A little background…
When I was 12 years old I began volunteering at a local daycare center. In ninth grade, rx the director hired me as an employee and I continued to work there until I left for college. Those first few years, viagra as a young teen, capsule the center I worked at was far from “up to code”. Well before becoming a legal adult, I was given many responsibilities that went totally against state mandated requirements. The first time I realized this was when the director came rushing in my room and pretended to be the teacher. The more I learned, the more I realized this center did nothing according to code – child/teacher ratios, nutritious meals, the fact a teenager was given responsibility over entire classrooms of children, etc., etc. Eventually, the center was bought by a company who literally tore down the existing center and started from scratch, making everything state-of-the-art and well within state mandates. They trained me in what was appropriate and permissible as a daycare provider and I could recite forwards and backwards all of the state regulations, not because we were rushing to try to make them look like realities, but because we were expected to fulfill them on a daily basis. The rules and expectations were drilled into my head. Once my kids were toddlers, I worked at another center for a year before we moved on to missions work and was given an assistant director position along with a teaching position because I was so committed to “keeping to the code”.
It just so happens, I love babies!
Wherever we go, my kids will spy the tiniest child, nudge me and say, “Hey, mom, I bet you want to hold that baby, huh?” Which I generally respond to with giggles and “awws”. Besides my long history in daycare, I also carry with me a past and a testimony of giving birth at just 18 years old. While to this day some people judge me for that experience, I know God has taken something that I did out of his will, changed me and used it to take me places I never could have imagined. I believe that it’s not something He wants me to sweep under the rug, but to use to bless others. So for some time I have wanted to work with pregnant teens. It hasn’t just been a “wish” but one of those things that nags at your heart constantly until you do something about it.
Through a series of new introductions, I was introduced to a foundation that runs a home for pregnant teens. I told them I’d love to help with whatever they needed, hoping that even if I could only sweep the floors, with time I’d be given an opportunity to help the expectant and new moms as well as the babies. They asked from the start if I could help with the babies. Maggie asked if she could help, too, so this week we ventured off for our first days of diaper duty.
What I saw that first day stunned me.
The nursery is one room. It had four or five bouncy seats or infant car seats sitting around the floors – all of them dirty and broken. There was one crib with no side rails and two playpens, one full of toys and just, well, stuff. There were toys scattered on the floor, but not those that you would see in a typical infant/toddler room. Barbie doll arms, legs, tiny blocks, tons of itty bitty pieces. Those old state regulations flew through my mind like a ticker – choking hazards EVERYWHERE! The room was dirty, unorganized and completely inappropriate for babies and toddlers, mostly ranging from a couple of months to 2 years old.
Maggie and I entered the room, thinking we’d be helping out a staff member or two with taking care of the babies. Turns out, we were the only staff. We were suddenly alone in a room with five babies. We didn’t know their names, their schedules, their personalities. There were no diapers, no bottles, no food, no rocking chairs – or any chairs, for that matter.
A quick panic swept over me. Back in my daycare days, every child had a portfolio. I’d write down when they ate, slept, were changed, cried for long periods of time – basically every move they made. But here, I didn’t even know their names. Looking around at what we had just gotten ourselves into, I thought, “I handled similar situations when I was 12. We can do this.” And we got to work, juggling babies and, as more came in, asking their names whenever someone passed by. By the end of our short three hour shift, we had cared for 10 babies and we were exhausted!
That was Tuesday. On Thursday, we asked Alex to come with us. I’m so glad he did! When we arrived, one of the foundation teachers asked if I would take over watching some of the babies in the pool. It was no big deal to them that my two teenagers be left in a room with a bunch of babies while I went to monitor four others in a wading pool. At least I could see Alex and Maggie from the pool area. After getting the babies dressed in dry clothes, I joined Alex and Maggie in the nursery and we spent the new few hours caring for them. At one point we had 12 babies, but at least there were three of us.
For a short time, the foundation teacher came in. I asked him, “Do you have other volunteers that come when we’re not here?” He said, “No.” I asked, “What do you do?” He said, “I take care of them.” I asked, “How???” He said, “With lots and lots of patience.” Life is so different here in Latin America.
We found silly tricks to get the kids to stop crying. By the end of our shift we had all but one of them sleeping – victory! Again, we left exhausted. They say, “be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.” That is how I feel about taking care of these babies. It’s exactly what I wanted to do, although I never considered how far from my ideas reality would be, but I think there are great things ahead as we bond with the babies and with the moms. I can already see Alex and Maggie learning so much about taking care of others and adapting in difficult situations. I’m sure you’ll be hearing many more stories from our baby adventures!