I really love this mother.
We were expecting her, although in true “this is Haiti” fashion had no idea when she would show. I had asked that the hospitals to go ahead and give us a call at the time of the referral so that we could make arrangements for transportation. But when this particular nurse called, Chantal and her baby had already left the clinic.
So we waited... pretty skeptical that they would even show at all. Then, also in true “this is Haiti” fashion Chantal shows up in the wrong village at the wrong place. But they were kind enough to call my number which was on her reference form and since our Director lives in that village he was able to swing over and drive her out to our site. It was evening already, but Jenn and I headed back out to the land to meet her.
Chantal’s baby is not actually her baby. Well, it is now. But it wasn’t always. Let me explain. Chantal’s friend and neighbor, and the mother of this child, died five months ago. Allow yourself to call to mind one of the top killers in the developing world and you will at once land upon her cause of death. Chantal jumped in as the baby’s caregiver. The child was four month’s old, sick, and in need of milk. At the time, the nearest clinic possessed a small stash of infant formula. Chantal was taking the child to the clinic to receive infant formula every week. And the baby was doing well. But the baby's father stopped coming around and then the clinic’s stash of formula ran dry. Then the baby had some diarrhea. And he we are, in the present, and our little friend is 9 month’s old and weighs 9.6 lbs.
Why do I love Chantal? Because she didn’t once stop smiling. Not once, as she matter-of-factly shared the details of her life, did she stop smiling. She is 20 years old.... She is 6 months pregnant... and on and on the details of her life unfold. She has a very apparent visual disability which I thought she might allude to as she shared of her troubles. But she never mentioned it. In no way was she complaining about her plight. Though she hadn’t eaten today... Though she had sacrificed her own small soda selling business to pay off her mother’s bank loan... She didn't complain; She didn’t stop smiling; And she didn’t ask for help. We talked about the possibility of her coming back to Second Mile Haiti the following morning since it was late and she didn’t have any of her belongings with her. Chantal wasn't sure that a morning rendezvous would necessarily work out so well. Her reason, she had to wash clothes (by hand of course) for all the people living in her home. Aside from her mother she was the oldest and that was her responsibility. Since she had been at the clinic with the baby that week. There must have been a considerable pile accumulating.
The more questions I asked the more I wanted to know this sweet girl. Something about her was intriguing! Then out of her mouth came the line of all lines: “I’ve started with this child. I don’t see any reason not to finish.” That was a bit of a raw translation but frankly, she wasn’t asking for a way out of taking care of this baby, sick though he was. She did however have some doubts that her mother would agree to her spending the night at our facility.
Although it seemed she wanted to take advantage of this opportunity for her and the 9 month old, Chantal, being 20, is ultimately at the mercy of her mother. And if the final decision doesn't lie with her mother, than it is the father of the baby she is carrying who will have the final say. Kerline spoke with the mom on the telephone and even visited the family at home. Chantal’s mother has warmed up to the idea but still, Chantal must wait until the father of the baby she is carrying to come back around so she can broach the subject with him.
This might not sound like a positive story. Even so, meeting Chantal was the highlight of my week.
He started out by saying “maybe... I just don’t understand all the terminology.” While we do say a lot of funny words that a parent wouldn’t normally hear unless, their child was being treated for malnutrition, terms and language weren’t the issue. The mom and the dad had both mistakenly remembered that baby’s weight had gone up to 4.7 kg. So when the mom tells the dad that little Kerly weighs only 4.1 kilos this morning, poor papa was sufficiently scared! He wanted an explanation and some peace of mind. Little Kerly had never weighed 4.7 kg, making today's weight a personal record.
“Okay, okay, okay” he says, laughing and nodding. He totally gets it. We started talking about goals for when Kerly is 7 months old which means we must be feeling more hopeful by now.
It's not everyday you talk to a papa who cares so much about each and every gram of weight gain. It was a privilege and pleasure to talk to this one.