heart breaking, tragic, with conflicting details, many unknowns and doubts...or all of the above.
Here is the story of our tiniest baby to date.
Our Daniela is a survivor! She was born in a large hospital weighing just two pounds. Why? Was she preemie? Sadly, it seems like we will never know details surrounding her past, the pregnancy, or birth. After multiple trips to the hospital, all we came away with was the mother’s name and address, and that investigation came up dry (false data, most likely). They couldn’t even find the medical records on the mother or birth, if you can imagine that. I mean, how much more important could it be?! The mother gave birth in the middle of the night so we can only conclude that with few staff present, not much was recorded. Someone said that the baby was born at 30 weeks.
After seven weeks of incubator recuperation, Child Social Services called us and asked if we could take in a two week old baby. When Daniela arrived to our door weighing less than the multitude of blankets she was wrapped in (it was fun uncovering her enough to finally find a teeny tiny finger!), I started to read the reports and saw that she was actually almost two MONTHS old. Then I freaked out! She weighed only 3 ½ pounds. How could we have her in with so many other fragile children who always got sick?! I was afraid a slight cold might do her in! I told staff to prepare a bottle and if she didn’t drink it well, I was bundling her straight off to the nutrition center for further weight gain before I’d feel good about having her in the home. I mean we can do a lot, but a hospital we are not and there was no room to isolate her.
As we all hovered around to see the results, Daniela sucked very poorly. An hour later, almost the same amount of milk remained. I started canceling my afternoon meetings and my Dad offered to drive me up to the nutrition center/hospital (it’s at the top of a huge “hill” in the city). It was amazing on the ride there, observing how she looked like a tiny doll, so perfectly formed just so TINY. I still can’t believe how little she was. She was a long baby, but without a bit of meat on her fragile bones! They admitted her immediately. We ran lots of tests but nothing was uncovered and she remained perfectly healthy in the hospital. In hindsight, I think that I could have kept her here rather than leaving her in a hospital bed and working so hard to be able to visit her and cuddle her just once a week. But I remember the context, that we didn’t know at the time how hardy she was, and that we had also just received several new children with special needs, and one was just about to be released from the nutrition center.
She ended up living in the center for 7 weeks, until she tipped the scales at 6 pounds. My sister Emma loaned us some doll clothes to dress her in!
As Daniela grew and progressed very slowly, always very much a baby and with a small head, I became concerned. A meeting with our neurologist yielded the diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Although we know nothing of her mother, her desire to not be traced could very well point to the type of lifestyle of alcohol and/or drug usage. I also wonder how her low birth weight and subsequent incubation affected her. FAS is permanent brain damage, but good nutrition and a stimulating environment can do much towards a healthier development.
That’s the main reason we chose her to go live at Casa de Amor III with the Alseth family last year in May. (Interestingly, she was born on the exact same day they arrived to Cochabamba!) Daniela has done well there, brightening up socially and losing the “flat head” she always had as a younger baby due to all the time in the crib. She began sitting up around 11 months and walked by 17 months. She makes us laugh with her one main sound, an alien-like noise!!
Now Daniela is a happy-go-lucky little toddler, active and adventurous. She loves music and will dance, clap her hands, and swing her head from side-to-side when it is being played. Her favorite things to do are torment the older kids in the house, watch High 5, and pretend that she is a mountain climber by climbing into the toy boxes, up on shelves, and onto any other furniture in the house. The family is working on teaching her how to feed herself, first words, what "no" means, and not to bug the older kids in the house. She loves worshipping at church, and giving hugs and blowing kisses. She is always ready to give or receive more!
Pray with us for Daniela’s speedy adoption into a loving forever family who will be patient with her special delays and needs.
Pictures, top to bottom of post:
1) NZ volunteer Ruth gives her first bottle at CDA
2) Jen on a visit to the nutrition center
3) My sister Emma holding Daniela when she weighed the same as Emma at her birth in Russia (4 1/2 pounds)
4) Baby line-up, March 2008 (She's second from the left, with her nutrition center roommate, Baby B, on her left. The other two babies have both been adopted by Bolivian families!)
5) Christmas Day, 2008 (1 year and 4 months)
Help provide loving care for Daniela for just $25/month through Casa de Amor's new child sponsorship program. Download THIS form to get started!