I Love Pudgy Babies

Filed under From Marriage to Motherhood on Dec 14 12 by

I am totally prejudiced when it comes to babies’ cuteness, and I think pudgy, curly-haired ones, preferably with a little bit of a fro (oh I SO hope my little girl ends up with a red-headed fro—she has peach fuzz at the moment, so who knows) are the most adorable by far. This prejudice came about when Dave and I ditched our cushy winter of snowboarding and lollygagging, and went to volunteer at an orphanage for abandoned babies in Johannesburg, South Africa. That winter we had saved up enough money in case we couldn’t get winter jobs, which it was looking like would happen. We were also in a small group at our church, and were reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. By the time we had finished this book within our small group, we knew that we were not supposed to lay about that winter and become snow bunnies at the local slope. My friend Beth was a missionary at a place called Door of Hope in South Africa, and was having trouble finding volunteers for the winter months. I had never had a particular fondness for changing diapers or soothing crying tots, and Dave had had little experience with young children all together. But we knew this was what we were supposed to do with our time. So, with the support of our church, family, and friends, we hopped on a plane to South Africa.

The year previous to our winter excursion, I had gone to visit Beth for three weeks at the orphanage. I had gotten to experience what it was that they did there, and fall in love with a few babies along the way. But Dave and I would be going for three months, not three weeks, and I knew the experience would be much different. I had done all the fun stuff the first time—helping feed the babies their bottles, playing with them in the afternoon, and occasionally helping with bath time in the mornings. When we arrived together in January of 2010, Dave was put to work in maintenance and repair, with the occasional feeding and nappy (their word for diaper) change, and I went on the daily baby care schedule for the three to ten month old babies (three days on, eleven hours a day, two days off).

We knew before we got there that we would not be able to adopt any of the babies, because the agency they used didn’t adopt out to Americans. We knew we would need to love them anyway though, because the babies needed to see and feel love to learn to love their adoptive parents in the future. We didn’t realize how hard it would be to do this. Two years later, we still talk about the babies by name, and compare our baby’s face with the ones we fell in love with there, wondering how they are doing—wherever they are now.

Every morning part of my job was to get the babies up, bathe them, dress them, feed them, and put them into the playroom for morning floor time. The Aunties and Uncles (what all the workers and volunteers were called by the kids and each other) told me when I first got there that I would have a special baby, a baby that caught my heartstrings and tugged a bit harder than the rest. It happened very gradually, and I fell in love with Evan (name changed for privacy reasons). Evan was what the Aunties and Uncles called a “naughty boy.” He wanted a lot of attention, and cried when he didn’t get it. He liked to be held constantly, even though he was almost ten months old, and he could army crawl. Evan had beautiful, big brown eyes, and long willowy eyelashes no boy had the right to own. He was a beautiful baby, and I loved that naughty little boy. Every morning I would try and make sure I was the one that got to wake, bath, and dress him if I could. I loved spending that special time together, singing to him, and sharing smiles. In the days before I left, I made sure to take lots of pictures of Evan and I. We spent time together in the pool, and outside in the baby swings. I took him to the mall, and we walked and cooed. I loved when people said, “What a pretty boy you have!” I miss him still, and pray that he will know the love of God as he grows, even though I cannot show it to him. Evan, and several other special babies of mine there, changed my heart for little ones.

Being a mom is super hard. It’s around-the-clock work, but it’s also amazing, love-filled work. But the easy part is that I know I get to keep my little girl, so I love with abandon. With the babies in South Africa, we loved, but we loved knowing we would have to leave them. In knowing that, we built some safeguards for our hearts. However, those safeguards didn’t mean that there wasn’t pain in the leaving, because leaving was definitely very hard. In fact, we were offered a year long position there—and seriously considered it—but we realized God had put us there for just a short season. God had brought us to South Africa for a reason—maybe just to show us what it would be like to have a baby in our lives, but most likely to show us that our lives here in the U.S. are blessed beyond measure, and there are times when he calls us to leave it for the furtherance of his kingdom. Our lives were forever changed by cuddling babies and changing diapers, interacting with people of another culture, and seeing what God was doing in the lives of the Aunties and Uncles and of each little one we got to watch over. The blessings we received from saying “yes” to God and going to South Africa are ever ongoing.

Before South Africa, we didn’t want a baby, adopted or otherwise. After South Africa, we realized the sweetness of babyhood—of seeing the first smiles, hearing the first laughs, and seeing the first steps. We started seriously thinking, “Maybe we’ll just have one, and adopt the bigger kids.” And so, later that year, we started trying for a bigger family. It didn’t go quite as planned, and there were several massive bumps and scrapes along the way, but we had arrived. We had arrived at the place of really wanting a baby—after our youth work, “bad” kid interactions, and learning to love our “babies for a season” in South Africa. All that had made our hearts and minds do a 180-degree turn—we wanted a baby.

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Leigh Eddy Nelson
Leigh is currently a stay-at-home-mom, or SAHM, ministering to the community around her at The Oaks Camp and Conference Center in Lake Hughes, California. Writing has been a passion of hers since she was a little girl, and God has given her a gift to share her experiences in life, love, marriage, and her journey to, and through, motherhood. Follow her journey here every month!