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.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mitigating the Hurt

There are so many things I will never know about the lives our babies lived before they came to God's Littlest Angels. Those unknowns trouble me sometimes. People tend to assume that early traumas, the kinds experienced by pre-verbal infants are forgotten, and therefore unimportant. I think Mothers of adopted children have long come to know, what science is now uncovering - that early experiences of stress and trauma change the structure of babies brains, forging neuronal pathways that trigger a stress response to particular triggers, well beyond infancy, and even into adulthood.

I can make guess about the things our babies have endured from the womb - exposure to malnutrition, to their mother's stress hormones, and  possibly to toxic drugs. Many are then born into impoverished families, in crowded, unsanitary conditions, with inadequate food and shelter, and without access to medical care. They go on, one way or another, to lose their families, and find themselves in an orphanage.

In the past week, two small infants were admitted to the NICU. Oddison is a month old and he has a very low tolerance for discomfort, crying in short, piercing bursts. and trembling with anxiety whenever he is hungry or needing a diaper change. For now, he is unable to trust that his needs will be met. His mother told us that he has lost a significant amount of weight since birth. She was unable to produce breast milk and was only able to afford one can of formula for him. After that, she fed her tiny infant sugar water. He had severe diarrhoea when he arrived and needed to be re-hydrated intravenously. In his malnourished state, he became fluid overloaded on that IV and developed a mild case of heart failure.

I wish I could fix all his hurts, and make up for everything that has been lacking in Oddison's life. Of course, I can't, but at GLA, we can provide a good standard of medical care, and adequate nutrition. There will be people to care for him and hold him around the clock.Neuro-behavioural scientists tell us that stress and it's affects can be mitigated. I hope that we will earn Oddison's trust and confidence. If we do, there is every reason to believe that he will begin to thrive here. Now, having recovered from his diarrhoea, he is ravenously hungry. 

Daphka arrived yesterday. I haven't gotten to know her yet. Our Director tells me that hers was an urgent situation: she was living with her mother on the streets. Although I have been up to the NICU several times to assess Daphka, I always find her sleeping. First impressions - she is well-filled out and has shiny black hair and beautiful clear skin. Not a single worry line creases her brow. I hope that means  she doesn't carry too many hurts.

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