We are at the maternity clinic AFCA helped build in a slum in Mombasa and I head towards a woman who is having her baby measured and weighed. I want to talk to her in order to find out how this clinic may be helping her. She explains that the baby is her grandnephew and that she is only here for one more month, in order to help the family out. Her niece is 14, making her the same age as my own child.
A baby raising a baby.
I ask if I can hold him and he is passed over to me. His fat belly rests against me as I cuddle him and coo. As I touch the top of his little head, I say he is beautiful and she casually says I can have him. My heart does a little skip sort of thing and I laugh and say it would be an amazing thing to be given a child. She stops smiling and tells me that she is serious and that I can have the child so she can go elsewhere to carry on with her work. There is no talk of the mama, of the dad, of anyone else.
She simply says he can be mine.
As I hold him, I give myself 30 seconds to consider the craziness of adopting a baby. I hear myself saying, “Eric, I have a surprise for you”, when I get home. I want this to happen…I’ve always dreamed of someone giving me a baby and I feel myself hug him a little tighter as I kiss his little head. Then, reality comes crashing in and I remember that it is not possible for foreigners to adopt babies from Kenya right now. As I hesitantly hand him back to his great aunt, all I can think about is how easy it is for her to give away the baby. How difficult her life must be! How hard it must be to make a living. And, how tragic his life will be if he is unloved.
We talk for a few minutes as Naomi takes her turn holding the baby, making him laugh. When it is time to leave, I look back to see the woman gently putting on the baby’s clothes now that his exam is over. He is clean, he smells like babies should, and she is so very careful with him. I hope, I pray, that his life will always feel tenderness and that he will, indeed, be loved just as he is being loved right now by a tired great aunt.