It was dinner time and my mouth was full when the phone rang. A number I didn’t recognize flashed on the screen in front of me. I stared at the digits. Normally I would ignore it but tonight I felt compelled to answer.
I gulped down my bite of food as I hurried to the nearby pantry, closing myself inside and attempting to muffle the sounds around me. I mustered up all my linguistic brain power before I pressed the green accept button and answered my phone. I took a breath and braced myself for the flurry of Spanish that would come through the receiver.
“Hello Marianne, this is Maria Elena. A baby is being abandoned at San Jose. I need you to meet me there. The lawyers are coming.” I fumbled around looking for the light switch as I sorted out what I had just heard and asked for the details again. “I think it’s a newborn. There is a mother who wants to abandon her baby, but he cannot stay at San Jose. I’m calling because we need you to come and get him. The lawyers and I will meet you there. Go to San Jose.”
I hung up the phone. The door creaked as I pushed it open and walked back into the kitchen. Saul was washing dishes and Matt was juggling babies. A cool nighttime breeze was passing through the open window over the sink. I shivered, I felt excited but also sad at the same time.
I motioned to Yoselin, our newest ministry worker, to get herself ready to leave. There is another baby. I’m getting my shoes on; you can accompany me.
I trudged up the stairs and found my shoes. I pulled a brush through my hair and stared at my reflection in the mirror. This is why you are here, I reminded myself as I played out the many possible senerios I might encounter when I arrived at San Jose. I knew deep down that it was futile to try and prepare myself because it never really helps.
Yoselin appeared around the corner, “OK I’m ready to go.” I grabbed my purse and headed out down the stairs. My children danced in the living room. Is it a boy? Is it a girl? Are they coming home tonight? They could not contain their excitement and I smiled at them, grateful that they rejoiced in this new little life. “I don’t know”, I said. “I am going to meet with IHNFA I’ll see you when I get back”. As I closed the door behind me I peered through the window. Some jumped around clapping their hands, others hastily cleaned up toys and a few rushed to get their pajamas on, each getting ready for the baby each in their own way.
The headlights of the car pierced the night as I drove down the side street and pulled along side the large cement walls that enclosed the orphanage. We rode in silence. The sound of the car door slamming startled a dog who began barking and pulling against his chain in a near by alleyway. I walked to the main entrance and pressed the bell high up on the wall. I waited, the rectangular metal sheet that covered a small window in the door slid to the left and I saw the eyes and nose of one of the nuns as she peered out at me. I stated my business and the door was opened.
We entered the facility, and walked down the stairs toward the same room where I had first met Gladys and Blanca Maria. As I approached the door, the memories their story flooded back . The screen door slammed behind me and a new story began to unfold.
Her name was Wendy and her baby was a girl. She lived in a village about an hour outside of town. She had an 18 month old little boy at home and plans to travel to Spain to work with her sister. Her visa appointment was next week. Should could not take her baby. Maybe she would come back in 3 years when she was able. She didn’t make eye contact with me or the nun as she talked.
Maria Elena the IHNFA worker arrived and put her bag down on a small table and approached the young mother. Your baby is beautiful. I see she is strong and hungry, please nurse her. The girl began to feed her baby and Maria sat down beside her. “Well”, she began, “the Bible says that the the truth will make your road smooth, so let’s start by you telling me the truth about your situation and we will see how we can help you.” The girl began to repeat the story she had accounted to me earlier as Maria made a few notes her her notebook, stopping several times to ask for clarification. With each new question, the girl stumbled around looking for a irrefutable answers and back-peddling as she forgot parts of her story. As time passed, the story changed more and more until finally at the end of evening the whole truth was uncovered. The baby was a result of an affair she had with her employer. He was now in the United States and she was still working as a nanny for the family. She had hidden her pregnancy and had no intention of returning to her town with the baby. She had made up her mind months ago.
Now that the truth was out, Wendy stood and handed her baby to Yoselin. She grabbed at her plastic bag and began shoving in a few personal items, her back toward the baby. She walked past us and out the door, refusing to make eye contact. The Mother Superior motioned for us to use the lower exit off to the right and Yoselin and I walked outside, moving away from the mother as the lawyers and a nun escorted her to the left and up the stairs. I walked slowly, watching from the side of the building as she walked away. Maria Elena met my gaze from half-way up the stairs, her own eyes filled with sadness. She nodded her head and motioned for me to continue toward the door.
We climbed into the car and drove toward the house. It was Yoselin’s first time watching a mother abandoned her baby. She kept talking through it as we made our way back home. I listened, nodding sadly. “You can’t understand”, I said. You just have to accept it and focus on the good. She has her mother’s nose. She wished she could keep her, but couldn’t. She thought she was doing what was best for her baby. We have been placed here to welcome this new baby girl into our family. She is beautiful and healthy. She will know how precious and valuable she is.
I pulled the car up in front of our house and turned off the ignition. We sat for a moment in silence before we walked through the dark toward the main gate of the house. The neighborhood was quiet except for a lone dog barking off in the distance.
I pushed opened the door and the light from the living room spilled onto the porch. 6 little faces sat in a line grinning from ear to ear. As we walked inside, they hopped up and squealed with delight. The baby is here, it’s here!! Is it a boy or a girl? What is it?! It’s a girl. I smiled and Yoselin leaned down to show them her little face peeping through the blanket. A girl, a girl!! They shouted! They celebrated and cheered!! It’s a girl, another girl!! They rejoiced and celebrated this tiny life and just like that, she was home and she was family.
Family. The people who celebrate you. The place where you always belong. It is where life begins and love will never end. Faith Elizabeth. She will grow in beauty and wisdom. She will be loved and encouraged. She will know she is valued and blossom in safety. She belongs to God and is on loan to us. He knew her before she was ever conceived. He knew that she would be ours for this time and that her legacy would be one of hope.
************* Update **************
Three months after Faith came to live with our family the central authority IHNFA (who is now called DINAF) was able to locate her biological grandmother. She was happy to hear of Faith’s birth and more than willing to raise her granddaughter. While plans were made to reunify Faith with her extended family we celebrated that she had always known love and that she would continue to live with that blessing because of the unconditional love of her grandmother. While it was hard to let her go, we are happy that Faith is growing up with her family, valued, loved and right where she belongs.