The sizzling October sun has no influence on the young mother. Her two long sleeve shirts, red wool headband, and a baseball hat have no ability to break out a sweat. My mind is occupied with the Haitian custom to keep a woman’s body warm after giving birth, that I don’t notice my own perspiration rushing down my entire body. How much warmer should you be in 110 F degrees?
Her four-day-old baby is barely alive. His tiny body limp, jaundice weakening him to a coma-like sleep. The teen mother is disengaged. She holds him tight, her head up straight, her eyes focused on something only she can see. If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, this mirror is fogged.
For over an hour, nurses are trying to explain to the mother the importance of nursing. They hydrate the baby with a vitamin boost. Soon, he finds enough strength to briefly look at many concerned faces around him. Instantly, like a junkie after the fix, our limbs are relaxed and we feel hopeful. “He will make it” reflects in our smiles. The mother is nodding her head, but the instructions received from nurses thru interpreters are not making an impression on her.
A long line of patients, waiting partially outside of the tent in the burning sun, don’t mind waiting a bit longer while all our attention is directed to this baby. The sun is their daily companion and they seem so comfortable with its warmth. So comfortable indeed.
Still trying to reach out to the young mother, nurses approach a different route. They will talk to the baby’s grandmother. But how do we locate her in the sea of undersized tents, without a street or a number to go by? I hear commotion among the patients and bystanders and I see a few taking off in different directions.
The mission seems impossible, but we can only have faith and wait. We put our hands on mom as a gesture of support and we pray. She bows her head, the first recognition of her surroundings.
The time comes to a halt.
I’m handing out medications behind the portable table “the pharmacy”, a setting so outlandish to me. I manage to smile at each patient and say “mesi” (thank you) as they are eager to give me their prescription. I concentrate on counting pills, keeping my eye on the baby and looking out the distance to the Haiti Mountains hoping to see the baby’s grandmother, all at the same time.
Somehow I manage it. And somehow they managed to find the grandmother. She is walking slowly to the middle of our tent, her bare feet hugging the sharp rocks. She has an aura of authority; she will not take no for an answer.
I look at the teen mother, her body language not expressing displeasure, not expressing anything really.
Her mother taking nurses’ instructions with a stern look, but gently uncovering the baby’s body and holding it out in the sunlight as a treatment for jaundice. I can’t help but think how much this scene looks like the one from The Lion King. I whisper “hakuna matata” and know that this little Simba will be just fine; his grandmother will make sure of that.
*This post is featured at Waiting on Wednesday