A Mother’s Love

Madeleine Balchan - Senegal


March 15, 2011

The first thing I did, before breakfast or brushing my teeth, was go next door to the Maternity Clinique to see Absa’s friend and her three hour old baby.

“Congratulations!” I said! She said it hurt. I left her to rest, returning home to my usual Sunday morning ritual of laundry and room-cleaning.

I’m getting more efficient at hand-washing the laundry, so after only an hour and a half I am ready to dry my clothes. But Ndiy is doing her laundry as well. She woke up about the same time the baby was born, three hours before me. I have to wait for the line to clear before hanging my stuff.

Leaving my newly washed clothes in a tub bucket in the sand, I return to my room, tidy my desk and begin sweeping out the sand. Is that PEE? So THAT’S what Khady was doing in here a few minutes ago. Awesome.

Okay, so she doesn’t know much better…I’m about to go find water to clean it up when Sier and Moma come running to tell me Khady dumped my bucket of clean white clothes in the sand. And I almost trip over Iada, who’s been lying on the ground, holding her foot, and screaming. I make it to our water tap only to realize its dry…again.

“Have patience.” I tell myself as I walked to my aunt’s house to get water. “Have patience.”

I rewash my white clothes by hand, scrub the floor of my room, and forgive Khady for acting her age.

Feeling better, I walk out of my freshly cleaned room. A small whimper, answered by “massa,” comes from Ndiy’s room.  “Feel better,” in gentled Wolof. “It’s okay.” I suddenly remember Iada’s earlier screams of pain.

I peer into the cool room, dimly lit through deep orange curtains.  Nidy is on the bed, gently patting her youngest child’s back, murmuring comforts.  She has taken Iada to the health center, but they can’t do anything until tomorrow when the health workers are on duty.

So the mother does the best she can, lying with her daughter and whispering words of comfort.

I leave and quickly come back with three things: Neosporin, a band-aid, and one of my juggling balls, which Iada loves playing with. I tell her to squeeze it every time she feels a pain.

Ironically, the Band-Aid has the opposite effect as in the States – Iada is scared of it and wont let me put it over the infected cut on her foot. But she loves the ball. I sit with them until Iada falls asleep.

I thought about what mothers give for their kids: nine months of literal bodily invasion followed by a night or day in labor, years of love and care, and continuing support and worry, even when their baby leaves home to explore the world on their own.

Madeleine Balchan