Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
If you follow me on Instagram (start now if you haven’t already @kaylainhaiti :)) or liked me on Facebook, you will see that I’m practically obsessed with my kids. Most all of my posts are about them and the adorable things they do. I may be bias but I think they’re the best.
What’s hardest about these three children of mine is that they’re actually not mine. I make them appear as if they are mine and take care of them as if they are mine and I set their bedtimes, feed them and clothe them as if they are mine, but the reality of it all is that they are not mine.
My youngest, Wishla, is officially a diva. She’s two and a half years old as of this week and she’s done a very good job becoming just that: a two and a half year old. From the first day I met her, I knew she was sick. Sick with a AIDS and HIV. Sick from malnourishment and not enough lovin’. But, it didn’t phase me. Not the medicine, not the diagnosis, not an ounce of her 8 pound self scared me. We fell madly in love and the last 18 months of role playing her mom has been my greatest reward. Surely the sleepless nights I could have done without, but those moments when she cuddles up so close and blows her snot all over my cheek…nothing better, my friends.
She has also recently discovered our water cooler. You know the ones with the five gallon jug on top and the two knobs below? Yes, well she is just at the right height where she can flip the knobs on and off and allow our kitchen to turn into a small lake. She thinks it is the funniest thing ever. We also have a new kitten. A one pound, grey kitten that Jeffte has named William. He is kind of physco, so he fits right into the chaos of our house. Well, Wishla and William have it out for each other. Whenever William is peacefully sleeping on the couch, Wishla will come up and start pulling him by the tail. However, he fights back and pounces on her back when she is crawling. Its a spectacle and adds for some entertainment.
In all seriousness, I admire Wishla’s entire being. I get to speak witness to the miracles that have happened for her to be here today. She speaks joy and charisma into me. It’s a beautiful thing.
Wishla was 8 pounds, 11 months old when I met her. We found out quickly she has AIDS and would forever be on medication. I made a promise to her one Sunday in church, after the Holy Spirit had spent enough time convincing me I would call her mine. I promised her I would take care of her, no matter what sicknesses, challenges or mountains we had to climb. I would see to it she would survive. She would quickly begin gaining weight and showing us her quirky personality. But, she didn’t want to ever walk. At she turned a year and a half, I began to worry why she wasn’t getting any closer to walking. At two years old, I noticed her feet never went flat and something was hindering her from walking. I went home to the United States in September and sought out a pediatric orthopedic. He diagnosed her CP and said she needed a surgery to fix her feet to make her walk. I returned back to Haiti with a mission to get Wishla a medical visa so she could travel to have a surgery, but after a few days I got word that some doctors from Canada were visiting a hospital in Port-au-Prince so, I headed in to get another opinion from them. They gave her the same diagnosis and said they could do the surgery the next day at 8 a.m.
I know, miraculous.
So, the week of my 25th birthday started with Wishla having surgery. They ended up lengthening her Achilles’ tendons in both feet to allow them to go flat. A surgery I never even imagined could happen in Haiti, happened AND I only paid $5 for it.
Wishla spent about 5 weeks in casts and I expected her to come out of those babies running. But, she didn’t. Around Christmas another doctor from Canada was visiting Tytoo Gardens orphanage, so I asked if he would do a physical on her. He became worried about a few things, recommended some physical therapy and suggested she have some tests done neurologically. Again, things that don’t just happen in Haiti.
So, we went to Wishla’s family and told them everything. Mind you, Wishla has been with me for 18 months and has seen her mother one time in this time frame. Her grandma visits frequently, but never the mom. The mom, for lack of better words and since it’s the truth, is a nutcase. She’s irresponsible and sadly could care less about Wishla’s health or well being. Enter the heart break for me.
The family agreed they would go to court to sign over all the last rights in order for us to pursue a medical visa for Wishla. Two weeks ago, we piled in the truck to do just that. We got to the court only to discover that Wishla’s mom has no birth certificate or national NIF number (their form of a social security number). I was devastated. But, this woman didn’t even seem to care. She even had the guts to ask us for money at the end of the day…as if caring for her child wasn’t a big enough favor.
I could go on and on here, I could vent and say ugly things. I spent three days crying about it and just am still not over it. I don’t get it and it’s just not fair.
And sadly, the situation is very familiar for my oldest son Jeffte and his family, except that Jeffte doesn’t have medical issues. Whenever we have contact with his family, all they do it ask for help, even though the mom has had time to bring two more babies into the world.
Most all of the children at Tytoo Gardens orphanage have parents. They are there because their parents couldn’t care for them. How broken and awful is that reality? Statistics actually estimate there to be 380,000 orphans in Haiti and most of them are not true orphans, but abandoned because of poverty. The one thing I have learned is that the answer is not in creating orphanages, but in providing sustainable jobs that will in turn stop parents from dropping their own children off at orphanage gates. Surely, we need to keep on caring for the orphans, but the focus should be on why they are there to begin with.
The three kids I now call mine are a part of this statistic and truthfully I hate it. I love this little family of mine that God has put together so graciously, but the earthly realities of it are just too hard some days.
Jeffte was abandoned at the age of one and a half and lived in a hell hole I personally witnessed. The children slept on the dirt, ate one meal a day and the woman who ran the orphanage ran it as if it were a business. When teams would bring donations, she would turn around and sell them in market. By the grace of God, Jeffte got so severely sick, she handed him over to Webert and I so, we could take care of him. Webert, again by the grace of God, was able to find Jeffte’s biological parents and gain full custody of Jeffte. Loveson at the age of two was also abandoned at an orphanage, one I have never been able to visit because it was shut down. We are told the children were held like prisoners, never allowed to leave, only fed once a day and babies were rescued with signs of rats having eaten their ears. After two years of searching, we located Loveson’s biological family and their testimony was almost predictable: no money to feed him and some weird stories about Voodoo. We have now obtained Loveson’s birth certificate and are waiting to set up a court date to gain full custody. Wishla, also abandoned at the age of 11 months, was just a baby.
My kids have already noticed I am white and look different. They know we aren’t a “normal” family and have begun asking questions. We tell them that God has a very special plan for them. They were once in very bad places, but God was good and put them in a house with a mama and papa.
I believe in these truths, and sometimes I have to tell the story all over again just as a reminder to me: yes, God is good and He has a very special plan. Even though it is very, very hard to see some days. I cry some days just over the thought of having to abandon them. That there was a day in the history of this world where their moms just couldn’t do mom and left them at an orphanage gate. I think it’s so sad and I get buried in that reality, because how do you change it? How do you shine light onto something so unnatural? Moms are suppose to hold their babies tight, teach them how to fly and see them to the end; not cut the story short, lose all hope and leave them in someone else’s hand.
I never dreamt of being a mom. But, now I am one. And I became one in the most miraculous sorts of ways. I am recognizing the hurt in the world through it, but allowing the beauty of it to soak in deep too. I think of all the orphans and how so many of them are hungry and without a bed. I pray for the country of Haiti every single morning, that today would be a day of redemption. And when I don’t think I have seen redemption or feel like giving up on a God who knows only good, I remember how He saved me. That in and of itself being redemption.
And then, how He turned me into a mom in the most unlikely of ways, to three children who desperately needed a mom. And now these babies have full bellies, a bed to lay their tired heads on and someone to kiss them goodnight.
Realizing all along, redemption has come.
The lesson has been that no matter how hard it hurts knowing they are not mine, they never will be. This whole time they have been His. They are His. And, He is the one with the plan and it is my job just to raise them up in the right way, hoping not to mess up on the way there. Loving them every step of the way.
Please, though, keep on enjoying my cute pictures of them, because, let’s be honest, they are so darn cute. But, know it’s not all easy. There has been a lot of pain growing into the family we have become, but we are stronger and more alive and filled with more joy because of it all.