Saturday, December 15, 2012
One Mother throws baby out of moving car, another Mother dying of TB gives away her twins
I will admit that when I started hearing stories of “baby dumping” a few years ago there was a part of me that just didn’t want to believe it. The stories in the newspaper just couldn’t be true. These must be very isolated incidents that are few and far between, and then sensationalized by the press. But I also felt in my heart that the problem was bigger than anyone knew, and so we pressed on and built a home for the most vulnerable children in Swaziland – newborn babies.
By January 2012 the El Roi home for abandoned babies was ready to open. Walls painted, furniture built, cupboards stocked and staff hired and trained. And then we waited and prayed. On March 1st 2012 we received our first baby and his name is Joshua. As of December 13th the El Roi baby home is home to 22 babies who have been dumped in pit latrines, left on the side of the road, in bus stops or somehow survived after multiple attempts by their mothers to abort them.
On Thursday I was heading to town to take Chloe to the doctor. She came home from a few days beach vacation in Mozambique with friends and was very sick. Based on the extreme headache, fever and intestinal issues we wondered if it might be malaria (we don’t have malaria where we are in Swaziland, but there is a nasty strain of it in Mozambique)? Thankfully her tests came back negative and she is feeling better now. But during our drive I got a call that there was a set of twins that needed to come to us and they were in the Social Welfare office in Manzini and were in a vehicle heading our way. I told them I wasn’t at Project Canaan, but would come to them after Chloe’s appointment.
Nothing is simply in Swaziland so between almost running out of gas, a long wait at the clinic, car malfunction etc it was three hours before I was heading to the babies. By that time the Social Welfare folks were getting anxious and drove to meet us on the road. We connected by cell phone and I pulled over on the side of the road and was met by an ambulance. The ambulance had two small cots in the back, which were not strapped in. There were a couple of dirty spare tires on the floor, which you had to step on to get to the cots. On one of the cots was a very thin young woman with a mask over her mouth. The woman was the mother of the babies and was dying from Tuberculosis. Beside her lay the most beautiful twin baby girls I have ever seen. I don’t know how the mother or babies were able to stay upright in the back of this vehicle with no straps or seats, but there they were.
People who are HIV positive don’t die from that, they die from opportunistic infections that attack the body because the immune system has been damaged or reduced. I have been told that 70% of the people of Swaziland have active or inactive Tuberculosis and it is highly infectious.
The mother was 24 years old and this was her second set of twin girls (she also had a firstborn who was a boy). She is HIV positive and not taking her Anti-retrovirals (ARV’s) for reasons I could not understand. She had been living alone in her small mud room with the twins and had a home-based care worker trying to care for her. The other children were all living with the families of the respective fathers of the babies, but the father of these twins was not interested in his paternal responsibilities. The babies were at high risk of getting infected with Tuberculosis and the mother was losing the battle, mainly because of her advanced HIV status.
The healthcare worker told me the story of the young woman and said they were taking her to hospital as a “hospice” measure because she was too sick to stay at home. She had explained to the mother who I was and what the El Roi baby home was and that we would care for her children. I could only see the mother’s eyes because of her TB mask, but they were so very sad. I wanted to comfort her so put on a mask myself and climbed up into the ambulance (truck) and stepped over the spare tires to speak with her. I told her that Jesus loves her and her babies and He sees her pain and fear. I asked her what the girl’s names were and both names meant “beautiful twin”.
The healthcare worker passed me a piece of string and told me to tie it on to the firstborn so we knew who was who. But the twins are SO identical that even the mother couldn’t tell them apart. She said that the smaller one was the firstborn, but it took some intense looking at both babies with only diapers on before we made our best guess as to who was who?
Traffic was starting to get busy and cars were honking at us so it was time to take the babies and leave. Thankfully Chloe was with me and we picked up Bailey Klee (while the car was malfunctioning) so I had two sets of hands to hold these precious children. Not quite sure what I would have done without them??
I gave the mother a hug and held her babies for her to kiss and say goodbye before handing each one down to the girls. Her eyes filled with tears as she saw them be passed along. I hugged her again and encouraged her to take her ARV’s so that she may live. She nodded and thanked me for taking good care of her children.
James 1:27 in the bible says, “Religion that God our Father considers pure and faultless is this; to care for orphans and widows in distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.“ This scripture has never been so real to me as it was on Thursday, standing on the side of a busy road, taking twins from a dying mother.
The El Roi baby home has monthly funding for these 22 babies, thanks to people like you who read this blog and want to be a part of the solution. I honestly don’t know what I am going to do when the next call comes in and I have to say “no”. There are 400+ people who read this blog every week. If everyone gave something each month we wouldn’t have to turn any baby in distress away.
Ian, Chloe and I are driving to South Africa this morning to pick up my firstborn from the airport in Johannesburg. I can’t wait to see Spencer and have him home for Christmas. I can hardly fathom that he is 18-years old. It seems like just yesterday that he was a little babe in arms. I can’t imagine being so sick that I would ever give him away or so desperate that I would drop him in a filthy pit latrine.
As we prepare for this Christmas season let us all remember that the reason for the season is the birth of a baby. That baby was and is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Live from Swaziland… I am excited to celebrate this season with my babies.