To write today, I went back to June and read what I wrote the first time I met Nadine (previously spelled Nadia, I now know better). I knew the general idea but wanted to remind myself of the perspective of someone reading this post, someone who doesn’t have Nadine as a daily part of life like me.
I teared up at the difference. There’s something about remembering that interaction, that first evening talking to her and then the weeks afterward. The callous attitude and repeated question (paired with jokes) about when I was going to take her daughter, as she responded that she didn’t want or need Westhalineda.
Because I opened my computer today to tell you about how much this mother is in absolute “I-adore-you” love with her little seven month old. With two new teeth and a gigantic smile to show them off, Westhalineda loves to lean towards her mom from my lap as Nadine coos “Wes…” with this smile and gleam in her eyes that can really only be described as love. She is filled, no matter what the outside situation is, by her daughter. I’ve watched her interrupt a high tension conversation with passionate….let’s be honest, yelling….and turn as she hears a cry that I don’t even pick up and goes to lean down and lovingly swoop up Wes and give exactly whatever it is that her daughter needs in that moment.
It shows on Wes, before you even see her mother. This baby is literally the most content child I know in Haiti, and I know I may be biased but I really can’t remember a child so quick to not just smile but break into giant expressions of joy. She never used to fuss (until she began to teethe), and even now Nadine knows her so well as they interact in the midst of Westhalineda’s little biting on her mother’s finger while Nadine playfully pokes back.
Have you ever watched a mother and child interact that just…know each other? It’s seen in the unconscious motions, the natural reactions of Nadine towards Westhalineda as she is mid-conversation with her aunts and continues to take care of her daughter or cater to what Wes is attempting to play with. I believe that being a single mother is one of the hardest things that a woman can do and has the definite ability to drive a wedge in the bond of mother and child, but there are also the instances where it draws two people closer together. It naturally happens when the other one is what you’ve got.
Seeing this for months now (Has it been that long? Time flies here!), I’ve been amazed and so full watching Nadine just wholeheartedly love her daughter. I reflect & compare it to the past, to when she used to talk or joke about in getting rid of her baby. How things have changed in such a short time since June, when Wes used to lay in a washbasin most of the day.
This week Nadine was waiting on me downstairs. I went down and just sat with her, asking how she was. She non-committedly replied she was fine and told me that Wes was sleeping at the house at that moment. She looked worn, like she had a fifty pound weight on each shoulder. This was easy to see and I immediately asked, but like any teenager she replied “I’m fine”. A few more asks from me, some ibuprofen for her headache and a few minutes of heavy silence later, she said something about “her baby’s father”.
This in itself was a flag, as Evans is the name of the father and I know him. There was no reason to use this distant term, not even including Westhalineda’s name. They are not together, but she still has strong feelings for Evans and has that underlying hope that she will be the exception, despite the fact that he has three other children around the Cabaret area – all with different women. I looked over and arranged my body languge to let her know she had my ears fully tuned in to listen to what she was holding inside, “What?”
Using the same terminology, she repeated herself. “My baby’s father told me to put her in an orphanage.”
This is the moment where my insides light up and I don’t know how to describe it or what the ‘details’ of our souls are, but I could swear I felt a burning in my soul. That fire in your chest where a passion is lit and it takes every muscle to hold you in place instead of jumping up and hurling a rock or doing something just as equally pointless that you think may help you feel better, relieving a piece of the high emotion churning your insides all of a sudden.
For context, this wasn’t just a strange or random suggestion. Many children in orphanages here have one or sometimes even both of their parents alive, somewhere in the country. (Or maybe their parents have moved out to Brazil of America for a job by now, years after their child was put somewhere that they were ensured meals and an education). It is not abnormal for a child with parents to be dropped off at the door of an orphanage. Remember, Nadine herself had even suggested this in the past.
I took a slow breath in and prayed that I was speaking with wisdom.
“Nadine, I know that Evans is her father. I know that you love him, because you dated him, and I understand because I have loved someone before too. But Nadine…that was not okay for him to say.”
She silently agreed and I asked why he said it, and she replied that it was his response to her asking for some food for Westhalineda (she’s trying to switch from breast milk to food for Wes, to be a good mother as her daughter develops, and this has created an extra strain. Evans has helped sporadically in the past with milk here or there). I asked if his response was a serious one, in the same defeated manner Nadine just shrugged that she didn’t know.
This was a hard moment for me, with the thoughts I could thankfully not express in Creole and the Holy Spirit knocking on my heart, reminding me that Evans is a cherished son of God too. Okay. Deep breath. Sorry for these thoughts, Father. Keep going. The conversation was slow, with a heavy atmosphere and thought put into my words.
“Nadine…do you want to put her in an orphanage?”
And her vehement “No!” was so quick, so full of real emotion and honesty, my soul on fire started jumping around on a trampoline with a different emotion, reacting to a response so opposite to the girl I had met just months ago. I’m with her every day, and did not think the answer would necessarily be yes, especially with her heavy spirit, but this reaction of no was so strong!
Repeating “I love my little girl” “I love my baby” “I love my daughter” in between sentences talking about the day, her struggles trying to make ends meet, what she felt in the situation.
This is not the same heart of the Nadine I was getting to know back in June. And I know that there are other factors: our growing relationship, mutual trust and honesty, a guard let down….but God, you are so good. Whether or not Nadine is following you or interested at all in the prayer I said with her asking for help – Creator, you designed this bond between mother and child. You created hormones and emotions and bonding and you created the adorable ball of joy that is Westhalineda, smiling in her mother’s strong arms as we translate “This Little Piggie…” into Creole and Nadine cracks up. You are working behind the scenes in ways that I do not even know in a situation where a teenage girl had to leave school and give birth to a little human that she was not planning on or necessarily interested in – you knew that same little human would capture the heart of every person that met her. There is not one person in this community that would deny the invitation to hold Wes, she is adored and her personality shines.
CPR-3 is about breathing life. We are a movement, and we say that it is God’s movement. This is what we mean.
A seventeen-year-old who fell in love, operating by the world’s standards and giving her heart away. There’s no reason to blame her – what reason would she have to act differently? Her hard exterior callously repeated her lack of interest in her accidental child when we met – repeatedly offering to hand the three month old baby over to me and walk away. Jokes of throwing her into the latrine or into the arms of someone who could walk her over to the orphanage were a daily part of conversation. This same, beautiful young woman is fighting for her daughter – working hard each day to provide for her and seen with her daughter dressed up in her arms wherever she is walking in the community on a given day. She is broken hearted at the slight suggestion that her daughter belongs anywhere that is not by her side. In the midst of sickness this weekend she sits up to smile and interact with her daughter, leaving only once I forced her to go lay down and get some of the sleep she had lost to a cough the night before. A mom who knows her daughter’s favorite way to play, her little ‘isms’, her preferences and what each movement means. This is where God is working.
Nadine knows that when I take a photo of Wes, a copy is getting sent to my mom. She has begun to ask for my phone to choose which picture to send, laughing at the funny ones and flipping through them all with those adoring eyes. She was going through photos yesterday and said “this one”. Then, “this one too”. “No wait, I love this one”. “I love this one too!” And then flipping back, which one was her favorite?! I laughed and told her she liked all of them. She smiled, never taking her eyes off of the pictures. “Yes. I love every photo of Wes. I love my little girl. I love her so much!” And she proceeded to kiss my screen, then scroll and kiss it again, and again!