18 years old. Estranged from family. With a partner who is controlled by drugs and controls you in unkind ways. A partner whose work is erratic and dependent on his mood. So food is erratic and housing is dismal. A newborn girl who cries. Cries. All. The. Time.
Cries so much that your partner's mother decided to shake the demons out of her.
And now the baby's eyes are glazed over. She's lost her rigidity. She no longer startles at loud noises. But the cursed crying has stopped.
The girl grows. She doesn't sit. Doesn't crawl. Doesn't walk. Doesn't eat. Only drinks milk. And you can't afford formula. But she doesn't want breastmilk.
And you're pregnant again.
How will you look after both when your partner won't even look at your daughter? How will you survive when there's no one looking after you?
This is when Hope Alive Clinic met Baby Girl and her desperate Mama. This is when mercy began slowly stepping into their lives. This is when she learnt that someone out there cares for her. Rona (our Midwife) and my mission had began.
Baby brother joined the family. Baby Girl came to stay with me for awhile when Baby Brother was sick in hospital. That's when I noticed the seizures. We went to the hospital in the middle of the night, but not one doctor checked her
for seizures. Not one. Instead they took a contaminated urine sample, decided she had a urine infection and put her on IV antibiotics. Keeping her in hospital with her Baby Brother.
Keeping Mama exhausted. Keeping on ignoring the real problem. Keeping on charging money for problems that don’t exist.
Baby Girl and Baby Brother get better, but Mama knows she can not care for them both. Baby Girl is shunned by the rest of the family due to her disability. Mama needs to work to buy food. After another period of Baby Girl being in hospital, she decides to give her up. She can trust Baby Brother's family to look after him, but not Baby Girl. We are heartbroken but agree it's for Baby Girl's best interests. We bring Baby Girl and her parents to the Disability and Social Welfare Department (DSWD). The Social Worker gets involved.
And COVID happens.
An entire country sent into lockdown.
Social Workers stop working.
They say there are bigger problems.
Our midwife keeps asking the Social Worker to follow up. She keeps checking in on the family. We help them with the cost of formula and diapers.
An entire year passes.
One day at Clinic a neighbor carries in a severely contracted and malnourished child. It takes me a few minutes to regain composure. This is our sweet Baby Girl, at almost three years old. And now she's in pain, with wounds all over her right side and back, on of which went into her muscle layers. The shape of her bones visible beneath her thin skin. Her head is further misshapen and its obvious her brain is not growing as it should. She stinks. She's dirty. Her nails are long. She's in her own filth.
She'd been left to die.
Part of me wants to rage at the Mama. Why didn't she come to us sooner? Why didn't she tell the midwife the truth about what was happening when she was asked how Baby Girl was? Why didn't she care for her own baby?
But how can I judge? I've never been in such a situation. I've never lived with so little. I've never faced the choice of one child's life over another.
We set eyes on Baby Brother, and were comforted he was thriving. The father gives him love and attention. He's proud of his son.
But not his daughter.
Culture is on his side.
Family is on his side.
We wash Baby Girl and get her some formula. She’s starving! And we bring her and her Mama to DSWD. They are shocked too. Baby Girl is to stay in their group room for now. 40 plus children all in one room, with a few adults to supervise. Because of Baby Girl’s needs, she must have an adult stay with her, which we have to find. Mama agrees to stay tonight, but after that we have to find a willing person. I desperately wanted to take Baby Girl home and look after her myself, but that’s not allowed by the Social Worker.
A few days pass. DSWD still hasn’t found a place for Baby Girl. We start working our contacts, and praise God for a connection to Helping Hands Healing Hearts seven hours north up in Baguio. They agree to take Baby Girl! We just need to complete all the paperwork and have it officially signed off. And we need to arrange the transport, and take a Social Worker with us, paying for her needs along the way. And get negative COVID swabs! But we are so thankful for a way into good care for Baby Girl, that we do everything we can to make it happen!
Finally we are on the way! It was my first time driving out of Manila, and it was quite an adventure! Who doesn't love a girl's road trip!? Only one wrong turn later we arrived to deliver one precious bundle delivered to the Children's Recovery Unit of Helping Hands Healing Hearts run by amazing missionary Claire Henderson from where she will be loved and looked after!
The staff there were amazing! We are able to give advice on her wound care (I have extensive wound care training), and we loved to hear their stories of other precious children brought to them to be loved. They fed us wonderfully and we were able to stay the night, before saying goodbye to our Baby Girl the next morning. We have been receiving regular updates and know she has started receiving proper medical care, treatment for seizures, physio, proper nutrition, attention and love! I really hope to visit again.
Today she has lived there for over 6 months, and she is doing so much better! She has put on weight, her contractures have lessened, and she is working on being able to sit with her physio. --> Her most recent photo, doesn't she look amazing!?
Not all life has a perfect ending, and her family's story is not finished yet. But we have hope in our God, and pray that the Family Ministry Team will be able to continue to speak into the lives of her parents.