|Erlange and Thierry|
On Monday Katherine and I took a visiting team to the village. As we were walking around Chambrun visiting several of the families, the children told us that Erlange had her baby that morning. I have watched Erlange's belly grow over the last nine months and have been so excited to meet this little baby. We eventually made it to her home and were quickly invited inside to meet the newest resident of Chambrun. As I made my way to the back of her small mud home I tried to focus on not tripping. All of the windows in the home were closed so I couldn't see a thing, and it literally felt like I stepped into a sauna. Erlange was laying in the bed and next to her was the most beautiful little baby girl. Erlange looked exhausted and yet amazing for having just birthed a little girl in her home six hours before we arrived. The little girl had the chubbiest little cheeks and was adorable. Her big brother Thierry ran around outside and was so excited to tell us all about his sister.
Tuesday I went again to visit them and found Erlange looking more rested. She told me the baby had a fever and that she was planning on bringing the baby to the clinic tomorrow morning. I talked with her about removing some of the layers of clothing and hats that the baby had on, and maybe opening a window to allow a breeze to enter the home. Many new moms will wear multiple layers of clothing (pants, skirt, tshirt, sweater, head scarf, socks-all at one time) in order to prevent themselves from getting sick and passing it on to the baby. The new babies are bundled with multiple layers too. Other than the reported fever, the new little girl was breastfeeding well and according to her momma seemed to be doing well. Big brother Thierry even gave his new little baby sister a kiss which was so cute to watch.
Wednesday morning as Katherine and I triaged patients, we anxiously waited to see Erlange pass through the clinic with the baby. We couldn't wait to learn her name and hold her again. As we finished the first round of triage, one of the children from the village popped into the clinic and told us the baby had died around 7p.m. night before. I stood there shocked as one of our co-workers who lives in Chambrun confirmed the story. Instantly I was overwhelmed with sadness for Erlange. She carried this beautiful baby girl for nine months, delivered her in their home, and already loved her very much. I knew she was broken and hurting. After talking to some of the other women I found out that Erlange had previously lost another little girl before she'd had Thierry. My heart broke for this momma and her family.
When I visited the home for the third time this week, I was greeted with hugs from the family. But this time there was a deep sadness in their eyes. I found Erlange resting inside the home. As I knelt down beside her I noticed the tears that were pooling in her eyes. She softly said, "The baby died just a few hours after you left Tuesday." I held her hand and told her that I loved her. I told her that while I had only known the baby for two days, I loved her daughter very much too. I told her I was praying for her.
At times it seems like all the odds are stacked against all the women I meet. I see them walking around with their pregnant bellies and I wonder if they will be able to afford to deliver in the hospital. I wonder if some of the women will even be healthy enough to survive the labor. Who will support these women? Who will hold their hands when the pain begins and who will help them when they struggle to breastfeed? And when the unthinkable happens, I wonder who will be there to hold these mothers as they cry tears for their child who has died? There was no funeral service for Erlange's baby girl. She wasn't even given a name before she was buried near their home.
I started this week praying that Erlange would have the needed physical strength to recover from her delivery and to care for her newborn daughter. I was excited at the thoughts of seeing this little girl grow and develop her own little personality and voice. Wednesday my prayers changed for this family. I now pray that Erlange would feel loved, and that she would be given the space and time to mourn the death of her daughter. Most importantly, I pray that she will cling to Jesus for the strength she needs right now, and that she will feel His arms around her.