Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Tia" Caroline

For about a month towards the end of July and the beginning of August, I had a sibling set of 4 boys living in my apartment with me. I know firsthand how difficult it is to be a full-time caregiver at these orphanages. They need time off and NEVER get it except for a week or two in July or August. The caregiver for the youngest boys dorm was scheduled to get her summer break for 2 weeks but most of the boys usually in her care were still at the orphanage. Regardless of who was assigned to take care of them, she was still going to be on the orphanage property, in her usual apartment and the boys were for sure to not understand that concept of her needing to rest. To give her rest, I offered to take the boys with me for a few weeks. The first week wasn't bad because if I had to go to a meeting, I could find a summer intern to be my "babysitter" for an hour or so. I was working almost everyday and the boys could just go with me to work at the children's home or they'd get to go on the field trip with the visiting mission team. I was exhausted but what is new? Day off? Yeah right.

good morning crabby

Towards the end of week 1, I realized that something was terribly wrong with the youngest. He didn't in fact just have hives or an allergic reaction to something, he had boils and blisters all over his body. When I found out it was chicken pox, we called their biological mom who immediately left her job and came to pick them up for the weekend. Back2Back was full of pregnant people and there was a pregnant woman at Douglas as well so the chicken pox were not welcomed anywhere. This allowed me a few days to really get to work on some of my other not so fun Back2Back responsibilities that are well... intensified in our summer months with so many visiting American mission teams. Joy. haha I like to think of it as trying to "keep afloat" or just "prevent myself from drowning." I had a few days to clean, do laundry, buy tons of food for when the boys would come back, spend about 30 hours in the donation room, and do some construction and cleaning at Douglas with a visiting team for 2 days. Sound like a days off to you? Yeah, me neither.

Betty, a Back2Back staff member who for all intents and purposes is a saint, a true advocate for the orphan child, kept calling their biological mom to see how my little chicken pox man was doing and to find out how she was doing. As it turns out, little David was covered in chicken pox so bad that all his boils and blisters were now infected, he had scabs in his throat, was refusing to eat or drink and couldn't ingest his antiobiotics for the infections. Betty begged the mother to take him to the pediatric ER like a doctor had told her to. Betty assured her repeatedly that we would pay for any medical costs and that keeping David healthy was the most important thing. She decided to feed the other 3 dinner and then take all of them to the public hospital that night. Betty called this woman every 45 minutes to see how she was doing. I have suspected it but this desperate and grave situation made it all the more obvious -- this single mother has NO ONE to help her. She has no friends in her time of need. No one. But she has Betty and I can't imagine anyone else who I'd want in my corner other than Betty. They all finally made it to the hospital, they got David hooked up IVs but now this single mother and her other 3 young children were in a waiting room late at night. The mom was planning on just sleeping there with her other children because you are not allowed into the hospital room except for certain visiting hours. When you are allowed to go in, they limit the number who can enter the room to usually 1 or 2 family members which would have left the other young children by themselves. Betty and I didn't like this at all. Their mom is probably stressed beyond words, worried that her baby might die from infections or complications, just was informed that she was fired from her job because she was trying to help her children in an emergency, and honestly - her other 3 children are not easy to deal with.

So we had the other 3 boys brought to my house that night. They arrived to me at midnight and were wide awake, hyper, clearly stressed, confused, scared but at the same time relieved to be in my house again. They were filthier than I'd ever seen them which is incredible considering I've bathed them in an orphanage like 150 times before and seen them turn the shower floor brown from all their mud. Putting them to bed was a slight challenge because we had a lot of prayer requests that night. The boys were scared for David and honestly thought that he was probably going to die. Thus began my 2nd week with the boys in my house.

Week 2 was interesting because I only had 3, I was working every single day and all we kept hearing about David was that he'd be in hospital for probably a week at least. Again, our summer interns were my sanity and my only relief as a single mom. I learned a lot and probably more than I ever have about motherhood and parenting in this month with the boys than I could have imagined. I've thought about adopting as a single female if I felt that was what God wanted for me. But after this experience, with boys I know very well, who know me very well, whom I love a LOT.... I'm actually reconsidering that completely. Being a single mom with 4 crazy boys is incredibly difficult. In Mexico, pre-school is about 2 hours in the morning and elementary school is about 4 hours in the morning. For their mom to find a job to support housing, food, school fees and allow her the freedom to only work during school hours is nearly impossible considering she is alone and has no extended family to support her.

Week 3 began with the boys when little David was discharged from the hospital, covered in scabs, with an oral antibiotic. (in photos below - clearly, he didn't care that he had been in the hospital for a week, covered with scabs and infections - David was ready to play and eat cookies)

After seeing how intense David's chicken pox were, I did some research online and had some instant answers to what happened. David has eczema - incredibly sensitive skin. Children with normal skin who get the chicken pox can expect anywhere from 200 to 500 chicken pox bumps but children with eczema can have up to 1,500 bumps. Ding Ding Ding!!! that's what happened. And they all got infected. The hospital saved this little man's life.
build puzzle tower...
knock it over

Week 3 was my most difficult week with the boys because little David couldn't go outside. The summer sun in Monterrey would fry his baby fresh skin in seconds and make his scars worse. I refused to let him go outside and insisted that he wear long sleeve PJs and long pants at all times. This meant as a single mom, that the other 3 boys also couldn't go outside. I instantly felt like I was being held captive in my one room apartment as a prisoner. Our summer interns had gone home at this point and I was alone. Towards the end of week 3, Hannah Fay told me to pay some of the Hope Program students to take the older 3 boys to the pool and get some energy out which I took full advantage of and the boys LOVED. They decided that Homero was really fun but that Camilo was their favorite. We had a great conversation over dinner after their first afternoon with Camilo about how Camilo grew up living in their same dorm in the same orphanage but is now studying to go to high school and college. Some of the boys ended up helping me fold and sort clothes in B2B's donation room that week and decided that my "work" at B2B is just not fun and actually kind of "feo" or ugly.

Week 4 began with another direct hand off of the 4 boys from my care to their biological mom for one night and then back to my house again. If their mom has any sisters or if they actually have any aunts, I'm sure that I'd be their same age. I could totally be their aunt. That's what they need. That's what their mom needs right now. She needs help. But between an orphanage, Betty and myself - that's literally all she's got. In the past, I used to worry about what she thought of me when I'd have to talk to her last summer when she'd come to visit them on Sundays. I was worried that she'd think I was inept, not bilingual, and insufficient. Clearly those were all lies just running through my head. These days though, I know that I'm their mom's friend. The boys know that. They surprised me quite a bit this summer with the number of times they'd say things like, "take a picture of me doing _____ because I want my mom to see how I swim" or "that I built this." They don't even need to ask me to give them to their mom because they know that I regularly give her photos of them. I'm 100% confident that every photo she has of her boys have come from my camera.
lost his first tooth over a bowl of chocolate puff cereal
"i want my mom to see how I learned how to swim this week"

The days that they go visit mom or the days when they come back from visiting mom are always extremely difficult. They are on their worst behavior, at their most disrespectful, displaying all the independence they know how, hyperactive, sometimes violent, argumentative and distant. After all the transitions I've had to make with them since last year, I've come to expect this.

But the bottom line is this - I'm their "tia Caroline" or "Aunt Caroline." I'm pleased with the direction our relationship is headed.

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