I was born August 23rd, 2014 at the arrivals gate of the Antananarivo airport.
Well, not exactly. My real birthday is in March and I’ve been alive much longer than three weeks. But in some ways I really do feel like a newborn baby. Instead of nine months in a womb I spent three days in various international airports anxiously awaiting life in Madagascar. Admittedly, I’ve never spent much time around babies, but from my distant observations, we are pretty similar…
Infants don’t talk much. How could they? There is still so much to observe and absorb and experience. Everything they see and hear and taste and smell and touch is new! It’s a long process to start to form those thoughts and feelings into words. Speaking of words, babies don’t have many to use, at least not at first. After two weeks of language study, I can follow general conversation topics but I do not yet have the words to contribute to the conversation myself. But with each day comes progress!
Babies sleep a lot. It seems crazy but it’s exhausting being a newborn! Between the language and culture differences, time change, change in diet, and always meeting new people, there are times I can’t keep my eyes open at the dinner table!
Babies seem to cry a lot. And I’m starting to realize that that’s a pretty natural reaction to being born. I can’t always communicate what I want or need or feel, or I’m overwhelmed by all of this new stimuli, and sometimes I just miss everything that used to surround me that was safe and familiar.
But being a baby isn’t all challenges and tears, in some ways it’s really liberating!
People are generally very patient and understanding with babies. People have been incredibly patient with me too! Like when I walk to a nearby storefront to buy crackers and speak in such a mixture of French, English, and Malagasy that I must be nearly impossible to understand. Or when I accidentally take over another teacher’s English class at church and they sit through the whole class pretending to be a student. Oops.
Babies are given names. And in those first few months of life, that’s really all they have. They haven’t yet gained the labels and titles and other “names” we humans tend to collect over the years through status, education, memberships, and careers. So in coming to Madagascar, I’ve had the opportunity to revert to just being Maddie, child of God. And that’s a really beautiful thing. Because my host family doesn’t care whether or not I graduated summa cum laude. And the kids I teach don’t know much about my journey to get here.
All that matters is I am here.
I am learning and growing. And sleeping and crying and laughing. And living and breathing. And taking those first few baby steps. And thanking God for the miracle of life.