I wanted to share a story, one that spans over 13 years.
in the summer of 1998 I lived in Orem, Utah and attended the best ward (church ) that ever existed, the entire congregation was so focused on service and love, that no one was ever left to feel alone. We were all so connected and I mourned leaving that area many years later.
I was pregnant with my second child, and had seen a beautiful young black girl attending church occasionally, who was equally extended in pregnancy as I was. She was so quiet and shy, at first I thought she did not speak English. I was a bit self absorbed in my pregnancy and did not take the time to reach out to her.
I gave birth on September 16th 1998 to a fat little cherub that was immediately diagnosed with having a heart defect. I was on a constant circuit to doctors and specialty clinics to figure out exactly what her ailment was.
She screamed 24/7 and was NOT an easy, enjoyable newborn. ;)
10 days after she was born, I received a phone call from Bryce Chamberlain (who I am assuming was the ward mission leader at the time?) He told me of this young, sweet girl without a family, that had given birth that morning and could use someone to reach out and support her. He asked that I make a trip to the hospital and introduce myself.
I was nervous, I did not even know her name, and remember, I honestly thought she did not speak English, so I was afraid the meeting would be a total disaster.
I approached her assigned room in the Maternity ward, and knocked on her door, she was sitting up in her bad, alone in a dark room. I told her who I was, and asked a few questions.
She had given birth early in the morning, and by the time I had arrived it was close to lunch hour. She had been left alone since the birth, and no one, not even the nurses had taken the time to explain to her what was happening. The most shocking part, she had NO idea where her baby was, She had not seen nor held him and she was patiently waiting for someone to bring him to her. Her older brother had dropped in and brought her a lunch, but otherwise she was utterly alone.
I was enraged! Being that I too had just given birth to a baby (at a different hospital) and this hospital had a reputation for being cruel to unwed mothers (they would shame them, or ignore them as in this situation)
I immediately approached the nurses station and asked where Claudine's Son was?
They had admitted him to the NICU and had not shared any of those details with this new delicate, scared mom. I immediately escorted her via wheelchair to the NICU where I was witness to the first time she was able to see and hold her new baby boy. He had aspirated and was on oxygen, but she was able to hold him.
My mothers instinct took over and I began asking questions, of who was there to help her, who was she going home with, did she had a crib, car-seat, clothes, diapers, and did she have any idea what to expect for this stage in life.
She was totally naive, she had nothing for this new baby, not one thing, no bottles, no diapers, no bed, not one single thing. I was overcome with the desire to protect and aid this sweet, soft spoken young girl who was left utterly alone in her weakest hour.
I left the hospital after she had spent time with her new son, (which she asked my help in naming, Dante Christopher)
and I immediately went to work, I called in my Visiting Teachers, and the Relief Society president, and together we urgently put together a baby shower, hosted by another ward sister (maybe Leslie Louw?)
We were able to arrange for the baby shower the day Dante was released from the hospital. Claudine, Abigel, and I spent a few hours in the NICU nursery spending time with the new baby boy, as well as teaching Claudine how to pump her milk (since none on the staffing had taken the time to put the baby to her breast, and had already given him a bottle...grrr....)
It was a major struggle to overcome that hurdle, but together the 3 of us became inseparable.
When Dante was released and brought home, Claudine spent most of her days at our home, she 'lived' with a 2nd cousin in a house less than a block from me, however they had several children and felt that she was a serious burden, the mother of the house also felt like Claudine should be punished for her teen pregnancy and therefore refused to assist of nurture her in any way.
I was honored to assist, nurture, love, teach and coach this impressionable young girl, she was only 8 years younger than I, but she was so very innocent as the ways of life, and especially parenting (her mother had died in Haiti when she was a very young girl)
For the next 5 years Claudine lived with us off and on, she would get an apartment, and work really hard (while we kept Dante for her school, or work schedule) Dante & Abigel shared a crib for the first 2 years, and then shared a friendship for the 3 after that.
in 2004 When our family moved to Alaska, Claudine sadly stayed behind in Utah.
And we lost contact, with her moving around and not keeping the same phone numbers, I had no way of finding her, I attempted many times to contact her 2nd Cousins family, but they were dead-set on tormenting this young girl, and would like to me telling me they did not know a "Claudine"
For years I would have dreams tormenting me, not knowing where she was, or how they were doing, it was the most heart breaking separation I have ever endured.
3 years ago I got the most wonderful gift.
Through facebook, we were able to reconnect and be reunited. Claudine had become a wife, and had given birth to 2 more sons! She lived in Atlanta where her husband works at Lowes, and they have built a life.
I spent a week with Claudine last summer at my home in Missouri, where we reminisced and rekindled the loving relationship not seeing each-other for 8 years was HELL.
Being able to connect through email,phone and our yearly visits has been such a blessing!
Claudine has now given life to a beautiful new baby girl, she has allowed me to come stay in her home and love on all her babies.
Here is the odd part, I feel a maternal connection to her deeper than anything i can describe, the pride and joy that she and her babies bring me are overwhelming, so even though we are only 8 years different, I feel a motherly love and protection over her.
and a pride that can not be described, she has raised 3 little boys to be obedient, orderly, intelligent, compassionate, clean, respectful, honorable, everything you would ever want in your children and grand children. She has accomplished. she and her husband Simon are loving, attentive and give instruction and guidance to these kids, they could NOT be better parents!
I could NOT be more proud of the job she has done, knowing how little she knew about babies, and how much we went over during those first years of Dantes life, and how AMAZING she has been for these 4 kids.
I am bursting at the seams seeing her, and knowing these kids. They are so wonderful! So beautiful. So precious. So perfect.
I am so grateful for the phone call i got almost 14 years ago, inviting me to meet and support a young, scared, unwed, innocent, naive little girl.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to reunite and maintain our family connection.
What an honor it is to see this woman, and be privileged to love on her and these babies.