Saturday, October 12, 2013
First there were 3 babies, and then there were none.
This was a challenging week. I guess they all are, but this one was more of a battle spiritually. There are so many things that happen here that I can’t blog about because they are either confidential, too gruesome to put in a public blog or that my intention might be misinterpreted. I am also acutely aware of being sensitive to culture, being respectful of my Swazi brothers and sisters, while still trying to convey to people abroad what is happening here in the Kingdom. So this week’s blog is a bit tricky to write, but I will do my best.
On Monday we received a call from Social Welfare about three babies who needed a home. Baby #1 was a 5-month old boy whose mother is severely mentally disabled. The boy was in the hospital being treated for malnutrition and the mother was having a tubal ligation at the request of her family so that she couldn't have any more children. At the age of 20 she already had three and couldn’t care for any of them.
Baby #2 was a 1-month old boy whose mother was desperately ill and the family didn’t think she was going to make it. They asked the hospital to help find placement for the baby because they had no way to care for a newborn.
Baby #3 was a 6-month old girl who was living in a VERY VERY rural part of the country (one hour drive through river beds, fields and then up a mountain). On October 1st the mother was carrying the baby on her back when the father of the baby came up and started stabbing the mother in the chest. The mother fell down and the father tried to kill the baby. The Grandmother ran to the rescue and saved the child, but it was too late for the mother. The man ran away and hung himself in his homestead. It was a tragic situation and now the baby was left with family who had no food and no way to care for the child.
We were asked to pick up all three and take them to El Roi, so I took Riley and Shelby with me and we began our long drive.
When we got to Baby #1 we heard the story first hand, took notes and after discussion we agreed that the child needed to be placed in a home and he qualified to go to El Roi. We still had the other two to consider so we left him in the hospital until we finished our day then would come back to pick him up. I asked to see the child before we left the hospital and when the mother pulled the blanket off of him, the child seemed to have a seizure of sorts. I asked what was wrong and she said he needed oxygen. I contacted the Pediatrician and then we went on to Baby #2.
The Social Welfare officer searched the women’s ward, but couldn’t find the woman or the baby. We discovered that she had been discharged and we were asked to go to her homestead, so we did. She was not there either, but a neighbor directed us down the road where we found the mother and baby. The mother still seemed very ill, but the baby was healthy and in the arms of the Grandmother. The great news about this story is that the Grandmother decided that she could raise the baby and wanted to keep him. We were happy and satisfied with that outcome.
Then we went on to find Baby #3, over the mountain and through the woods. With the help of a Community Police officer we finally found the family and the child. It was a sad situation, but the baby looked healthy and happy. The family told us that they had no food, other than what the police officers had left after the murder. They had buried their daughter only a few days earlier and while they knew that the child needed help, the Grandmother was not ready to let her go. Not just yet. We fully understood and they asked if we could come back later in the week. We agreed.
When we went back to the hospital to pick up Baby #1 we met with the doctor and discovered that the baby has contracted pneumonia the night before, from the hospital. It was such sad news, but she told us that we could likely get him by the end of the week. We would schedule the pick up of both babies together.
After an eleven hour day we drove home empty handed, praying for all three babies.
The next morning I got a call from the Doctor. Baby #1 had passed away. She was devastated. I was devastated. The baby shouldn’t have been sick in the first place, and now he was gone. The nurses found him dead lying beside the mother, who was completely unaware. It was tragic.
On Thursday we were called again to go and pick up Baby #3. When we arrived to meet the Social Welfare Officer a woman came up to speak to me. It was the Grandmother of the baby who had died. She was crying and asking for my help. The hospital bill for the DEAD baby was R1,400 ($140 US) and she couldn't get the body out of the morgue until she paid. She also had a hospital bill of R450 ($45 US) to pay for her daughter’s Tubal Ligation. On top of all that she had no money for a coffin for the baby and asked if there was any way I might help with that. She said that she had been able to raise R1,000 for the baby's hospital costs through the family, but maybe I could help with the rest? I asked what a baby coffin would cost and they said approximately R200 ($20 US). I said yes.
We got in the car and drove to the coffin maker around the corner. He had none in stock, but said he could make one today. She asked how much and he said R350 ($35US). She shook her head and looked so sad. She then started looking around his shop and asking if he had any scrap wood that he could piece together and use. She kept holding her hands out showing that it was really just a tiny baby. My heart broke. Here is this Grandmother who is trying to raise enough money to get her dead Grandchild out of the mortuary and then negotiating a coffin made of scraps because she can't afford a real one. I told the Social Welfare Officer that the Grandmother should not be asking for scraps. We would pay $35 for the proper coffin. I rarely cry out in the community, but save my tears for home. But on that day it was impossible.
From there we drove to the hospital, paid the bills, had the baby's body released from the morgue and the mother was discharged. (I am so thankful for friends who put money in my “zip lock bag” so that I have cash on hand for these unusual situations).
We then started the journey again to get Baby #3. When we arrived the family had gathered and a local witch doctor came and sat down beside the family (complete with bones in his hair, muti on his neck and wrists decorated). The family then told us that they were not giving us the baby. The Social Welfare Officer explained that it was THEY who had requested we take the baby because they had no food to give her and she would die. The witch doctor kept saying in siSwati, "Don't give them the baby. Don't give the baby. They can't be trusted." We were blocked by a Witch Doctor. That is a first for me. It was a sad visit and we left empty handed.
None of us know what the witchdoctor has planned for that little baby girl, but we are praying for total protection for her and that she will come to us.
Again we went home empty handed praying for two babies instead of three.
Things are not always as they appear to be in Swaziland. Nothing is easy, but each step of obedience we take is important. Maybe we weren’t supposed to help those three babies, but maybe the whole exercise was to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus and help the Grandmother of Baby #1. We will never know.
In the meantime, we pray for Baby #2 and #3 and ask for protection over their lives.
Live from Swaziland … it is Saturday morning.
PS – sorry for the REALLY long blog.