How I chose to keep two children alive on a heartbreaking journey to America


The maternity unit at our nearest hospital was three miles away. It was a 45-minute drive on a road where there had been no accidents, so we thought no harm would come to us. What our girls received wasn’t good enough to keep us in the US, and we were not prepared to take any risks. So we made a decision that was perhaps the hardest of our lives: to leave an infant behind, without even a one-day stay at the orphanage for them.

Many friends and family members were worried about us, and offered to take us in temporarily. However, our van wouldn’t be able to get to a port of entry in time and we felt unsafe with strangers taking care of them. We stayed in San Francisco.

The babies were well cared for by nuns at the orphanage, so we could visit in our van at any time. One day we asked how long we could stay there. The nuns said only two days. We moved our daughters to a foster care facility.

As a farmer, I have read about the whole side of things, like salmonella outbreaks, and that it was just luck that my daughters survived. The truth is, I felt nothing about it. My daughters were there because we wanted to keep them healthy. I saw no problem with it.

We did all the things we could, to keep them well, in a sweet home environment. All of the procedures they had could be medical for some babies, but not mine. The nurses were going crazy, trying to solve the problem. They wore diapers that were three times the size for one baby, and they kept putting me on a pill when I just needed a bit of pain medication for my agony.

That’s all I cared about: my babies. I can live without anything else, but I didn’t care that the nurses were scared or tired or, as I noticed time and time again, lied. If that’s what it takes to keep my babies safe, then that’s what I have to do. It was clear I would be held responsible if something happened to my daughters. If I cared about the nursing staff then I would stick around. But I didn’t. If anything happened to one of them, then that would be my fault. It was obvious the thought of their fate was driving me.

We had to be there for their safety. Every summer we’d stay in a rental home with a cat. We’ve made some bad decisions that have made our lives hell, but we’re taking responsibility for them. I can sleep at night knowing they’re OK and safe. There’s no pressure on us now and, with time, I feel more relaxed. We try not to do anything because of my blood sugar, but there are some days when it does trip me up. I’m okay with that, because I know they’re OK. If we made them fat, then they wouldn’t be strong enough to go through what we did. It’s nice for them to be able to run around and be active, so I stay active. But I just recently quit riding a bike and some of the other activities. Sometimes it would cross my mind that these things could happen, like while I was riding my bike I could fall and let my daughter fall with me and not die. I wish we could learn from our mistakes, but we’re just now able to see the other side of it. I think about the stuff I didn’t think about. When it became a reality, I just couldn’t believe it.

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