Monday, August 20, 2012

"Mama?" Part III

The time came and I headed toward the car. Her mom was carrying her and handed her over to me.  She was talking to her in her tribal language.  Kadi started to get a little teary eyed and her mom told her she was going to come see her tomorrow (little lie there) and Kadi stopped .  She was silent the whole way to my house.  Watching me, watching her surroundings in the car.  As we pulled up to the house she continued to be silent, just watching.  I took her into the house and she promptly peed on the floor.  Poor thing, who knew how long she’d been holding it.  I decided to go ahead and get her cleaned up at that point so I heated up some water for bath time.  I spoke to her in Krio the whole time, not knowing how much she was understanding.  She just nodded her head yes to everything I said.  Always watching me.  After a silent bath time I gave her some plumpy nut to eat and made a sandwich for myself.  My mom had sent some cartoons for some of the missionary kids and somehow they had ended up in my stuff so we watched cartoons while we ate.  I was really thankful for that mistake!!  Some kids came over and wanted to watch a movie but since it was her first night I begged off until tomorrow.  I did some dishes and cleaned up a little and the whole time she was just watching me. She started exploring a little, picking up some crayons but not brave enough to actually color yet. 
At about eight o’clock I decided it was probably time for bed.  Please keep in mind that I’m not a mother.  I haven’t even babysat in forever and my friend (shout out Kaysie) and sister have both fired me from babysitting their children after a couple incidents involving falling over in the crib and eating gravel that were absolutely and completely not my fault!!  Ok, mostly not my fault.  So I have no idea what time 4 year olds are supposed to go to bed.  It’s especially confusing since she’s a Sierra Leonean kiddo.  I’m not sure if bedtimes really exist here,  as I’ve had a 2 year old at my house at 10pm before.  Anyway, it was dark, so I figured we could try to go to bed.  Since I figured co-sleeping was what she knew, I had her sleep in bed with me.  I got her in bed, tucked her in, prayed with her, laid down beside her and turned out the lights.  After a few minutes I turned on the flashlight to see if she was asleep yet.  She was just laying there.  Staring at me.  After a few more minutes I did it again.  The stare again.  Now, this little girl is one of the cutest things ever, but it’s still a little disconcerting to have someone just stare at you while you’re pretending to sleep.  Always staring.  After a few minutes I decided to get my computer, put in my earphones and watch an episode of Lost. (I know I’m a little behind, but I’ve been saving it!)  After a couple minutes she turned over and was asleep.  Thank you Lord!!

That night was another pretty restless one for me.  I was so afraid that something was going to happen to her.  Did she fall into the crack between the wall and bed? Was she too hot? Was she too cold?  Was she still breathing?  I woke up about a hundred times.  It didn’t help that Little Miss Thing likes to make noises in her sleep. I kept turning the flashlight on expecting her to freak out but she was just talking to somebody while she was sleeping. 

The next day was my first full day with her. I had a plan to ask one of the ladies I know and trust to keep her for me while I was at work but I wanted to keep her with me for the first few days. Ideally I would have taken a couple days off of work but we’re so short staffed that it wasn’t really an option.  Now Mothers, don’t hate me for this, but I never really understood what you meant when you were late and said it just took you forever to get out of the house.  Why don’t you just allot the amount of time it will take you and your kids to get ready, and plan accordingly.  Now I know. I repent.  The was so much crap I had to bring with me…potty, blanket, toys, change of clothes, snacks, water, etc. that I could barely carry it all out of the house, let alone do it on time.  Finally, we were ready and headed down to the hospital.  Kadi was again, just taking it all in.  She hadn’t spoken yet, just nodding her head to everything I asked.  We got to the OB ward and I set up camp across the hall in the part that we’re not using right now.  There wasn’t a lot going on at the time so we sat out in the hallway for awhile to people watch.  That was a bit of a mistake.  I guess the sight of a white girl with a little black girl is quite the sight because everyone kept stopping and asking if she was my child, pinching her cheeks, and generally making quite a fuss.  Eventually I got tired of it and was afraid it was overwhelming to Kadi so we went inside the ward and people watched from inside, where we weren’t so obvious. 

The day was long, but good.  The OB ward was really quiet which I was utterly thankful for because I could spend most of my energy focusing on Kadi.  I did everything I could to keep her occupied and she tried to be a good sport but was mostly….just watching.  At the end of the day we went to the market to get a couple things.  Again, it was impossible to keep a low profile and we literally had a crowd following us around.  They were all asking if she was my child, if she was sleeping with me, etc.  I thought that being white made me stand out here, but having a little black girl with me made me even more conspicuous.  One of my missions in the market was to find some more clothes for her.   When I was praying about whether or not to have Kadi come live with me, I told my mom about it and had her send some clothes….just in case.  I was so so so thankful for these, as Kadi literally came with the clothes on her back and nothing else.  But I needed a few more things.  Our lack of communication and history of just peeing anywhere ran us through 7 pairs of underwear in one day.  While I was hopeful that it would improve, I knew I needed some more backup things.  The crowd that was following us was very helpful in their many, many opinions. 

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful.  I cooked my first African meal by myself and I was nervous that she wouldn’t eat it.  I’m not super in love with African food so I can’t tell if it’s good or not. But she chowed it down. Yeah!!!  I gave myself a little pat on the back there.  Just a small one. J  When it was bedtime she went down without a fuss. Some kids even came over and watched a movie and she didn’t stir.  I was so so thankful at how things were going and the thought crossed my mind that this was easier than I thought it was going to be!!  Then began what I have coined “The Dark Days.”

“The Dark Days” were 3 days where I didn’t think I’d make it. I picked Kadi up on a Wednesday and the Wednesday and Thursday were pretty easy.  Friday morning she woke up and was pretty clingy, kind of whimpering a lot.  I had to work so we headed down. At around 10am she was so clingy, whining, rubbing her eyes and yawning, I knew she had to be exhausted. I tried to lay her down and she flipped out.  I tried the ole’ “crying it out” thing but she just kept screaming and becoming more frustrated and I was at the end of my rope. I knew that she needed sleep, but she wouldn’t cooperate.  One of the other nurses who speaks her language came and started consoling her.  She would barely look at me. I was a failure. 

The next three days proceeded much the same way.  She seemed so tired but just wasn’t sleeping well.  Each day seemed to be getting worse and she started fighting me in everything.  Bathing became an issue.  Sleeping was an issue. Taking her medicine was an issue. I felt like everything was a fight and I was exhausted.  (Keep in mind that I hadn’t slept much in the few days leading up to taking her and the sleep since having her was still small in interrupted).  Praise the Lord so so much for my neighbor Bethany.  Kadi loves her and would spend some time at her house and be comforted by her when I made her do something awful like take her medicine (she was being treated for malaria, worms, a respiratory infection and an infection in her belly….lots of medicine).  It was hard to be “the bad one.”  But I told myself that I wasn’t there to be her mother.  I wanted her to get well. If I had to be the bad one to make her take her medicine, etc. I was willing to take that roll….as long as she had someone to comfort her. 

The most painful thing was that it just seemed so hard on her.  She was an emotional rollercoaster….fine one minute, having a meltdown the next.  It felt like I was living with a time bomb and was constantly on edge, waiting for the next fit.  I started crossing off every day that she was with me.  The total was 62.  When that didn’t give me enough satisfaction I went through my calendar and counted backwards from 62 so I would always know exactly how many days were left.  Yes, it was different having my whole life changed and taking her to work was especially challenging, but my real countdown was for Kadi.  When she would be fussing and looking pretty miserable I would remember that this was just a short time and we could get through this. We would get her healthy and then get her back to her village where she was happier. 

I took her to church Sunday morning but ended up leaving early because she was just so fussy and was inconsolable.  By Sunday evening I was at my wits end. I was about a fraction of a second away from breaking down in tears at any moment.  My friend came down to the hospital and was talking with her and took her on a little walk. I had 10 minutes of peace and it was incredible. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go on like this.  I wanted to take her back to her village.  It didn’t seem to be working for her.  She was miserable.  Probably the only reason I didn’t was because I had signed that contract and didn’t feel like I could break it.

Monday morning we woke up and it was the worst morning to date. Usually, the only way to console her was to wear her on your back, but this morning even that wasn’t working.  I had planned to take her to her village that morning to see her family. I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. Did she just need more time to get adjusted? Was seeing her family and village going to make it harder on her?  Lord, what do I do?!?!?!  I decided to go ahead and go.  It didn’t seem like it could get much worse.

We left that morning and actually met her mom coming to bring her other child to get some nutritional supplement from the hospital.  When Kadi saw her mom she was initially surprised like she wasn’t sure what was going on and then she was SO SO happy! She just started smiling, talking, and wouldn’t take her eyes off her mom.  If she thought her mom was leaving, she started to cry.  We went to the hospital and I left them alone for awhile.  When I was around, Kadi would barely look at me.  They did their business at the hospital and then I took them back to the village. When we got to the village I played with the other kids for awhile while Kadi visited with her family.  Finally, it was time to go.  I 
was on the brink of tears the whole time we were in the village because I knew what was going to 

happen.  I went to turn the car around so I could make a quick get-away.  Her auntie started to bring her to me but when she realized what was happening she started kicking and fighting.  Her dad took her and brought her to the car. By the time he reached the car I had lost it.  I was utterly exhausted and my heart was just breaking for this little girl.  I started bawling.  He looked surprised like he wasn’t really sure what to do and told me to “bia” (be strong).  Her mom came up to the car and looking slightly horrified as well said, “Emily don’t cry. Don’t cry Emily!”  I nodded my head although I couldn’t stop.  I took Kadi and we headed down the road, both sobbing.  She was kicking and fighting and I just kept whispering “Bia, bia, we just have to bia small. We’re going back. You’ll see them again.”  After a few minutes I must have let out a big sob because she all of the sudden looked up at me and saw that I was crying as well. She immediately stopped.  She didn’t cry the rest of the way, but I still couldn’t seem to stop.  She kept watching me. 

When we got back to the house I’d pulled myself together and the kid that got out of that car was a different one than the one I’d taken.  She went into the house and was playing, singing. I was in shock.  The next morning she woke up and was in a great mood, talking, talking, talking. 

Something happened on that trip and I don’t know if I’ll ever know exactly what it was. But since that time she has had an almost complete turn around.  I’m learning which battles to pick and she’s learning that there are certain boundaries she has to respect.  She still has little melt-downs but they are much less frequent and she rebounds quickly.  I started working evenings which is nice because it’s not as busy and there are several kids that hang around at that time that speak her language and she has a great time playing with.  Everyone down at the hospital loves her and when it has gotten busy there are always people (staff, family of patients, people selling things outside the hospital) who are happy to watch her for a little while.  In two more weeks I plan to start working days again and put her in nursery school during the day. Then she won’t have to go to work at all with me, which will be a little bit of a stress relief. 

She got into my measuring cups and transferred water from one
cup to another, to another and then to her baby
I love this little girl so much.  There are definitely times when I’m chanting the mantra “you can do anything if you know there’s an end in sight” (mostly it’s when she’s saying, “Emily. Emily. Emily. Emily. Emily. Emily) but there are many other times when I dread the thought of giving her back.  People are always telling me that it will be hard for her to go back.  I don’t really agree.  She will be going back to stay with her family and friends in a village that she knows, speaking a language that she understands.  Most likely she won’t remember any of her stay with me.  It will be my heart that breaks when I give her back.    
"Can't you see I'm busy washing my baby's clothes??"

She makes my heart very very happy. :)
She's definitely an African child! She loves to carry her baby on her back.  Sometimes while putting bread on her head and going around yelling "Hot bread! Hot Bread!"


  1. oh wow EMILYYY!!! i admire you, it's amazing all the things you are doing for little Kadi and God is teaching you a lot. at the end, everything is going to be good. God will comfort your precious heart. Love you my friend.

  2. Emily, I can't even imagine what this must be like for, heartache, happiness, frustration, etc. etc. Will definitely be praying for you! Judy

  3. I grew up with your Mother and have so enjoyed your journal. You are an amazing woman and I know your parents are so proud. Most of all, you are such a loving servant for the Lord. May God continue to give the strength to keep going against all odds.
    Kadi is such a lucky to have two Moms who love and cherish her.

  4. Welcome to life as a "mom"! I'm so impressed by what you are doing! I will definitely be praying for you!