Sunday, September 6, 2009

Our Kids -- Volume I

Note: I wrote this blog last week with the idea being it would be published today. It is fortuitous that Jennifer was the baby chosen for this week. I needed the opportunity to look back on our journey/adventure with this little baby in light of the new addition to our family who I wrote about yesterday.

Baby Jennifer

Jennifer joined our home in April, 2008. I was away in the States at the time and Tom and our Jennifer were called to a small hut behind the clinic. Outside the hut, under a makeshift shelter, lying right in the dirt was a young woman in the end stages of a terrible illness. Her parents were with her but despite their efforts, Tom was unable to have any type of conversation with her. Lying with her was a tiny baby girl—more dead than alive. Little Jennifer was completely listless. The grandparents explained that they had been feeding this one month old baby a porridge made from cassava (the root we get tapioca from) only twice a day. As a result her little body had almost completely shut down.

Tom brought her home and our Jennifer made a bottle of milk and began feeding baby Jennifer. Immediately her tiny eyes flew open and she started to gulp the milk. She came to life and seemed to be so thankful.

Unfortunately, whether due to health issues caused by malnutrition or disease, baby Jennifer still had a long road to recovery. Her body struggled to absorb nutrients and she had diarrhea nearly all the time. She also vomited regularly and when inserting an IV proved difficult due to the size of her veins she was admitted to a local hospital.

Nannies from the orphanage took turns staying with her as nurses are in very short supply here in Zambia. After a few days there had been no improvement and when one day Tom visited and found that absolutely nothing had been done that whole day to care for Jennifer by any medical staff, he told off the doctors and nurses and brought Jennifer back home.

Our Jennifer looked after her fulltime—a huge responsibility for a 17 year old girl. Our local staff began talking about how perhaps it was better to just send baby Jennifer back to her grandparents. She could die with them. But as my mother in law pointed out when she saw the picture below, “She’s a fighter—you can see it in her eyes”. We had to give her a chance.

About this time I returned from the U.S and while I had been in constant communication with my family over the 2 and a half months I was away fundraising and I had seen all the pictures of baby Jennifer, nothing could prepare me for how tiny and fragile she was. She cried a lot and seemed unhappy and uncomfortable.

I helped big Jennifer to look after the baby and did all I could to nurse her back to health. I did kangaroo therapy and probably one of the turning points for her was putting her on a fairly strict schedule. So much attention had been spent in getting nutrients into her and she had also most likely been so uncomfortable that sleeping wasn’t the peaceful time it should have been. In order for her body to fully recover she needed good times of rest along with regular feedings.

Almost immediately upon moving her to a regular schedule her whole personality changed. She became happier and much more peaceful.

She was also put on an antibiotic which is given as a prophylactic to children when it is suspected that their mother had HIV/AIDS. She does really well with this medicine and for whatever reason her body seems to need it. On the rare occasions that we’ve not given it to her she almost immediately gets sick.

Today you can’t even recognize the sickly baby that fought for her life over a year ago. Baby Jennifer is a happy little girl now. Amazingly, she reached most of her developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, etc. on time.

Right after she turned one year old she decided she didn’t want to be with the babies anymore and although she wasn’t walking yet she began spending time with the toddler group. She quickly learned to walk and now runs and plays so happily with them.

Our kids all enjoy baby Jennifer. While we don’t shouldn’t try not to have favorites, when a baby has spent months in your home and you’ve watched that child develop and grow and you’ve invested in them there will always be a special bond.

Jennifer has a special relationship with Tom. It’s a bit of a love/hate relationship. More love on his side and hate on hers but we know she doesn’t really mean it.

When Tom returned from his fundraising trip to the States earlier this year he was so excited to see Jennifer that he scooped her up and hugged her. She responded by screaming loudly and clawing his face. We couldn’t even reprimand her because we were laughing so hard.

He has slowly been gaining her love back by bringing her pieces of chocolate.

Lesson learned for her: Treat a man terribly and he’ll bring you candy.

Oh dear!


  1. Looking at those pictures of Jennifer it's so easy to have forgotten how much she has suffered. I'm so happy to see her smiling and growing up so healthily!

  2. Love that she's reading a Hulk magazine already! --Definitely a Morrow! Lol And I love the moral at the end of the blog; her cheeky smile at the end explains it all! Ha!

  3. I am bawling...tears are flowing...
    what an incrediable story, what a difference you, your family is making in the lives of children...I am awe-struck, humbled and do more

    God Bless you all

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Georgie. I appreciate the encouragement.

  5. Oh my GOODNESS! This was absolutely AMAZING! I have so much respect and admiration for what you do! Ok, I am a total mess, here. I want to fly over and scoop baby Jennifer up and bring her home to us! Thank you thank you for what you do and your service. Ack. I'm all choked up.

    With love,
    Elizabeth Esther

  6. Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. I have really enjoyed reading your blog. Your insights have been so good.

  7. Beautiful. What an amazing beginning for a precious little girl.

    After reading your post, I couldn't help but scroll back through the pictures again a couple more times--what a transformation! From her tenuous link to life in the first photo to the mischeivous personality of a healthy, happy baby/toddler in the last photo. The change is so drastic. No... not drastic: it's nothing short of miraculous.

    Thanks for sharing Jennifer's story. :)

  8. She's beautiful! I came over from Elizabeth Esther's blog, and was so happy to find you. I am a missionary in Ethiopia and also care for little ones. My most recent little one was named after me by her father--you have a Jennifer and a Jennifer. I have Sophie and Sophie :) I'd love to hear from you! Sophie

  9. What a wonderful story. Congratulations to you and your family for the wonderful work you do.


  10. Gosh, I'm just amazed by the amount of love, compassion and care your family is spreading. I know I've said this before, but it is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. I just can't say that enough!

  11. Wow, you make me want to go to Africa and take care of little babies. We just got a flyer on our door today from someone collecting shoes for children in Africa. I wish you all the blessings the Lord has for you and your family and those little ones He brings you.


Come hang out with me. Your comments brighten my day and make me feel less lonely in my corner of the globe. .Wanna know more about my crazy life? Give a shout!

You can also email me at amymorrowinafricaATgmailDOTcom

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