Mariska with baby Nathan and his mother.
I remember the day my husband and I named our first baby. After months of scouring baby names books – and debating the merits of each name and its potential nicknames – we finally settled on names for our unborn child. Callum for a boy and Elliana for a girl.
I remember thinking what an important decision it was, to choose someone’s name. What if we chose the wrong name, and our child wished we had put a little more thought into it.
Finally the day arrived when our son was born. After giving birth in a state-of-the-art birthing suite, with midwives and an obstetrician to assist, we proudly rang our family and friends and announced his safe arrival.
The first question on everyone’s lips was, “what’s his name?” And we proudly announced the name we had chosen.
Fast forward nine years and I am in another birthing suite – this time in a rural town two hours from Kampala, capital of Uganda.
Beside me is a young mother, who has just given birth 30 minutes earlier to a healthy son. The health worker watches on proudly as the young mum calmly breastfeeds her son – seemingly with none of the pain or struggles that I had experienced as a first-time mum.
Feeling honoured to be part of this special moment, I watch on as the health worker prepares to immunise the newborn baby – pointing out how blessed they are to have solar panels from World Vision to power the fridge. Without this, the immunisations would be useless.
A few moments later, when the young mother places her newborn in my arms, I can’t help but stare at his perfect little body. He curls his tiny fingers around mine… just like my own babies at this age. As he starts to purse his little lips, looking for milk, I drink in his tiny perfection and then place him back in his mother’s arms and she continues feeding him.
Another mum comes in from the line of pregnant women outside and lies down on the bed just centimetres away from us. She is six months pregnant, and there for an ultrasound to check on her unborn baby. The midwife proudly announces that her baby is healthy – and reminds her to continue eating green vegetables and meat, as well as bananas and millet porridge.
Dragging myself away from this intimate scene, I get up to leave. Suddenly the baby’s mother grabs my arm and says something to the health worker. The health worker proudly tells me that the mother would like to name her son after me.
I protest, remembering what an important decision this was for my husband and I – and not wanting to steal this special moment from the baby’s parents. But she insists – and so I suggest my husband’s name, Nathan, which means “Gift from God.” The young mother proudly repeats the name and the health worker announces it to those around us.
I take one last lingering look at baby Nathan. I feel overwhelming relief – that he was born in a health clinic where he was at the very least delivered in a health clinic, rather than on the floor of his mother’s hut. Many babies in developing countries like Uganda contract deadly Tetanus in the first few weeks of their lives, from being born in unclean conditions – or having their umbilical cord cut by an unclean knife or rock.
The name Nathan means “Gift from God” and that is exactly what he – and every baby in the world – is. A precious gift.
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