By Melissa Mc
The request seemed simple enough, “Are you willing to sit with a young girl in the hospital for a few hours for one or more days during her stay? They need volunteers beginning ASAP to sign up for shifts to help ensure this little girl is watched adequately while in the hospital over the next week or so. You will not need to provide any hands-on care, but just sitting in the room to watch over her.”
This was the email I received last Thursday. It’s from a group in my home state that helps the State’s foster care system with volunteers for foster children in need. The 8 month old baby in need had been removed from her family after a head injury. She was now in foster care with a family who, because of their out of town location, could not care for her in the hospital.
I am a mother of a “Children’s Hospital” kid. I spent many days and nights caring for my youngest during his open heart surgery and recovery. Staying at a hospital is normal for me and seemed like a perfect chance to provide service. I promptly called the social worker who gave me shift options. Not surprisingly, the “grave-yard” shift for Saturday night was open and needed to be filled. Without hesitation, I agreed to go. There wouldn’t be a conflict with church – Sacrament started at 11:30am – I was teaching the TFOT lesson in RS and my lesson was prepared. I assumed this baby would be medicated; I could read, sleep on the cot with out much effort, and still be rested for church the next morning.
My arrival at the neurology floor went unheralded.
“I’m here to volunteer for a foster baby?” I inquired.
“She’s in room 4D,” the nurse directed.
“Um…OK…do I have any instructions?”
“No, there is a volunteer in there already, she will explain.”
In the room sat a woman rocking an alert, darling, little girl, albeit with lots of tubes, drains, cords and monitors attached to her. What took me by surprise was that I was told “You will not need to provide any hands-on care, but just sitting in the room to watch over her.” This baby clearly needed care and attention. The woman then handed her to me and said, “She just had a bottle. You will need to feed her again in two hours, change and weigh her diaper and call the nurse if you need anything.” Buh-bye.
There I sat, totally unprepared for how to care for this infant and really wishing I had gone to the bathroom before I sat down.
Finally, after sitting there for a few minutes I buzzed the nurse, “Could you please help me – I really need to know what is expected of me tonight – I wasn’t given any instructions – am I supposed to hold her all night long?”
The nurse explained, that no, she could go back to her bed, but she preferred to be held. Well, duh??!! If my parents had hurt me (yes, I’m speculating, I’m not sure what her parents did to her – but someone caused her head injury), I would prefer to be held too (but then again, maybe not?). She then helped me untangle the web of tubes that now enveloped both of us and held her while I went to the bathroom.
I have three children – I was amazed at how helpless and inexperienced I felt caring for this baby – and how I immediately fell in love with her. Even after all she had suffered, she babbled and cooed and smiled and cried. Her cries were pathetic. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’ve heard that abused babies learn not to cry because they are not responded too. She had been taught well. Over the next seven hours I was this baby’s mommy. I finally did get her to bed (at midnight) where she slept for three hours (I did too, surprisingly) before her next feeding. The night proceeded like clock work. At 6am, I fed her, changed her diaper and dressed her before I left at 7am.
As I departed her room, I said a quiet prayer, “my dear sweet daughter of God, I’m not sure what life has in store for you, but I hope you will know that your Heavenly Father loves you and that you will be infinitely blessed.”
I’m not sure if I will see this sweet daughter again. The service she provided me was far more than I provided her. She taught me that in spite of unspeakable evil, she could still laugh, heal and be loved.