In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Under God's Heaven

The Haitian administrator's assistant was taking down the family's details in the reception area of God's Littlest Angels orphanage. One twin sat fat and contented in her Mother's lap. The other, even fatter, gazed up at me sleepily, cradled in her Fathers arms. Mentally, I took in the girls pristine, blue dresses, glowing skin, thick, black hair, and shining eyes. They were obviously well cared for. I wondered why their parents had brought them here.

Upstairs in the nursery, the nannies gleefully filled me in. 'The girls are not twins, they have a triplet brother, who died,' one nanny began.' I know that when I heard that, my expression mirrored the sorrow I felt for the girls. Isn't there something deeply affecting, about the loss of their sibling, who was conceived with them, and who shared their mother's womb with them them?

The mother has been pregnant six times.....five times with twins, and one time with triplets!' one lady added mirthfully!' And I barely, just barely, concealed my shock! I am not sure I believe it. Do you?

'The work of a demon!' someone exclaimed, slapping her thigh. It was a revealing comment, that spoke volumes about Haitian spirituality.

A missionary to Haiti, once said that this country is 90% Catholic and 100% Voodoo. Voodoo spiritual beliefs are certainly extrememly prevalant here. Twins are viewed as a blessing and a novelty in western cultures. We believe that they share a deep and unique spiritual bond, ties that are never broken. In resource poor countries, though, the birth of twins means not one, but two extra mouths to feed, and for the poorest families, this is more a burden than it is a blessing. Their voodoo religion teaches that the spiritual bond between twins is a negative force, underpinned by jealousy, rivalry and malevolence.

I recalled earlier discussions with the nannies. One has a set of twin girls. She beat her five year old daughters with a stick one day, the ladies told me. The next morning, the Mama's fingers swole so badly, that she could not use her hands. She apologised to the girls, and the swelling went down. Twins, I was told, had magical powers, and they could be truly wicked! If you punish twins, you have to apologise afterwards, otherwise there is no saying what they will do to you!

You also have to be careful, very careful to treat twins equally, the nannies told me. Ignite the flame of jealousy between them and it is inevitable that one twin will be seriously harmed by the other. The hopeful thing about this discussion, is that unlike their voodoo counterparts, the nannies here believe that the tensions between twins can and should be managed. That twins should be loved equally, treated fairly, and given the same chances in life. Those who hold tight to voodoo teachings, by contrast, believe that the curse that the birth of twins heralds, can only be broken by the death of one of the twins. They see this as profitable, not just to the surviving twin, but to the family and community, who will no longer be at the mercy of the twins' supernatural powers.

It is not unusual at GLA, when twins are admitted, to see massive disparities between them. Often. one is fat and thriving, and the other, smaller, frailer, weaker. Their families have favoured one infant over them other. They do not have the means to care for two babies. Anyway, it is natural, they believe, that one twin will dominate the other. They do not believe there is anything that they can or should do to prevent one twin, from draining the life-force of the other.

Guerdine, and Guerline, at 8 months old are very different, both physically and in personality. Guerdine is two pounds lighter than her sister. She is small but she is strong-willed, demanding and developmentally, more advanced. Guerline is chubbier, contented and has a very sweet disposition. I am happy to say, that both are fat and thriving. My heart was brimming with joy and gratitude for our newest arrivals, as the nannies and I agreed that yes, the girls were very different, but wasn't there space for all kinds of people, under God's heaven.

All the way from their birth family, through their life at GLA and into the fold of their adoptive family, they will carry with them a wonderful heritage of love. This love transcends a culture that holds very negative views about twins. As such, this love is treasure.

1 comment:

Poirier said...

Susan, I find this so interesting, especially since we are the adoptive parents of Haitian twin boys.
While I admit they will fight over toys at times, what stands out more than anything is not a rivalry at all, but a sense of mutual protection. It seems that each boy is always looking out for the other. They care so deeply for one another that I think there is actually less squabbling over toys and such than there would be had they merely been brothers. One often willingly gives up what the other wants - something I would rarely see in other children their age.
They each have their strengths as well. The older one is bigger and a better climber, but the younger one is far more advanced verbally and with other physical skills, like dribbling a ball.
As far as supernatural powers go - well, they are definitely able to make everyone they meet fall in love with them! ;)