Friday, June 4, 2010


Today was my (Rachel) first day on nursery duty. The oldest baby in the nursery is 5 months old and many are around one month old. I was so excited to get to spend time loving on the littlest ones. The toddlers are very fun, but anyone who knows me knows that babies are my favorite. Before you go into the baby room, which is in a separate house from the one where the toddlers are, you have to put on scrubs, take off your shoes and put on flip flops, wash your hands and arms and use hand sanitizer. The nursery is full right now, there are twelve precious babies in there. I have never in my life been so grateful for all the time I have been able to spend with my nieces and nephews! The nanny named Happy was in there to help me with the babies but she does not usually work in the nursery either so we were a bit on our own. Luckily Ilsa stopped in to quickly show me the ropes before she had to head to Arusha to extend her visa with immigration. Let me reiterate: 1 adult who is clueless and speaks only Swahili and 1 adult who is clueless and speaks only English and 5 hours with 12 babies. I was nervous but jumped right in.

Each of the babies has a very small wooden crib and at the end is their feeding chart that says what time they finished their last feeding and how much they ate. The cribs are high and when you are seated all you can see is their sweet, beautiful heads peeking wide-eyed over the top. I first grabbed Rahman (he and is twin Rahmin are here) and made his 5 oz bottle. He was moving around a ton but I could tell he was hungry. I soon found out that he has malaria so feels really miserable. Poor kid. Anyways, I finally won the fight and he ate, I changed him (disposable diapers for the babies due to so much infection, they also have wipes for the babies!), we played for a bit then I put him back down and moved on to the next baby. Funds and diapers had been short the last month so they had not been changing the babies after every feeding. Seeing the bright, raw hot pink flesh on their dark skin due to diaper rash was heart-breaking. They had some cream but not a ton so I used what I could. It was so hard to wipe the baby know how badly it had to hurt. The babies did not scream or cry a tear. I think they are so happy to have some attention they forget about the discomfort. I also was told to not burp them so much, I am used to being yelled at by my family for not burping the babies enough, but here the babies just want to eat and you burp them at the end. You go through the whole process with each baby before moving onto the next: feed, change, play, lay them down on their stomach, pat them, wash the bottle, record the feeding and move on. It took atleast two hours for us to get through all of the babies and by that time it ended (as mother knows, it never really ends), we needed to start the whole process over since some of the little ones eat every 2 to 3 hours.

It is hard hearing the babies cry and not rushing to pick them up, or seeing how much they enjoy being held and talked to, but knowing you can’t take long because there is another hunger one waiting for you. I know a ton of people in the states who would love to hold a baby, we fight over the babies in my family, and there are so many here that just need to be touched. You don’t even have to hold them to calm them down, just touching their head or putting your hand on their stomach does the trick. However, if you pick them up everytime they cry, they learn to expect that and it will only make things harder on them in the future.

Right now is winter time, so almost all of the babies have a runny nose, congested lungs and some have pnemonia. It sounds so hard for them them to breathe. I also find it interesting how rough the nannies are with the babies but they are all ok. Even the 1 month olds are picked up with one hand by the arm, no support for the head. I just can’t do that though. Mid way through our shift, Happy made us some tea and shared her mandazi. I was burning up in the nursery so I let my tea cool before drinking in. I am so confused at how hot it is and yet the babies are all wearing layers, and sweaters and heavy wool blankets. They have beads of sweat on their little heads but everyone keeps bundling them up.

I have also been amazed at how quickly they babies are able to do things. I walked into the room of babies 6-9 months and asked Kimber if they needed to be strapped into their bouncy seats. She said they climbed in themselves, and sure enough they did. They climb in and out of Bumbo chairs and bouncers with out any help. All the floors here are tile and it scares me to death watching them do it, but I haven't seen any of them fall yet.

My favorite baby in the nursery is named Emmy. She is an itty bitty thing and all the clothes and diapers hang off of her but she is precious. Many of you know my obsession with baby clothes, and I tried my best to put her in a cute outfit, all the clothes are in random pile of everything you can imagine. But she was in pink from head to toe and no matter what I would have put her in she would have been so cute. Maybe it’s just the babies in my family, but all the babies I know or am related to have HUGE thighs. I mean rolls and rolls of thighs. All of these babies and toddlers have the skinniest legs and the diapers are gaping around them so most of the time the diaper does not contain much. They seem so fragile yet they are all so tough.

So one baby has malaria, they all have coughs and one has really bad thrush. Poor things.

By far the hardest thing for me has been seeing babies in soiled clothing and not cleaning them, hearing them cry and not comforting them, and watching them run like starving animals for another bite of food when there is a left over bowl of porridge. I just have to remind myself to do what I can and just because they care for the babies different from us, it is not wrong. I do however wish I had a nose plug or really stuffy nose because the overwhelming smell of baby poop takes my breath away! And the baby poop here has such a distinct smell, ugh. Maybe I will get used to it.

I hope all of you remind me to never complain about anything when I get back but specifically not to complain about the following things: laundry, dirty diapers, noise, smells, my sunken in mattress, cutting grass, food that is not my favorite, and I will continue to add to the list as the trip goes on. Also I apologize for ever complaining to any of you about anything ever!

Don’t read this blog the wrong way, I am so so so thankful to be here and already wish I could stay longer. I feel so needed, loved and useful here. I miss all of you and wish you were all here to give these sweet children all the love I know you long to. Keep us all in your prayers, especially the babies. I love and miss you all! The internet is still very slow so I will probably not be emailing or Skyping, just blogging sorry!

Last thought I promise….I am so glad to have traveled so much with Mere, Brian and the rest of my family before coming here. While nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock, I know I was much less overwhelmed and ignorant due to all I unknowingly learned from them. You guys rock, wish you were here, but glad I have a chance to prove myself and not just rely on you! Asante sauna (thank you very much).


  1. Thanks for the detailed post! And for listing things you'll never complain about. It's helpful to think about being grateful for those things here!

  2. Love your post! You girls rock!

  3. Wow! Sounds like quite an experience. We are all placing bets on whether or not you will ever come back. Thanks for keeping us so well updated.