Faces of Foster Care: Momma N
As the whole world shares the weight of a pandemic, the truth that love has no boundaries has never rung truer. There is a collective ache we feel, a grief we share, from the United States to India, and from China to Uganda. Hard stories abound, and no country is spared.
Nevertheless, beautiful stories abound as well, because we also carry collective compassion and collective hope. Running in tandem alongside all the challenges are brilliant light and many illustrations of great humanity and love for others.
We recognize it in the sacrifices of medical professionals caring for the sick.
We hear it in the online serenades of musicians.
We see it in neighbors taking care of neighbors.
We can also see it in the homes of foster parents down the red dirt roads of Uganda.
Within LWB’s foster care program, many helpers have gone right on helping vulnerable children despite a mandatory countrywide lock-down. Even with the hardships that the virus has brought, especially to those living in poverty who survive one day at a time, a network of foster parents continue to serve as a loving refuge for the kids in their care. One such hero is Momma N.
Just before travel shut down, I had the honor of meeting her in Uganda in February. I was able to tag along when LWB staff traveled to meet with foster parents. Momma N, who fosters seven-month-old Adira, was one of the highlights of these visits for me.
When we arrived, Momma N. greeted us in her traditional and colorful Ugandan dress, with a smile and the familiar greeting of Ugandans: “You are welcome.” She was telling us that we were welcome with her, in her home, and in her story.
We sat close together on chairs and mats on her concrete floor, so grateful to have been invited in. She began telling stories immediately, making us all laugh. She shared that she never imagined that she would have white people sitting in her home. We all stopped laughing and asked to be told again what she had said.
Then we laughed with her, in Uganda far from home, all outside our comfort zones, all grateful to be together. She’d broken the ice with her wit, wisdom, and vulnerability.
Momma N’s big, joyful personality drew us right in. We listened, laughed, and loved being near her. From her mat on the floor, she spoke with a wide smile, sharing both her gut-wrenchingly hard life stories alongside hilarious ones. Her storytelling pace was so fast in her dialect that our translator could hardly keep up. We missed 75% of her life story, but we still loved every moment of listening. Despite the difficulties she’s faced, her strength and zest for life was contagious.
Life has been hard for Momma N. She’s known happiness and abuse, has parented many children, and worked hard to survive. She’s shed lots of tears but has also laughed a lot. She birthed 15 babies, 13 of whom survived. Most deliveries involved the help of a midwife, but then after she’d “learned how to birth”, she delivered a couple of her babies alone in a field, explaining that when the first pangs of labor began, she would grab a razor blade and head off on her own to bring a new life into the world. We all flinched but kept listening with awe at her resilience and strength.
To “feed her home”, her family always farmed a large garden with beans, maize, and other vegetables. In between laughs and descriptive stories, we gathered that she had had a father whom she adored. She giggled while sharing that he called her his best daughter. She always wanted to go to school, but her father didn’t have the money. At age 14, she married for the first time.
Momma N. shared openly and honestly about being abused by men in her life, becoming a widow, and having to work hard to survive. As we listened to story after story of intense hardship and trauma, we were trying to reconcile everything she’d endured with this happy, laughing woman who’d welcomed us in so warmly. When we asked what her secret of happiness was, she proclaimed that it’s essential to always have people around to talk to.
She’s raised her children and still cares for her grandkids, so she’s quite comfortable having babies around. Momma N had never heard of foster care until she was approached by the LWB team about becoming a foster mom, which has been a natural fit for her.
The day we met her, she beamed with pride over how well her foster baby, Adira, has bonded with her.
Adira recognizes her and smiles back or cries to be held. With regular bottle feedings, she has steadily gained weight. In addition to bottles, Momma N also feeds Adira porridge and mashed vegetables. We felt so grateful to witness how well she parents. This foster care placement is a true gift.
Sadly, during our visit, possible signs of cerebral palsy were evident in Adira. However, after hearing about this potential diagnosis, Momma N. confirmed her commitment to care for precious Adira regardless of her special need, and even through the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
Momma N is indeed among the heroes of this time, bringing light and love to the precious child in her care.
During this global crisis, we are so grateful for Momma N and for all of Love Without Boundaries’ foster parents around the world for providing loving homes, even through difficult times.
~Rebecca Radicchi is an adoptive mom and guest blogger for Love Without Boundaries. She has her own blog at http://rebeccaradicchi.com/.