This weekend I read with a heavy heart about a newborn baby who had been abandoned in an enclosure with a dog and her pups. The newspaper told of how Survivor, a normally vicious boerbul took the baby in, licked him clean and kept him warm until he was discovered by the dog’s owner. Sadly the baby died four days after the rescue.

There are so many homes, shelters and places of safety that would have taken him in without any questions. There are ‘holes in the wall’ where one can leave unwanted babies. Naively I asked myself why is it that we’re still reading about things like this?And of course that got me thinking about Emma.

Often, when people meet us for the first time they do the following – they ask how old she (sometimes ‘he’) is; they ask if we’ve adopted her (‘him’); invariably they bless us for saving the life of a baby and then go on their merry way. However there’s always that person who wants more. They ask about the adoption process. They want to know if Emma is HIV Positive (yes, they ask that out loud – I mean I don’t remember asking parents of a particularly ugly baby whether they did it doggy style). They ask “so, what is her story?”. They seem to want a sad tale. A desperate tale. A gory tale that they can tell their friends over a cup of coffee or dinner.

Emma’s story is not a sad one. Yes, there’s loss. A loss for a biological mother who couldn’t care for her. A loss for Emma who will not know her biological family (and all that that means). And loss for Mark and I – the loss of not having our ‘own’ child. And we’ll deal with that as and when it arises.
Emma’s biological mom has four children. Emma was the result of a love triangle, the collateral of a love story gone wrong. When she was born her birth mother made the difficult (and selfless) decision to give Emma up for adoption and every day i quietly thank her for this.
We now have the most wonderful little girl. She is funny and smart. She sings and dances. She tells us she loves us to the moon and back. On Friday for the first time ever, when I picked her up from school, she said “Mamma I missed you so much today.” She has several god-parents and god-sisters. She has grannies and g-dad’s, she has cousins that refer to her as “their coca-cola cousin”. She is loved and each day she shapes me a little more into the person I have always wanted to be.

If you want tragic spend some time at any of the homes and places of safety around the country. Your heart will break and the tears will roll as your belief in humanity becomes a little more jaded.

There are two sisters at The Lighthouse Baby Shelter. Their father would leave them, aged two and one, locked in a room all day. They would be allowed out when his friends arrived for a visit, because they were the entertainment. The friends could do with them what they wanted…and boy, did they. When they arrived at the shelter they were overtly sexual. The youngest of the two would start undressing the moment a man walked in. She is HIV positive. Her older sister isn’t. Eleanor has made the decision to foster them as she doesn’t want one being adopted and the other left behind. The sins of their father will be with them forever.

Another little girl, also at the shelter, was left to die in a cemetery. She was found and taken the shelter where she is loved and cared for. Months and months on the physical signs of neglect are still there – malnutrition, eczema, tiny for her age. The emotional damages will show in time…Recently we met a newcomer at the shelter. He was two and a bit. By 18 months every bone in his body had been broken, by his mom’s boyfriend. He had spent so much time screaming and crying that his vocal chords have been permanently damaged. But in a short time we saw how he blossomed and thrived on the love and affection from Eleanor and her angels. Of course we were speechless on our next visit, where we found a new baby girl, only a few weeks old. His sister. His mom and mom’s boyfriend, who were been criminally investigated thought it a good idea to have another baby.

A baby has been found in the hole in the wall. Another arrived so ill from neglect that all Eleanor could do was cradle the baby in her arms until her suffering was over. If you want sad stories, there’s sad stories everywhere. How does a mother do this? If it is a dog’s natural instinct to care for a baby at its most vulnerable, how is it not a mother’s? My heart aches for a life that will never be lived. A potential that will never be fulfilled.

This is dedicated to Emma who has changed my life and to all the babies who didn’t get the opportunity to change someone else’s xxx

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