You may remember Madre Clara from our visa-related posts; she’s a highly-effective, spunky Sister that runs the Kinder and the Institute. She and Madre Inez are in charge of giving us work to do and making sure we have what we need in our house. And with Madre Clara around you just never know what’s going to come at you next.
Thursday morning we were bustling around getting things ready for the Thanksgiving meal that we were cooking for the Sisters, when I walked out of the convent through a group of sisters holding a baby. I was passing along to do my work when Madre Clara calls, “Laura, someone left a baby for you.” I gave her a funny look thinking I hadn’t understood correctly. And so she says again, “For you, a baby was left.” I say, “for me?” and she and the others sisters get excited and say, “Oh yes, a gift, for you.” So I walk over and they hand me this 5-6 month old baby. Madre Inez says, “Mama Laurita” and smiles while Madre Clara starts trying to teach it to say, “Papa Tomas, Papa Tomas.” I look the baby over and say, “Thanks, bye” and pretend to walk away with it. They laugh and I ask where the baby came from. Apparently that morning two women showed up at the convent with this baby. The story they told was that the mother of the baby was 16 and the father was 17. The girl’s father said she had to get rid of the baby or he would kill it. So this older woman who had 4 other children took it in. But her husband got mad and said they didn’t have enough money to feed it so she showed up at the convent with it. I started to feel uncomfortable as the Sisters continued to joke about me being the baby’s mother so I handed her back to one of the Sisters who gave her to one of the older girls from the orphanage saying, “Here take your new sister.” She didn’t come with a name or a birth date but later that day at the doctor’s office they created a birth certificate for her, named her Dayana and estimated she was about 6 months old. Overall it was a really unsettling experience for me to see this unwanted baby get passed around and to hold her knowing she needed a mother. They know that we can’t adopt any children here (Bolivia doesn’t allow adoptions from the U.S.) but a part of me just wanted to give this baby a loving family. It felt like in that moment no one would really have been affected if this baby were alive or dead. That breaks my heart.