I’ve taken on the task of playing mom to the baby until she moves on to a proper orphanage (the mission where I am only takes school-aged kids. And part of the reason I have taken on this responsibility is because there is nobody really doing it, she mostly gets put on the ground next to the cook or an auntie working and is left to entertain herself). She’s gotten really comfortable around me and visibly relaxes when she comes into our house. I think she gets really overwhelmed by all the other kids who are constantly in her face cooing and tickling her outside. The diet at the hostel is very Swazi, so quite heavy on the carbs and light on the veggies, fruit, and protein. Some of her hairs are blonde, a sign of nutrient deficiency, so I have started feeding her and including lots of protein and veggies. This girl eats so much! She’ll eat an entire chicken breast over rice for one meal--she’s clearly making up for time lost.
Over the past few days she’s really come to life, and one thing became very clear—she’s older than we thought before. She could easily be an incredibly developmentally-stunted three-year-old. She is baby-sized and looks like a baby, so it was easy to see her as a baby. But now she walks and dances and speaks baby gibberish and has decent dexterity. She likes to hold the phone to her head, and insert things into bags and holders. When she’s eating she always demands a napkin with which she wipes her face and folds up after. Before, she was completely emotionless, she even cried silently, the only indication she was upset was the tears in her eyes. Each time she cries and screams now I have to remind myself to be thankful. It’s better than before, and a baby who doesn’t cry isn’t really a baby.
Her mom came today to visit and say goodbye. She was so excited to see her mom again, but she’s been really out of sorts for the rest of the day which is stressful for everyone else. I just learned that she only started ARVs when we took her in, so a little over a week ago. There are moments when suddenly she’s in excruciating pain, for no apparent reason. One possibility is that she has intestinal issues and/or is reacting to the new medication. It’s so horrible because during those two minutes there is nothing I can do to help her.