Driving home after clinic was over, I couldn't get the baby girl out of my mind. When I finally got home 40 minutes later, and Gary asked me about my day, I had to let it all out. I told him that I had nearly brought home a baby. He made some remark about me being careful not to do something crazy!
I recounted our day...
Most of it went as normal... we treated cases of malaria, children with worms, some infections and did some dressing changes. We also saw a whole lot of expectant moms for exams.
And then I had a Fulani mother come in. When she sat down, it was pretty obvious who was sick. She was holding a little baby girl, very thin and tiny...I would guess about 2 months old. And then it caught my eye that she also had a baby strapped to her back.
The mother told me that she had brought her baby girl because she was so sick. I bent over and took baby girl from her mother and she felt as light as a baby doll. I asked to see the other baby and asked if they were twins. "Yes", she replied, and undid the wrap, bringing the baby around to sit on her lap.
And what a big chunky, healthy baby it was! I asked if it was also a girl, and then she showed me that it was a little boy. A beautiful baby boy. So I asked, "How old are your babies?" Mom replied, "8 months". I was shocked to hear their age...and shocked at the difference between the two!
Meanwhile baby girl, lying in the crook of my arm, leaned her head over onto my arm and just lay there. She broke my heart! As I talked through my language helper, I asked questions and got answers. When I asked the parents who got to nurse first most of the time, after some discussion, there were some chuckles. When I asked my translator what they were chuckling about, he said, "They say that you have reason. It is always the baby boy who nurses first". Baby boys are just more "important" in their way of life... At that moment, baby girl turned her head and lay it against my chest, closing her eyes and drifting towards sleep. All curled up in my arms, I could feel her little bones against my hands.
Right then I wanted to take her home! I knew that with just a couple of weeks I could greatly improve her condition. I knew that I could give her a fighting chance. I could give her what her family wasn't giving her.
And yet, they HAD brought her to us because they were concerned.
And for a mother here to adequately nurse one baby is a feat, never mind two babies!
They were facing a challenge!
So we suggested that they try to supplement the feedings with goat's milk... after all the Fulani are herders and have many sheep and goats. The father told me that the goats aren't giving milk right now. So we asked them to begin to let baby girl nurse first until she gained some strength, and we gave them some Misola porridge (a vitamin packed locally made cereal) and explained how to make it up and give it to her. The parents promised to follow our advice, and we arranged for them to return this coming Thursday to see how baby girl is doing.
(Explaining vitamins to mom and how they will help her provide better milk for her babies)
After I told Gary all of this, I told him that that is why I'd been very tempted to bring baby girl home. He replied, "Why didn't you? You could have kept her for awhile until she got stronger". We both felt the same way...
She is a little beauty. At one point in our consultation, she began fussing, so I handed her to mom to nurse her. After sucking for a few minutes, she broke away and began "chattering" and gurgling! I thought to myself, "What a spunky little thing she is".
And so we're praying that the parents will have taken to heart the counsel we gave them. We're praying for baby girl to fight. We're praying for a miracle.