"Today is our third day of Maxillofacial (MaxFax) surgeries on the Africa Mercy for the 2016-2017 Benin Field Service. And I am one happy pediatric nurse! We have a recovering and adorable 6-month cleft lip baby named Patricia, today we operated on a beautiful six-year old cleft palate named Minabelle and tonight we welcomed an 8-month baby boy (also cleft lip) named Israel. I’ve already kissed Patricia’s hair more times than I can count and gave her a bath on Monday night that made me far happier than it made her. I have shaken Israel’s hand twice in welcome, enjoying the way he regarded me with solemn and inquisitive eyes. I got to spend time reassuring Minabelle and her mom this morning not to be afraid and then again this afternoon promising that we would care for her, that we had her bleeding and her airway and her pain under control.
But there is one sweet baby in the corner of our ward, in beloved Haingo’s old bed, who has stolen my heart in a special and particular way, one who is especially precious to me.
Her name is Bignon.
Just like Haingo, Bignon is a cleft lip and palate baby, too – and our first medical admission of the season. Bignon weighs 4 pounds and is three weeks old. Bignon’s mother arrived exhausted and defeated, with a dehydrated and lethargic baby who barely had active reflexes and didn’t even have the strength to cry during her blood draws. Yet already during Bignon’s first 24 hours aboard, both mother and baby look far more full of life than they did the previous day, both full of food and receiving rest and good care.
On Deck 7 today, during fresh air time, I asked one of our day crew to ask Bignon’s mother if the baby’s name means anything.
“It does,” our translator told me.
“It means ‘All God Does is Good'”.
I had chills. How fitting. How perfect. How well that name illustrates the powerful story of this fragile little baby and this brave, brave Mama. Can you imagine someone laying your baby in your arms, after hours of laboring, and seeing how small she is, seeing her bilateral cleft lip for the first time, being frightened and unsure of what caused this enormous, obvious, difficult defect —
AND YET still turning your eyes to heaven and choosing to name this darling little girl “All God Does is Good”?
If I had faith like that, if I had trust like that, how different my every single day would be. How different my relationship with God would be, my relationships with my loved ones and my relationship with myself would be. It is nearly beyond my comprehension to imagine what depths of peace you would feel in knowing, knowing THAT intensely that God had everything, every hardship, every struggle, every curveball under His control and that He was making choices for you and your family that ultimately were good, no matter how scary they seemed at first?
That kind of faith is the kind that they say moves mountains.
Upon our return to the ward, my heart still full and my throat still lumpy and my eyes still stinging, I watched Patricia and her Mama greet little Israel. I watched Patricia’s mom showing off the nasal bolster, pointing at the steri-strips, gesturing to the nurses and talking fast and excitedly. I watched Bignon’s mom coming over, showing off her own little clefty girl, her own pride and joy. I could hardly tear myself away. Three cleft lips and their mothers having a party in the back of the ward in our incredible unit on a floating hospital docked in Cotonou, Benin.