I was walking through The Hole with one of the short-term mission teams and as I passed by a little alleyway, I saw her. I am rarely taken back by anything in The Hole anymore but for some reason she made me stop. She hardly noticed me at first but I don't like to take pictures of people without their permission so I quietly greeted her in creole and asked if I could take her picture. I snapped a shot of her and her son and then asked in Spanish how old he was. No response. She didn't speak Spanish. I pointed to him and then held up a number one, then two, then three. She shook her head and held up the number one. One month old.
I am not sure why she struck me so. I've seen a Haitian woman before. I've seen a Haitian baby before. I've even seen a Haitian woman bathing a Haitian baby before. But she caught me unexpectedly.
One of the biggest commonalities our two cultures share is motherhood. And I can't even tell you how much my eyes have been opened since I've become a mother myself. And although I only stood at her doorstep for twenty seconds, I couldn't keep her out of my mind for hours after.
I wondered about her life and the things she did daily. A simple task like bathing a newborn can be a little more challenging in a washbasin with cold water. Her son clearly was not enjoying himself. I thought of my own babies during bath time in a comfortable baby bath shaped like a cradle with warm water and lavender-smelling suds. Neither of my kids ever made a peep during their baths. In fact, I would suffice to say it may have been their favorite time of day.
I wondered if she had a husband that cared for her like mine does. Someone who supports her dreams and encourages her in all aspects of her life. Do they lie in bed at night talking about the funny things their other kids say or the new noise the baby is making now? Do they go through the next days' agenda, planning out who is going to do what and where help is going to be needed? Do they even have a bed? Or an agenda?
Does she have a mother that adores her and who sacrificed everything so that she could go to school, play sports, indulge in creativity and art? Or a father who taught her how to shoot a perfect free-throw or who played catch in the front yard as the sun was setting on the day? Or sisters who fought with her, like all sisters do, but when push came to shove would drop everything to be there for her? Did she even have a mom? or a dad? or sisters? Were they there when the Earthquake hit? Did they make it through? Did they only come to Santiago because everything they had in Haiti was destroyed?
I know nothing about her and I have never walked a mile in her shoes -- or an inch, for that matter. But for all I know she is happy. Basking in the glow of being the new mom of a healthy baby boy. Going about her day, checking things off her mental list of things to do, taking one moment at a time. Something as simple as bathing her baby; him, exercising his voice box -- her calm and peaceful, reminded me of how many bath times I've rushed my kids through. Sometimes raising my voice at them because they wanted to play longer than I wanted them too. In no time at all, her little newborn will be walking and talking and in no time at all I will be sending mine off to college.
I think it's time I stop and smell the lavender suds.