Saturday, May 21, 2016
Tug-of-war with a baby.
A week ago I was called by a Doctor with whom we work closely, typically with abused children who need our help. This time she called about an 18-month-old child whose mother was mentally disturbed and was abusing the child. Time after time the mother would go to the hospital to get her HIV medication and dump the baby at the hospital for days at a time.
In February of this year the mother put the 15-month-old baby on the ground and stomped on her leg and broke the baby’s femur (that is the big bone between your hip and your knee).
A Child Protection Act was only made law in 2012, but that law allows the Social Welfare Department to remove children from an abusive situation. Up until 2012 there was no law in Swaziland that protected children. Because of the severe abuse, absence of food and mother’s mental illness, it was decided that the child should be placed with us. The mother agreed that she could not properly care for the child and was happy that the child could live somewhere and be well cared for.
Chris Cheek and I got in the car Thursday morning and made, what I thought would be, a quick hospital pick up of the child, followed by the Social Welfare report and Court order. When we arrived at the hospital we found the mother there with the child. The other women in the ward started “talking trash” (as we would say in Canada). I didn’t know what they were saying in siSwati, but I knew it was about the two white ladies and it wasn’t good, and the environment became hostile. As it turns out they were telling the lady that she should not give us her baby as we would sell the baby and she would never see her again.
The mother started walking down the corridor and then bolted out the door. My experience with women who don’t want their children is that they leave the baby and then run out the door, but Chris has a different background (working with abused children in the US) and was suspicious that the mother was running with the baby. Chris was right.
The mother made a dash for the front gate of the hospital with Chris walking quickly behind her. It was a tricky situation because she is the mother of the child, but we also knew that she is abusing the child so Chris called out to the security guard to stop her. Then all hell broke loose.
The security guard almost tackled the frantic mother and a tug-of-war ensued with the baby. The mother was screaming like a wounded animal. She had the child’s legs and the security guard had the child’s arms. The child was screaming, the mother was screaming and all the people around stood and watched in horror.
The guard won the battle and quickly ran the baby over to Chris. We then quickly jumped behind a truck so that we were not in view of the crowd who just saw a baby being ripped from a mother and handed to a white lady. UGH. I had made a 911 call to the social worker when it all started and he arrived just as the baby came to us. I asked him to please go and explain what happened to the whole crowd because feared for our lives going to our car (which was right by the front gate) with the child with those people still there. Clearly, this whole event would have looked highly suspect to ANYONE watching and mob justice is not a good thing in Swaziland.
He went to the gate and shared the whole story. The security guard knew that the mother was not mentally stable as she has a history at that hospital. We went back inside to get the child’s health card and it was then that we discovered the broken femur. One of the nurses told us about the mother stomping on the leg and breaking it. I burst in to tears, thanked them and we walked out the door with our newest baby girl.
We found out later that the mother went to the police station and arrived back at the hospital with the police to arrest the two women who stole her baby. We were on our way home at that point so missed that part of the drama, but we are told that the police and the hospital staff were able to explain to the mother who we were and where the child was going to live. She was satisfied, and even happy I am told.
The little girl’s name is Christine (named after Chris Cheek because Chris may have saved her life on Thursday) and while she is now 18-months-old, she only weighs 14 pounds. She doesn’t walk yet, but can crawl and talks! She is the cutest little thing and loves to make people laugh. There is much healing to be done, but she is now safe and being loved by all.
Would anyone reading this like to help support our 119th child? Every dollar you can give monthly helps us provide the excellent care that these children need. And like anywhere, excellent care comes at a cost.
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Live from Swaziland … thankful that I am not blogging from a Swazi prison with my friend Chris.