LILIAN NAKAYIMA meets women who breastfeed adopted infants
Energetic and healthy, two baby girls run side by side playing. Occassionally, they whisper into each other’s ear and laugh loud that everyone picks interest in knowing what the two little ones are up to.
Observing their similarity in height, weight and general good health, interests me a lot that I get closer so as to know who the lucky mother of the twins is. Having twins who are that healthy is a blessing.
People who bring up twins have always complained of one being sickly and not growing up at the same pace with the other.
Getting closer, a rotund woman comes into sight; she looks as healthy as the kids that I suspect she is the mother. Although the lady looks healthy, her eyes look worried. I go ahead to say hullo and compliment her on the health of the twins.
To my surprise, she informs me that they are not actually twins. Only one is her actual baby and she breast feeds the other whom she did not bear.
“I am worried I can’t afford porridge yet it helps me get enough breast milk for the three year old babies,” she says, revealing the cause of the worried look in her eyes.
Beatha Nyirakuza is one of the big hearted women that have carried other people’s crosses by taking care of their babies, even though they might not be related to them. They say most women are empathetic.
This scenario made me believe in this possibility. One bright morning, Nyirakuza went to a forest next to her home in Huye district only to find the most unexpected! She had gone to pick some local herbs for her one-week old baby only to find a baby in the bush, covered with leaves.
“I contemplated a lot on whether I should take the baby since I had just delivered my fourth child. In the end, I took the risk,”Nyirakuza says.
This being a human child and not just anything one just picks and takes, Nyirakuza promptly informed the authorities about her discovery. Since she was willing to take care for the child, she was allowed to bring it up.
Since that day, she started breast feeding the two of them.
It hasn’t been that simple but the love she has for both her babies is greater than the challenges.
Being a poor woman, Nyirakuza has foregone many things just to watch her ‘twins’ grow up. She has sacrificed family meals just to afford porridge so that her breast milk can be enough for the two.
Nyirakuza has gone ahead to as well sell some of her property only to ensure good health for both of her children.
“There was a time when Maria had signs of Malnutrition, I had to sell my three goats so that I would ensure best nutrition for her as the doctor had recommended,” she say.
Nyirakuza is only among the many women that are currently breast feeding other women’s kids. When Imbuto foundation was awarding “Bamaraika Murinzi” meaning people who voluntarily look after orphans, it was discovered that these cases were on the rise.
“I got Uwera when she was only 1 day old and I breast fed her until now,” says Patricia Nyirampunzimana. On picking the two year old from the hospital bed where the mother had dumped it, she took total control.
Nyirampunzimana blames her loss of weight on breast feeding vowing not to part with the baby because she is her own.
“I have suffered several sicknesses related to breast feeding,” says Nyirampunzimana.
At the age of 48, she has risked to breast feed again though her last born is 16.
To Anosiata Mukahirwa, it has been a challenging and deadly experience to breast feed an HIV infected baby. As her motto goes, ‘all kids are equal’ she chose to adopt a HIV positive baby when its mother was on her death bed.
“The child is sickly but hopeful against hope that he will live,” says Mukahirwa. Her adopted son is two years but with stunted growth which she thinks will improve with time.
It’s a little bit confusing that some women abandon their own babies and some where there other women that become guardian angels in the little ones’ lives.
Nyirakuza’s adopted child has a mother who is in prison because of attempted murder to her own baby.
Though it has become a tradition to adopt one or two orphans in many Rwandan families, breastfeeding is a great answer to many helpless infants.
Given the outstanding problem of orphans left behind by the 1994 Tutsi genocide, coupled with HIV/AIDS orphans, these women have posed a great challenge to wealthy people who can’t adopt kids.
“It only takes a kind and parental heart to help one child who is suffering out there,” says Mukahirwa. And indeed she looks poor physically, with torn shoes and dirty clothes but rich at heart.
Meanwhile, only 2 percent of Rwandans have requested for adoption of kids, the rest who propose are foreigners.