I have never been a crusader, nor the type of person that could be counted on to take a solid stand against popular sentiment. I have never fought tooth and nail for my beliefs; quite simply, I’ve never had to. I have sat the fence on many issues during my 33 years on Earth, often wavering whichever way the whims of those around me seemed to blow. I have been perfectly content to live my life, snuggled in the safety and security of the status quo, trying not to make waves and turning a blind eye to the ugliness which resides in so much of our world. Why stand up and take a chance of being noticed? What would people think of me? I have my beautiful children, a warm bed to sleep in, food in my belly, and a roof over my head, and that was enough. The appearance of a very special angel in my life has changed all of what I always held to be true.
When I found out about my precious Lydia’s heart defect, I took it at first as a personal blow. I must have done something wrong in my life to be given such a miracle who was flawed. Yes, I said flawed. And when the tests results came back that she had Down’s syndrome, again I believed that the image I had held so close to my heart of a perfect baby girl was lost. Yes, I loved her no matter what, but fear held me within its grip and I succumbed to its flawed thinking. A very dear friend sent me a link to Reece’s Rainbow, and I looked at it briefly, wondering why in the world she would send me a link to an adoption agency. I opened it, looked around and closed it, putting it out of my mind as I wallowed in my own grief. Weeks turned to months, and my view of my little Lydia changed with the passing days. No longer was she damaged goods, but instead a tiny little being with grace, charm and beauty all her own. Even after she was born, I shunned those who were walking the same road as I, resisting the friendships which could be made and which would mean that I was officially one of them. But somewhere along the way, I stopped praying for a miracle and realized that I already had one.
A few months after Lydia was born, I began to reach a tentative hand out to some of these amazing parents and again, Reece’s Rainbow was brought to my attention. This time, I truly looked at the tiny faces, so like my baby girl’s, and read their stories. I began to blog-surf, reading other parents’ accounts of their lives and a bleak picture began to paint itself in my mind of those lost children. I began to rejoice when one was found and taken from the darkness into a bright, sunshiny new life with new families who had, in some cases, been forced to move heaven and earth to bring their children home where they belonged. The seemingly endless stream of pictures of sad eyed children made me curious so I began to read up on the conditions they live in day in, day out, all of them waiting for their mommies and daddies to come carry them home.
I must say, I was horrified by what I found.
In many cultures, a child born with “disabilities” is considered shameful or an omen of ill will from the gods. They are often given over to orphanages, where they are destined to live a life of considerable abuse and neglect. More on that later…
The “lucky” ones are kept at home with their families, who are often ill equipped to deal with their special needs. “Mercy killings” are not uncommon and prosecution of perpetrators is not pursued more often than not. These deaths are considered justified by the societies that these unfortunate children are born to, and are often caused by purposeful withholding of food, water, or medication that the child needs to survive. Those that aren’t subject to death are often abused and/or are severely socially isolated, leading to more developmental delays. According to UNICEF, sometimes these children aren’t even spoken to by members of their own families.
As difficult as life at home with a family in their native country can be, life in orphanages and institutions is much bleaker. Baby Houses, which are responsible for the care of children aged birth to typically 5 years, are horribly understaffed and underpaid. The caregivers lack medical training, and are often predators who take these jobs simply for their proximity to children who can not speak for themselves. Infants are too often left in soiled beds for extended periods of time and most do not receive significant adult interaction. They are routinely subjected to physical, sexual, and verbal abuse and are too often malnourished. Some of these places even liberally use physical restraints, tying the babies to their cribs if they are deemed to be too demanding. Many of the children placed in these institutions aren’t even eligible for adoption or other types of foster care because in essence, they don’t exist. They get up to five years within these facilities before they are transferred to adult asylums, where they are randomly mixed in to the adult populations, which often leads to further abuse as well as further developmental delays. These poor babies, quite simply, lose all hope.
There are not adequate words for how much this breaks my heart. These are babies like my beautiful daughter, who, although considered by most to have limited capabilities, are in fact are tiny bundles of endless possibilities given the chance. Americans go to jail for treating an animal in the way that these tiny human beings are treated, without any consequence to their abuser. Is it any wonder their little eyes are filled with such sadness? With every day that passes, hope fades a little more. I wish so much that I could save them all…..
Giving birth to Lydia, who just happens to have an extra 21st chromosome, has changed my heart. She has opened my eyes to a whole other world that I would have never dreamed existed in our world. And although the things I see through my clearer vision are horrific and I long to crawl back into my secure existence, I find that my heart simply will not allow me to take the passive road any longer. But for a twist of fate, my beautiful girl could be among the ones whose light is slowly leaving their eyes. I can’t quietly stand by and let that happen. Education is everything..and since I don’t have the money or the resources to bring even one baby home, I am using the only power I have in my arsenal. Words. Praying with every one that I type that someone, somewhere will read them and will reach out to one of these kids. I can’t express enough how much love and appreciation they will give you, or how HUGE of a blessing that child will be. I know, in my case, Lydia has taught me lessons in her short four months in my life that I quite possibly could have went my whole life without ever learning. I can’t imagine my life without her……..
Please help in any way that you are able..even if it’s a simple prayer. Pass the word. Share the pictures from Reece’s Rainbow. You could be the one who facilitates a child and his or her parents finding each other!