This was originally published on September 16, 2011
I will not leave you as orphans….
After I found more team members for the toddler room, Shaun walked me to the infant room. There were babies everywhere. At least a dozen. There was also a boy who wasn’t a baby at all. He was special needs, still wearing a diaper, and a onesie that could no longer snap, but now fit him as a snug shirt. (in the picture I posted a few days ago, he is wearing a red shirt; that was later put on him). He waved at me as I walked in. It was abundantly clear that of all the babies who got little to no attention, this boy got even less. If his wave could’ve spoken, it would’ve said, “look at me! I am here! please somebody see me.” I greeted him with a kiss on the forehead. He raised his hands and reached for me. They were all reaching for me. Shaun & I walked through the 4 rows of cribs that made 2 aisles. In the very first crib were 2 newborns. I immediately noticed the one on the left (remember this for later). She was BEAUTIFUL!! Absolutely perfect. Perfect lips. Perfect fingers. Perfect nose. And perfectly sleeping. I walked though and looked at the rest of the babies. Most were special needs; or “without potential” as they are labeled. Their life is their crib. One little boy had a tumor on the top of his head the size of a lemon. There were dozens of others, some with tubes, some not. They were all either listless or asleep.
Like the toddlers, I wanted these babies to be held. I left the room to find more team members. A mixture of anger and overwhelming grief were my two emotions. I found Pat, Lesley, Audrey, Gwen and Marci. As much as I tried to prepare them for what they would see, there really is no way you can do that. When you enter the room and see the conditions, babies on the floor, babies in their cribs; rows & rows of babies, it simply takes your breath away. We walked through the door, and I watched my friend’s eyes simultaneously fill with tears. Each went to a baby; some scooped up two. My friend, Gwen reached down to pick up Colvin (we later learned) as if she were picking up her own son for the very first time (she has 2 grown ones). Colvin was the one with the lemon sized tumor. The perfect newborn in the front crib was still sleeping. Marci got down in the floor with the special needs boy and had 2 more on each hip. I joined her with 2 others. We were all just rocking, crying, rocking, and crying some more. After twenty minutes or so, I knew what we needed. We needed Jesse.
Again, like the toddler, I peeled babies off of me and handed them to my friends. I ran downstairs and said, “Jesse, get your violin and come with me NOW!” We ran back upstairs. Jesse – just like the rest of us – had the same reaction when he walked through the door for the first time. Seriously, it takes your breath away. Your eyes are seeing the conditions, but your head and heart are rejecting it. You can’t wrap your brain around the fact that this really exists. Jesse, definitely still processing what he was seeing, pulled out his violin, looked at me and asked, “what should I play?” Instinctively I said, “Amazing Grace.”
When Jesse began to play, the sweetest aroma filled the room. The babies who could crawl or walk, moved in a little closer. The ones we were holding, sank into our arms a little deeper. For the next 15 minutes, we held babies to “How Great Thou Art,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “It is Well.” During, “It is Well,” I lost it completely. It wasn’t well with my soul. There was nothing about this place or this room that was well with my soul. If anything, I wanted Jesus to come back right then and there. After a few more songs, Mike, Sam & Nate came to us. They had been playing for the toddler room. The music continued. Music has always been a key part of these trips. Today it was therapy. If you could’ve seen how these babies responded to the boys playing, you would’ve been amazed. The calm. The peace. You could physically feel the healing power of music. I glanced over at the crib, and the little sleeping beauty that I’d been keeping my eye on was still sleeping. After a few songs, Mike wasn’t even singing anymore. He and Jesse were just playing. They’d lost Sam to baby holding. Nate was already in the floor holding two. I wanted to freeze frame this moment. I was witnessing pure and undefiled religion in the eyes of the Father.
And then I heard someone say, “Sam, look at me,” … meaning they were taking a picture. I looked over and Sam had MY baby! I smiled at him, and said, “No, Sam, she’s mine!! I’ve been waiting for her to wake up for almost an hour!” He knew it was a righteous jealousy. I eventually made my way to this precious little girl, and held her as if I really could bring her home. Gwen was still holding Colvin, and we held our babies in the back of the nursery as Mike & Jesse continued to play. We swayed and rocked those babies to the music….the thing that mothers do when we hold babies. It’s instinctive. Almost simultaneously, we asked each other, “I wonder what their names are?” We’d decided that if we couldn’t find out, we’d name them ourselves. Because we both needed to have a name for these babies. Colvin was going to be Jose’ and my baby was going to be Isabella.
A little later, Shaun came in and told me we’d need to leave in about 10 minutes. The tears hadn’t stopped flowing since I first stepped foot in this room, but they were really flowing now. I asked God, “Lord, please please please let me know who she is when we’re in Heaven one day. Lord, please let her walk up to me and say ‘I’m the little baby girl you held that day.’” I told Mike & Jesse we had time for 1 more song. They’d been playing instrumentally this whole time. So, with no words – only music – they began “Someone Worth Dying For.” Oh my goodness, that song has never sounded sweeter to my ears. Emotions were already tender, and we were clinging to the truth: one day there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more goodbyes. When the boys were finished and putting away their guitar & violin, I said to the team, “Look at this little girl. Because when we’re all in Heaven one day, I want y’all to be there when the Lord lets me know who she is.”
We only had a few minutes left. And even though Gwen and I had named our babies, that really wasn’t settling for us. We both agreed we had to know their names before we left. One of the orphanage workers was back in the adjoining room. They’d mostly left us be with the babies. One of our interpreters was there now, too, as we were all saying our goodbyes. We asked the interpreter if she’d ask the worker to come over to our side of the room. She met us at the little gate that separated the rooms. As you have read, Gwen’s baby boy was Colvin. After we got Colvin’s name, we asked about my baby girl. The interpreter said, “this little baby…what is her name?” The worker pointed to my baby and said, “this baby?” We said, “Si. Si.” She said, “su nombre es Carmen.”
All I will ever remember about that moment is looking at Gwen and both of us letting out an audible sob. Her name was Carmen! We couldn’t believe it. The baby that I was first drawn to when I walked into the nursery. Her name was Carmen! If ever I wanted to take a baby, it was now. I’m not sure if I know what weeping really is, but I was in the back of this nursery holding this baby crying uncontrollably.
But it was time to go. I didn’t have a choice.
Laying her back down in that crib, was one of THE HARDEST things I’ve ever had to do in my life. My heart wasn’t just in pieces. It was out of my chest and in the crib with Carmen. I couldn’t look back. We walked out the nursery and down the steps. I was literally hyper-ventilating and could not catch my breath. We looked back up to see a little boy peering out the window at us. That only made it worse. I walked through the courtyard, into a hallway towards the front gate to try and catch my breath, hoping for a moment of respite. I didn’t find one. A truck had just pulled up delivering another newborn.
“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” -John 14:18.
Emotionally, physically and spiritually depleted, that was the only thing I hold onto.