July 17, 2018
Dear Mother of a Malnourished Child,
I’ve seen you carrying your sick child. I’ve seen you bearing the judgement of neighbors. Strangers. I’ve seen you hide your baby’s small, wasted frame from onlookers; afraid to make eye contact, fearful of the pity you might find there. I’ve seen you want to be invisible. I’ve seen you digging in the garden, baby bound to your back. I’ve seen you reach down and touch your abdomen as it swells with life for the 9th time. I’ve seen you dance in circles, holding many small hands on a hot, sunny afternoon. I’ve seen you sit under the mango tree combing endless curls.
I’ve seen you bent over a saucepan; sweat dripping from your brow, mingling porridge for your family. I’ve seen you heavy with fear over what hungry stomachs might eat tomorrow. I’ve seen you tucking your babies in to the sound of crickets, kissing noses and blowing out the lantern. I’ve seen you roll over on your mat, only to cry yourself to sleep from exhaustion once all the whispers have subsided.
I see your struggles. Though I do not know them, I have seen them.
I’ve seen you walk for miles to find healthcare for your ill baby, carrying one on your back and another on your front. I’ve seen you lay your lifeless child on a hospital bed, humbly asking for help. I’ve seen you sit, frightened, as you watch doctors and nurses bustle about doing what you do not understand. I’ve seen you wide eyed with confusion as your babe is attached to tubes and wires and monitors. I’ve seen you sit and wait. And wait some more. I have seen you lose all hope. I’ve seen you miss your home. Your family. I’ve seen you get up every two hours around the clock to feed your baby when you are tired and weary. I’ve seen you holding your inconsolable, crying children. I’ve seen you deny yourself a single change of clothes for weeks to stay by your child’s side. I’ve seen you persevere.
I’ve seen you crumble to the floor as you were told death was eminent, and then, when death came, I saw you stand steady. I’ve seen you kneel by a friend who lost her child and in the midst of fear, reach out and take a hand. I have seen you be a comforter. Oh Mamma, I’ve seen you be so strong.
I’ve seen you attend nutrition classes. Bible studies. Health classes. Hygiene classes. Sanitation classes. I’ve seen you sit and listen. I’ve seen you be distracted by worries. I have seen you slowly raise up your hand in question. I’ve seen you stand in front of your peers, teaching them all that you’ve learned. I’ve seen you be bold.
I’ve seen you walk out the gate, head held high, filled with pride as you begin the six-hour walk home with your healthy smiling baby.
Oh young one married at fifteen, I’ve seen you struggle through marriage and motherhood when you were just a mere child yourself. I’ve seen you, nine months pregnant waddling to and from the borehole to collect water for your family, wondering with each step if your baby will come at the next. I’ve seen that you are brave.
I have seen you return to the health center time and time again for check-ups, follow-ups and every “up” under the sun. I have seen you laughing with friends while washing at the lake shore, fingers raw from scrubbing small trousers. I’ve seen you picking those avocados from a far off tree on your way home because you have learned they are healthy for your children; so you climb and reach and stand on your tippy-toes and pull and stretch and bend that branch. I’ve seen you work hard to keep malnutrition from affecting your children again. I’ve seen you overcome.
Though I may not know you, I have seen you.
I have seen you fight for your child with a fiery determination. I’ve seen you love your child with a fearsome love that gives me goosebumps. I’ve seen you never give up. I’ve seen empowerment circulate through your being as you realize, truly believe, you can do this. I’ve seen you be a mother.
I’ve seen you face unthinkable hardships and suffering. I have seen you succeed. No, I have seen you soar. I’ve seen you twirl with untethered joy. I’ve seen you.
But most of all, I’ve seen you be who God created you to be which is simply you; a perfectly imperfect human, a mother and a friend.
And so, in seeing you, I’ve also seen me.
Your faithful champion, friend and fellow mom