Working on a daily basis as a fellow at TTL, sometimes you forget how attached you are to the babies in the safe-home.
On any given day, there are so many things that hold your attention other than the babies. Still, they are always there as well, always ready with a smile when you are tired of work and slip into the playroom for a baby boost. Through incremental interactions, you become close to the babies -- some more than others, but all of them in some way. The babies who stay the longest make their way deepest into your heart.
I thought of all this today because of yet another departure: Nthati left this morning after having been here at TTL for more than six months.
Born on November 2, 2009, Nthati arrived at TTL on January 19, 2010, severely malnourished and exposed to HIV and TB. Her mother had passed away, and she was just over 4 pounds.
Today, she is a chunky baby girl at 18 pounds, who we have confirmed through testing is HIV-negative and TB-free.
She still has the chronic skin rash that has persisted for months and which has stumped multiple doctors, but it should be manageable under her grandmother's care with the continuing help of TTL outreach. And believe it or not, the rash might even clear up in a less sterile environment, with fewer soaps and products. It's happened to a TTL client before. We are crossing our fingers that it happens again.
When I said my good-byes to Nthati, I thought about all the times I'd held her and all the giggles -- and pouts -- I'd gotten out of her.
Then I thought about the bo'me, and how much more time they'd spent with her. I wondered how they were feeling about Nthati's departure. Happy? Sad? Both, like me?
Suddenly, I felt what I used to feel working my old job as a reporter: a desire to go straight to the source. So, I asked M'e Mamosa, our safe-home coordinator, to answer a few questions for me. Below is a condensed version of our quick Q&A:
How do you feel about Nthati leaving?
"I'm feeling happy because she is good now, but I'm worried about her skin."
Do you and the other bo'me miss babies when they leave?
"Hey! Too much…When they are back at home, we are still missing them"
It's easy to get attached to the babies here, huh?
"Mm, yes, very much. We know them like our own babies, and we are friendly with them like our babies."
M'e Mamosa said she and the other bo'me often reach the point where they feel a motherly connection with the babies in the safe-home. They sometimes want to take a baby home and raise him or her as their own, to help protect the baby from the hardships that are all too common in Lesotho, especially in rural Lesotho. But they know the babies must and should go home, and are fully cognizant of their temporary but critically important role in the babies' lives.
The hardest times are those when a baby goes home from TTL healthy and happy, thanks in large part to the care they received from the bo'me, and then TTL hears down the line that the baby has passed away.
With watering eyes, M'e Mamosa recounted one such instance not long ago, when a baby boy named Retsilisitsoe, who she had grown extremely close to, passed away after leaving the safe-home healthy.
"That one…," she said, trailing off. "When we found he (had died), I was feeling so sad."
I didn't think it was possible, but with Nthati's departure and the subsequent conversation I had with M'e Mamosa, I now have an even greater admiration for the bo'me here at TTL, who put their hearts and souls into the babies in TTL's care.
Every TTL success is a testament to their dedication, including healthy little Nthati.