American culture when you are exposed to it again.  On the way home this time, there was an American teen playing his guitar in the airport in Johannesburg while we waited for our flight to London.  He played ok, but he and his friends were so loud and it was just such an America cliche.  I wanted to throw something at him and tell him to shut up! Luckily my social filter, Jared, was there and told me to calm down he is just a kid.  I am pretty sure any irritability and hostility that lingers in my attitude has more to do with the baby hormones than reverse culture shock at this point.

There is an gradual transition into Stage Four, known as Readjustment and Adaptation, which is easier for some than others.  Again, I think long-term missionaries home on furlough (short term leave back to their home country) have a much harder time with this stage.  Some are home for a month, other for 3-4 months (like we are), and still others for a year at a time, but that time is often not considered their own if they plan on going back to their mission country.  Most of the time is spent visiting friends and family as well as connecting with supporters or sponsoring organizations and churches, not to mention the time given to making new support partnerships.  For most long-term missionaries, time back in the US is way more work than rest and recuperation.

Our plane in Houston. Jared was so excited it was a double decker all the way across.

For most in reentry, eventually things will being to feel a little more normal again and old routines and habits will become second nature again (like the grocery store or using a washing machine). Yet, things in life will never be exactly how they were before you left the US and likely you yourself will not be the same either.  Being submerged completely into another culture leads to slightly altered or new attitudes, beliefs, habits, personal and work goals.  If you are lucky, you will see the world around you at least a little differently.

Source:  http://www.studentsabroad.com/handbook/reverse-culture-shock.php?country=General
Additional Reading:


Jared and I have not mastered readjustment and adaptation, especially during this transition back to US life for a short time.  We left Malawi on June 8th after negotiating flying at 32 weeks with my OB in Lilongwe and arrived in Houston on June 9th (which was literally a 32 hour day).  We stayed in Houston for a week and let the jet lag work its way out of our systems.  We got to catch up with friends who were wonderful and had a couple baby showers for us, visit our home church, Clear Lake Church of Christ, and acclimate to summer in the US.  We are so thankful to the Thompsons who opened their home to us while we were in Houston and helped to make our transitional week much easier.

Baby Shower with Clear Lake Church of Christ
11430090_10204400433954565_456483859025018740_n 11391202_10204400432474528_5009358718154805224_n 11257165_10204400434194571_1141137112029828721_n 11110034_10204400431114494_3376188201627689029_n img_1218


Baby Shower with  BCM Family Med Friends

img_1222 11402224_10153401227092288_8953461344382874479_o

We left that next Tuesday for Saint Louis where we are staying till our baby girl is born.  We had our first visit with our new OB a couple days after we got there, besides measuring BIG for my due date there were no problems.  I had some leg swelling after the flight from Africa that resolved after a week all on its own and had been having some contractions 1 or 2 times a days, both normal things in the 3rd trimester.

Lots of things changed 2 days later when I started having contractions every 10-15 minutes that did not go away with rest, water…etc.  So we went to the hospital to be evaluated and I had some slightly elevated blood pressure but nothing indicated I was in actual labor, which is what I expected to hear and was relieved since the baby was only 34wks.  The next day the contractions got stronger and the on call doctor recommended going in to be evaluated again, luckily still no signs actual labor, just lots of contractions.dsc_0239-2

At this point they explained that I could have these contractions for another 6 weeks (till she is full term and decides to come out) and there is no risk to the baby at all, just really uncomfortable for me. I felt a mixture of relief that she wasn’t going to be born that day and desperation that I would have to endure 6-8 weeks of constant pain and discomfort.

We went to a follow up visit with an OB in the office that Tuesday and since I was still contracting every 10-15 minutes I was given steroids for the baby’s lung development.  This was a huge relief for Jared and I both since we know every worst case scenario with premies and don’t want our child enduring any other them.  The next day when I came for my 2nd dose of steroids I got to talk to my OB and got lots of reassurance (super important for any mom-to-be).  She encouraged warm baths/showers, rest as needed and Tylenol PM at nighttime to help with sleep and the pain relieve while I try to sleep.

The next week was full of contractions, contraction and more contractions.  I finally had a formal anatomy scan for heart defects and such that week and we found the culprit causing of all my contractions:  polyhydramnios.  Come to find out, my belly is measuring 4 weeks bigger than it should because I have almost 2L of amniotic fluid in my uterus.  This makes for a happy baby in a big swimming pool and a very unhappy momma.   About 60% of the time it is idiopathic (doctor speak for “we have NO idea what is causing this”). Another cause could be gestational diabetes, which means that I am checking my blood sugar and eating like a diabetic (which stinks!).  The last we were told, “If you dilate even a little bit your water will break like a giant water balloon exploding.” Since I got my steroid injections though, our baby girl should be fine even if born this early (now 36 weeks).

Jared has been amazing though all of this.  He not only has had to endure all the transition back to the US but all of my emotional and physical challenges over the last month. So for now we hang out a lot at my parents house where we are staying and have spent the last few weeks getting all the baby stuff ready for our little girl.

Please pray for the 3 of us, our mission in Malawi and our time here in the US.  We miss Malawi, but know we are right where God wants us to be at this time.  His wisdom is so much greater than anything we could ever try to understand or plan on our own.  Thank you for all your continued financial support through this time away from our mission field and for your continued prayers as we take this particular time in our life one day at a time.

– Jenny & Jared

Early 4th of July with Family

dsc_0261 dsc_0259

Enjoy this introduction video on Child Legacy and share it with your friends.  We continue to thank God for all He has done and all that He will continue to do in the lives of the people in Malawi.

1 thought on “Time for a temporary but major relocation…”

  1. I'm really glad your Dr. in Malawi insisted you come back to the states when you did. I can't imagine you being on a plane with the issues you described in your post going on! Liz and I prayed for you already today and will continue to pray for you every day. We love you!

Comments are closed.