I follow close behind him as he leads me to his home. It’s dry season in Haiti, and it’s like walking in an inch of dust. We pass by people’s houses and as is expected in Haiti, call out greetings to each other. He leads me down a ravine so steep that we have to run down to keep from slipping. The momentum helps us up the hill on the other side.
We come up to his family ‘lakou’ which is a yard where multiple family members build their houses (pic below). He welcomes me into the one in the middle with the door open and his wife invites me to sit on the bed where the baby lies.
As I sit there on the bed, holding that beautiful new baby girl, the woman tells me her story. “Her mama died”, she said. “She was my cousin.” “The baby was barely born and then she died.” I ask her if she gave birth in a hospital although I can guess the answer. “No, a little ways away, in a house like this one’ she says. My mind automatically jumps to a few weeks back, I was awoken around 4 am by noises outside my window. There’s a little house right outside my window (pic below) that was recently vacated and I could hear someone in it.
I looked out my window and saw that one of my neighbor woman was giving birth. She most likely didn’t want to wake the other people in her one or two room house, so she came to deliver here. She had a man there with her and she would turn on her flashlight for a second to check the progress and the turn it back off to save the battery. She delivered that baby herself, squatting on that dirt floor in that little mud hut, and the baby’s first cry brought me to tears. The sun was just rising and the village was awakening, and the man rushed off to get the local ‘midwife’ to finish things off. I heard them looking for a glass bottle to break to cut the umbilical cord. This baby girl’s birth was most likely very like that one, and with the slightest problem the mother and/or the baby dies.
I said you know how I help Adonaika (one of my other babies)? I can do the same for you if you want. I will provide all her formula and medical care, and help with diapers and clothes etc. They were so happy and made sure I knew how thankful they were to have this burden lifted from them.
As I sat and admired the baby and chatted with the aunt, she told me of another baby she had taken in. It was her sister in law’s and she also had passed away giving birth. “I found no one to help me”, she told me, (it is impossible for most Haitians to be able to afford formula) and the baby became malnourished. Someone came and took her to an orphanage in a town about 20 minutes away and she never heard from her again. “She would be 6”, she told me. “I don’t know if she’s dead or alive.”
In the name of Jesus, this baby’s life will be different. She will not be another one surrendered to an orphanage, when she has family who loves her and wants to take care of her, if only they could find some assistance. She will not waste away, being fed tea, and crushed up saltine crackers and flour water because there is no money for formula, until she ends up with a stunted brain and body, or starves to death. The burden of what will I feed her, and what will I do if she gets sick will be lifted from her aunt and uncle so they can focus on loving her and bonding with her and raising her up.
I already see it happening. I ask if she has a name (babies often don’t get named until they are a few months old) and they are so proud to tell me her name is Lovna. He runs to get the notebook her name is carefully printed in -as if to document her existence in a world that cares too little- and says put it in your phone, so I won’t forget her. As if I could. They tell me they have 6 children of their own, “but only one daughter.” She smiles down at this new daughter, a gift from God, already so loved. Lovna.
If you would like to help support Lovna and the other babies in my program, donate to my paypal, firstname.lastname@example.org. They are alive and thriving because people like you, care.