We lay in the hammock together tonight, his head resting on my arm, his little legs wrapped around mine, and looked at the moon. Between pointing at stars and trees and glimpses of moonlight he would hug my growing belly, absently rubbing it as he does every day.
He turned three a few days ago, my seventh child, and we celebrated his miracle-of-a-life with cake and candles and many, many heartfelt gifts, one of the perks of large families and generous kids. He was thrilled that it was finally his turn to be celebrated, not knowing the celebration I feel each day of his life.
We visited his first family recently. The whole village came out to see him, and he greeted them one by one, at once both friendly and oblivious. He chased chickens and drank soda and everywhere we went the people were amazed by him.
I found an old journal this week from my first days of caring for him. I seemed tired and worn out, nursing two babies and getting little sleep, but oh, so in love with this boy. Even then, from day one, my heart was crying for this baby that no one wanted the responsibility for, this tiny one so alive, even at 2 1/2 pounds.
I had coffee with a friend the last time I was in Jinja, and we talked about the prevalence of abandoned babies in Uganda. Her girls used to spend time on the street before joining her family and pick through garbage for their living. Abandoned babies were a common sight for them. They would find babies in dumpsters or among the trash, alive and crying. But they were children themselves, barely making it, unable to care for another, and this was just normal life. Babies unwanted, unloved, unclaimed.
In Kaceri we have a program called the Moses Project that was born out of a desire to see babies, from all situations, thriving in their families. Today we met in our school hut, seven mothers and grandmothers with their twins and grandchildren, babies crawling and crying everywhere. We read the Bible together, we prayed for each other, we gave out milk and food, we held little ones and gave instruction about caring well for their children. We tried, with our words and actions, to validate these women who are trying so hard against such difficult odds.
And it's working. They are learning and babies are thriving.
As I sat there with these women, Acuka on my lap, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my son's life. He was one of these children, a motherless child, unwanted by his grandmother, supposed too small to survive.
But now. Now.
He is our joy. It just radiates from him. He jumps everywhere he goes, and his laughter is constant and contagious. He copies everything his brothers and sisters do, for better or for worse. He almost always has a toy car clutched in one fist, but can rarely be found in pants. He is spontaneous and free with his affection and loves everything except napping and bathing. He still makes me stop and stare with wonder at his life, his miracle-of-a-life.
And so tonight I cuddle him close. I kiss his fuzzy head and stroke his brown cheeks. We look at the moon together as the hammock sways, and I give thanks for his life and the chance to be a part of it. What a blessing he is.
(Don't worry, I WILL be posting an update about distribution to the fire victims. Unfortunately my internet is not good enough to load many pictures here, so I will wait until the next time I am in Kotido.)