Saturday, August 20, 2011

Our New Baby Boy

 Wednesday a group of four people visited the orphanage to tell me about a 2-day-old baby who had lost its mother during childbirth. I sent them home with a baby bottle and a tin of formula until I could pass by later in the week to see the baby myself.  They told me the name of their village and gave me a phone number. This was the only 'address' I had.

When I set out for shopping on Friday, at the back of my mind was that later in the day I would be meeting a tiny, little baby. I had to protect my heart. I'm a sucker for bitty babies. While this is a good thing since my life's work is caring for babies, I have to be careful not to let it cloud my judgement.

After wrapping up the shopping and errands, we started off for home. I knew the general area of the village so we drove slowly looking for a group of people and a newborn baby. Lo and behold, it turned out that the family we were looking for lives directly opposite one of our Peace Corps friends. This turned out to be a good thing.

As soon as I climbed out of our LandCruiser I was surrounded by a group of about 20-30 people. One of them was holding a huge bundle of blankets that contained a tiny, little baby. It took a good bit of unwrapping of layers before I could even look at the baby's body to determine the physical condition. The first thing I looked for was the umbilical cord. I didn't find it--I found a fully healed navel. 

"This is not a 3 day old baby"! 

"Yes, you are correct. The baby is five days old. No, one week old. No, wait, the mother died last Thursday." 

So, that made the baby 8 days old.

I tried to make sense of which family members belonged to the little guy but eventually gave up and drove over to the nearby clinic to look over the paperwork for the mom. What I found out there was that the baby's mom had died of hemorrhaging. One very good bit of news was that she had tested negative for HIV. That means her baby stands a really good chance of making it. He also had a decent birth weight of 2.9 kg. (@6.5 lbs).
  Looking over the paperwork did raise a few questions. The father had told me that aside from this newborn baby, they had a 2 year old and a five year old. The clinic paperwork showed three pregnancies in 1996, 2000, and 2002. 

Finally, deciding I'd gathered enough information, I went back to the family and spoke with them about our foster program and made sure they understood that we would be taking responsibility for the baby until he is 18 years old and finished with his education.

After this conversation, I went over to speak with our Peace Corps friend. She confirmed the story about the mom, but added some extra details. Apparently, this young woman (in her early 30s) had 11 children. The first birth was in 1996. So, in the last 15 or so years, this woman gave birth 11 times. No wonder she was exhausted. Poor woman!  Our friend was very glad that we had been able to come get the baby. The father of this large family is just a farmer. He barely grows enough food to feed his family; taking care of a tiny baby without a mom is really difficult.

Bottom line: We now have a new baby!

Joseph is now 9 days old. He is quite thin--he only weighs 2.5 kgs (5.5 lbs)--since he wasn't fed properly for the first week of his life. He also has some type of bacterial infection--possibly staph. Because he didn't get regular feedings Joseph is not good at drinking from a bottle. He tires quickly when sucking and forgets to swallow allowing the milk to run back out of his mouth. 
We are giving him daily antibiotic shots and feeding him every two hours. He is getting better each time at drinking.

Any baby, under the age of 6 months, here in rural Africa, is quite fragile. Expectant mothers don't get the nutrition and care they need. Hygiene is poor during and after birth and there is so much waiting to attack their delicate immune systems--even if they do manage to dodge the HIV threat.

Please pray for Joseph as we work to get him fully adjusted, bonded and healthy. He is a sweet, and handsome little guy and I'm already a little bit in love.


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