Yesterday and today were so hard. I knew the day was going to come, but what I didn’t realize is that it would all happen in a blink of an eye. Thursday morning, I woke up with my stomach in knots. I could barely eat breakfast because I was thinking about what I would have to do later on that day - say goodbye to my babies. I took the tro tro to the orphanage. One last time. Reminding myself along the way that this was the last time I would be passing this shop and that building. The last time I would be on my way to see my girls. For a long while anyway.
I finally got to the orphanage and walked straight to the girls’ nursery. I paused outside the door, preparing myself to etch every single detail into my memory. I opened the door, walked in, and there were my babies. All 6 of them (would be 7, but “Aunty” got adopted the week before). Starting from right to left, I went to take each baby out of her crib, picked her up, hugged and kissed her before moving on to the next. First was Ata. Before I even got to her, she reached her little arms up and gave me her baby toothy smile. Next was Rose. Seeing Rose smile is always a treat seeing as she gives the scariest death stare I’ve ever seen on a baby. Today though, she was laughing when I went to pick her up. Just cracking up! Next, I went to my baby Nkansah. She was rocking back and forth on her hands and knees as is her signature move. Eboni and I used to joke that she was our little twerkin baby. When I lifted her out of her crib, I held her high above my head. She did that adorable thing she does where she laughs while scrunching up her nose and breathing in and out really hard. I started laughing with her before setting her down on the floor to do her favorite thing- crawl around and explore. Adepah stood up as soon as I walked over to her. I picked up my fatty boom boom as we call her- and tickled her before letting her join Rose, Ata, and Nkansah. I finally got over to baby Rahel (aka Joy) who had been patiently waiting. She was doing her super cute thing where she shakes her head excitedly from side to side. I picked her up and she gave me the gummiest smile. The type of smile where her eyes look completely shut. I kissed her cute little cheeks about five times each. Last but not least, I picked up Mahama (aka President). She’s constantly spitting up as I guess most two month olds do. I wiped her up with a baby wipe and walked around the room with her in my arms.
The rest of the day, I soaked up every minute. Every smile, every laugh, every fight between Ata, Rose, and Adepah as they are always bickering. Mahama spit up on me four times within the first ten minutes. I think she was punishing me for leaving. I blew bubbles and we danced around the room, laughing. I fed them snacks. Rose absolutely goes crazy the minute she even thinks she hears a wrapper rustling.
I called in Comfort and Ama. I wanted to give these two a special gift for being such sweet girls. They never asked for anything like the older girls in the orphanage did. And when they did get anything, they were always very grateful. I gave them each a pair of earrings, a bracelet, some panties, popcorn, and ice cream. They were so ecstatic. Apparently, if one of the house mothers saw the things they had gotten, she would lock the gifts up in the store room, according to Comfort. So the two came up with a plan to hide it. Our plan was for me to hide the gifts in my bag, and go into another room. There, I would hide the gifts under some old blankets and they would come back for it later when the house mothers weren’t looking. As I walked out of the nursery and to this room, I looked back and saw Comfort and Ama hugging each other, quietly giggling, and jumping up and down. I will never forget the joy on their faces and the way they hugged and kissed me over and over while saying “Thank You, God bless you!”
Four o clock rolled around. Our usual time to feed, bathe, and put the babies down to sleep. The entire hour leading up to it, my stomach kept turning. Normally, I would feed whichever baby I happened to be holding when the house mother walked in and made the bottles. But today, I needed to feed Nkansah. One last time. I cradled her in my left arm and put the bottle in her mouth. She looked up at me with her big dark eyes. Eyes that almost seem too big to be on a baby. Eyes that I had stared into every day for the past five weeks.
Comfort and I helped with bathing the babies. I dressed Nkansah and Joy. Combed their hair. Joy would not stop crying. I stood up and rocked her. Sang “You Are My Sunshine” to her. I hugged and kissed her a thousand times. Prayed over her. Told her I love her and to never forget me. Then I put her in her crib. Instantly began to tear up.
I then picked up Nkansah. Repeated the same thing. Showed her the ring I got made with her name engraved in it. It’s almost as if she knew this was the last time. Since she learned to crawl a couple of weeks prior, she had gotten very independent and did not like to be held or sit still for very long. But today, she held onto me tight. Laughed and babbled. By now, I was so choked up. I let the tears flow. Every time I went to put her down, I just couldn’t. I felt physically sick.
Finally, I kissed her one more time and put her in her crib. Then I walked out.
It was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I cried the whole way home.
When I got back to the volunteer house, I spent the evening sitting on the porch with three other volunteers. About ten children from the neighborhood were outside with us. Dancing, playing games, taking pictures on Rachael’s phone while Lizzie helped one with her homework. Heather was enjoying letting one of the little girls brush her hair. I just sat there taking it all in. When it was time for the kids to go home, we decided to walk with them, each of us carrying one on our backs. On the way, I told myself: “This is what you came for.”
These past five weeks in Ghana have entailed ups and downs. But mostly ups. It has been amazing. Life changing even. Those kids will always hold a special place in my heart. But all good things must come to an end. So today I say goodbye to Ghana, and make room in my heart for Tanzania.