Now time for me to confess to having been incredibly stupid. I have worked in a high-HIV country for 3.5 years, so I am pretty familiar with the drill, I really should have known better. The baby eats nonstop, so I feel like most of my time spent with her, she’s eating. She loves to surprise me by stuffing a bite of her food or her spoon in my mouth when I don’t see it coming. The four bodily fluids that have been known to transmit HIV are blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Technically the saliva of an HIV+ person has virus in it, but the count is so low it’s negligible (and saliva has never been known to transmit HIV). My main concern in these moments was tuberculosis, which she has tested positive for. But, other the past few weeks I have been stressed about deciding which grad school to go to, so (second stupidest thing I have done recently) I stress-chewed on my cheek until I chewed a big hole in it. So now I have this huge gaping wound on the inside of my lip. I talked to two nurses and we decided that it would be better to be safe than sorry, so I have started on Post-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV and will take it for a month.
The baby is doing really well. She is a completely different person now. She has a personality, she smiles, she loves to dance, she loves to eat. It’s clear that even in her life before when she wasn’t interacting with anyone, she was still watching, because she can’t have learned everything she does now. She waves to people when I wave and say “bye-bye.” More than that, she knows what it means—yesterday I dropped her off with some of the aunties and hung out for a few minutes talking to them. She sat contentedly on the ground during this time. But when I said “bye-bye” to her and waved she instantly started screaming, fully aware of what that meant. When she’s eating, she’s obsessed with wiping her face and hands, so if I forget to give her a paper towel she will point to them and grunt loudly. Sometimes she likes to pick my phone up and hold it to her ear like she’s talking on it, and today she picked up my iPhone and began tapping the screen with her thumbs—then she looked at me and grinned. The one thing I can’t get her to do is anything related to talking. She’ll imitate my facial expressions and movements, but not sounds. I’ve never tried to teach a baby to speak before…I have no idea what I’m doing. But I talk to her constantly, so I’m hoping one day it will click.