LaShaun Martin and Baby Harriett
The flutters of movement, then the obvious kicks from the life beating inside of me. I was afraid. Afraid of the unknown. The uncertainty of whether I was ready to become a mother, unsure of how to care for myself and the life that waited to arrive. I sang to her in my tummy each day. Willing her to respond to the sound of my voice. And when she did, I breathed a sigh of relief.
When I saw her face for the first time, I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. It was now mine and my husband’s job to provide the best care for our firstborn daughter. We checked for ten fingers and toes and celebrated the life of our child…until Day 3.
After we were released from the hospital, we took our little one to her first pediatrician appointment on the third day after her birth. Our hearts sank as we were informed that she must be readmitted into the hospital for jaundice. We were crushed as we walked into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to hand over our precious baby.
Only four short months ago, I was reminded of that feeling when I met Baby Harriett during a life-changing trip to Uganda, Africa with the United Nations Foundation’s – Shot@Life Campaign. I held her tiny and frail five month old body in my arms during a visit to her home shared by her Grandmother Rosemary, father Brian and his sisters. As she rested in my arms, it reminded me of holding my little girl for the first time. You see, although Baby Harriett was five months old, she was as light as a feather, the weight of a newborn.
Baby Harriett’s mother, Sheila, left the care of her daughter with Rosemary and Brian to further her education to become a nurse. Although commendable, Sheila’s choice left little Harriett severely malnourished due to the lack of breast milk. Sadly, this beautiful child was also left without the proper newborn vaccinations she should have received at birth.
I joined friends of mine from Shot@Life as as we watched Baby Harriett receive her vaccinations, health screening and birth registry provided by UNICEF Uganda during Healthy Family Days after their church services. As I observed the healthcare workers measure Harriett’s tiny little arms, I gasped as her nutrition was confirmed to be in the danger zone. I cried as they placed the needle in what very little meat her skin had to reduce the impact of the painful vaccinations.
I felt the pain of Baby Harriett’s tears as they fell from her eyes which had just moments before shown with brightness. I wanted to hold her again to console her and somehow help her understand that all of the pain was to save her life! She was being given the gift of a future that so many other children don’t receive.
Just as I had the privilege of taking my firstborn daughter to the NICU to receive care 10 years ago, I still have the choice of both of my girls receiving vaccinations. NEVER has this choice been more important than after I shared that day with precious Baby Harriett.
Each time my girls hit a milestone, I think of Baby Harriett and what her life will be like as a result of the gift she was given that day.