Over the past ten months I have watched baby after baby arrive at the orphanage we work in.
In my first four years of orphan care work in China we were working with a foster home – a place of healing and hope, where orphans with medical needs that the orphanage could not handle arrived and were given the beautiful gifts of happiness and love.
Whenever a new baby would arrive it would be a time of excitement. Who would the little one be? How could we help them… would they be healthy enough for surgery soon? And hopefully they would find forever families quickly if their orphanages were on the ball in regards to adoption paperwork. I loved it when a new baby arrived, it meant that a child was about to be given a chance.
But in the last ten months, as I’ve watched more children arrive in ten months to an orphanage than a whole year at the foster home, my mind’s been on different things.
The new arrivals are not coming from somewhere not-so-great and into a loving environment. They’re not going from a place where they had no chance to a place where their opportunities are endless. And they’re certainly not going from “orphan” to “loved.”
No…. it’s the opposite. They’re going from “loved” to “orphan.”
You may wonder, how can we tell that a baby was loved? We can see it in their nutrition – full cheeks and roly-poly legs tell a whole lot. We can see it in their eyes – when they can make eye contact and follow motion, it’s easy to assume that they have been accepted members of a family. We can hear it in their voices – babbling? You will almost never hear an orphan babble before they’re twelve months old. Crying to be held? How many orphans-from-birth know how to do this unless they have been trained by loving arms who would scoop them out of bed at a whimper.
There is a six month old baby girl who just arrived. She’s petite and chubby in that adorable-baby sort of way. On each wrist she has a red bracelet. The day after she arrived they were still on… a week later, she was still wearing them… a month later and they were still tied snug around her little wrists.
“Where did they come from?”
“Must have been her mother… she was wearing them when she arrived.”
What if I could tell her mama that she’ll be okay. She may not be “normal”, but what child ever is?
She may not make the honor roll… but does that really matter? She misses you, she doesn’t know where you are and sometimes she cries.
And you miss her too. I believe this, I see this, every single time I look at your little baby girl’s hands and see them clench and watch those two red chords shake and wiggle as she grasps toys and plays with her fingers.
Hopefully, one day, this little baby girl will be adopted. She’ll no longer be an orphan. She’ll have a family forever. But while this hope encourages me, I can’t forget that she did have a family, she was loved.
Abandonment is a tragedy, and one that is happening for too many little babies at the orphanage these days. Today she is dreaming, dreaming of her mama and her baba… the ones she left and the ones to come. And I am dreaming of a day when this tragedy will no longer be a reality.