If you're a sappy romantic like me, who loves kids, you've probably seen the TLC program "A Baby Story" a hundred times, and shed a tear or two at the end of more than a few of them. They always start the same: with the sweet back-story of how the loving parents met and whether or not there is a big brother/sister anxiously awaiting their arrival. Throw in a plush nursery, a baby shower, and a smorgesbord of delivery options, including but not limited to: home birth with a midwife, water birth, a good "old-fashioned" hospital delivery (with an epidural, of course) and the occasional scheduled C-section (just to make life a little MORE predictable) and that's pretty much the gist of every episode.
This is not one of those stories. It begins with heartbreak and will leave you (as it did all of us at Hands and Feet) in silent bewilderment, like there's a giant "TO BE CONTINUED..." sign written across the sky...
Shortly after 3pm yesterday, having just wrapped up the in-take process for our newest member of the family, 5-month old baby Rose, we were informed that there was a woman at our gate with a tiny baby, asking for help. We invited her in and began asking her the circumstances for her visit and the age/condition of the baby. "The baby was just born this morning."she said. Sure enough, upon inspection, the umbilical cord was still attached, tied off with an old piece of string. She was tiny, weighing just under 5 pounds. Dr. Ken checked her vital signs and decided she needed some oxygen, so the oxygen machine was wheeled in from the office and started, with the tube resting just outside the baby's open, bird like, mouth.
This is where the story gets heartbreaking. "Baby girl" (because she had no name yet) was a twin. Her twin brother died, then the mother died shortly after giving birth at home. The woman who brought the baby (from a town NOT close by), is the baby's paternal aunt. She told us the father was in the countryside working on funeral arrangements and she thought that he would want to keep the baby after everything got sorted out. Dr. Ken called a Haitian doctor who works in the area where the mother died to see if he could come and check out the story. Diane called Sarah, a Canadian midwife, who offered to bring over an umbilical cord clamp and tend to the baby further.
Then the story got really confusing and slightly suspicious. After we had weighed baby girl, and put a preemie diaper and preemie clothes on her. We asked the aunt if the baby had eaten anything since birth. The answer was no. It was nearing 4pm, and according to the aunt, the baby had been born 12 hours earlier. On top of all the trauma surrounding her birth, the poor thing hadn't eaten all day. Thankfully, we happen to have a box full of preemie bottle nipples that fit directly on to the 2oz similac newborn formula bottles. After a couple attempts at sucking, baby girl latched on and sucked down half the bottle. A little while later, after eating a bit more, she spit up. The aunt came over to me insisting in Kreyol that somehow the oxygen made the baby spit up and that she was a mother, she had children and the baby didn't need that oxygen tube by her face. I nodded understandingly (not) and put the oxygen tube right back where it needed to be. The aunt then started getting agitated, saying she needed to get on a tap tap (pick up truck taxi) WITH the baby and go back to her town before it got dark. We tried to explain that it was unsafe for the baby, that she still needed to be watched and cared for, and that we were willing to help. The aunt became irate, saying she had to go home with the baby because nobody knew she had taken the baby, her 6 children were left at home, the family of the mom who died would try to kill her if they didn't see the baby, etc. etc... And that she had only come to get milk for the baby. (2 hrs in and this is the first we had heard that story)
In the best interest of the baby, Dr. Ken called children's services and asked their advice. They spoke to the aunt and through a translator, told us to go ahead and allow her to take the baby home. We had done all we could do. As she walked out the front door, another woman came walking up telling her she needed to go now. She had come from the town where she had gone to the mayor to tell him that this woman had taken the baby....Wait, what??!! EXACTLY!! It was so confusing, but all we knew was that we had cared for the baby as originally requested, clothed her, fed her, and made sure she was breathing without difficulty before putting her back in the arms of her aunt and watching her walk out the front gates.
There is no documentation of her birth, no delivery caught on film for audiences around the country to enjoy. Just a couple pictures taken in the brief time we had the privilege of being the audience to the miracle that is her little life. I'm reminded of the the verse in a song I sang in Sunday School as a child,"He's got the little bitty babies in His hands..." And that gives me peace and hope for "Baby Girl's" future, even if I never see her again.