Today was antenatal clinic day. It’s a hustle-bustle kind of morning – lots and lots of women arrive over the course of a few hours, and we work through taking blood pressures, weighing, and blood testing for haemoglobin levels before we measure their tummies and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Clinics this busy run well with teamwork – we set up stations and break the antenatal appointments into tasks – one midwife on each job. It’s not the continuity of care that we practice in NZ, but it’s necessary, and it works. The women chat to each other and there is laughter chorusing around the room as they wait in line.
Finally, a break in our day as the lines peter out and the women congregate outside to enjoy some street food and collect their toddlers from the playground. We head over to The Little Children’s Home for some cuddle time. It’s a dry, cloudy day and the heavy humidity makes it feel like we could see some rain in the next little while, but we have plans to take some babies out for a walk today, so clouds or no clouds, we scoop up a wee person each and head outside.
These kids don’t get sunlight too often. The little guy I’m carrying screws his eyes up as soon as I step outside and blink-blink-blinks against the daylight. His little arms flail a bit and I use my hand to shield his eyes while he adjusts. Walking up the road we get some stares, but we don’t care. Yes we are white girls carrying Filipino babies in our arms... stare away! Soon some of the neighbourhood kids are following us – they are laughing and giggling to each other as they skip along. We aren’t sure if it’s at us or the babies who are squealing with glee when they get close – but it’s all good-natured so we keep plodding along. We pass under some trees, and the little guy I’m carrying seems fascinated by them swaying in the breeze. I stop for a bit – enjoying his wonder-filled face. Is it just being outside? Or perhaps it’s being able to see bigger, wider, taller than the walls of the nursery room. His chubby little legs are pumping up and down with excitement – I change my hold on him because my arms are getting tired with all the energy his little body is expending.
Heartbreakers. That’s what these children are. We wake to their voices every morning, and most nights it’s the last thing we hear before drifting off to sleep. We try to give a little of our time to these children most days – cuddles, bottles, and sometimes a walk. They often cry when we put them back into their cots – who could blame them? But those cries are so painful to hear...
...would it have been better not to visit at all than to give them that little taste of the wider world?
We sneak away when all is calm. The TLC nursery carer gives us a smile and a nod and we walk back up the staircase and out into sunshine.
See you tomorrow little ones...