Mama swaddled the week-old infant and strapped the fragile runt neatly into her own slight chest. It had been seven years since she’d tethered herself to a baby. But Mama was getting desperate. The topical spray pharmaceuticals, vitamin drops, manual extractions, and even a warm sitz bath couldn’t fix the distended lower abdomen of her young one.

The sheer frail skin covering Tiny’s lower G.I. was increasingly warm and pink. Impacted bowels were finding no more road to roam and the last exit was blocked with a pebbly yellow wall that kept reinforcing itself. Mama spoke with experts on line, all in agreement that an internal abnormality was primary reason for Tiny’s failure to thrive. The bowel trouble, a symptom of a mortal medical defect.

Mama searched online for home remedies as she gently stroked Tiny’s tender disproportioned lower trunk. Tiny had declined enormously after having a brief rally on day four just to tank the following two. It was now day seven and there was nothing more Mama could do.

Tiny had been in the playpen with her sisters, all of whom entered this world on the same day in rural Ohio. Her mother had been waiting months for them to arrive at the local post office. All the baby items were purchased- food, shelter, warmth, and of course, toys. Tiny and her siblings would lack nothing. They would live ten years or more without fear of a violent unnatural death by beheading.

On day seven, Tiny could no longer ambulate. Her needle-thin toes and feet flopped under her legs and her knees would buckle before she was fully vertical. Tiny didn’t pull her legs back into her torso when tugged at, and her equilibrium was terribly poor. She stood for less than a second before falling backward onto the painful mass below her vent.

Tiny was too fatigued to open her eyes unless anguished. Sorrowful sounds accompanied screaming shale Lilliputian spheres, forced open until the flood subsided and her lithe body could again fall asleep. Tiny refused all nourishment. Petite nutrient rich droppers full of life were of no interest to her. Tiny just wanted to sleep and so she did.

At first, Tiny’s sisters were lenient on her. But as they grew rapidly over the week, Tiny remained at her birthweight and was on day seven, a third their size. Life in the hundred-gallon Rubbermaid tub became a constant torment to Tiny, as nature’s way settled into her siblings. They taunted her, knocked her over and even stood on her head, pressing her skull into warm pine shavings that weren’t so soft from that angle. She could not make a sound, only a grimace, because once flat on her back, Tiny would slowly suffocate, a form of cruel entertainment for the healthy other girls.

Mama tired of Tiny’s less than empathetic sisters, secretly hating them for humiliating Tiny to amuse themselves. So after Dominique pounced on Tiny again, this time for longer, Mama plucked her two-ounce favorite from the playpen and swaddled the young baby in a clean washcloth, carefully binding the baby to her own sternum with a long, stretchy scarf.

Tiny was content to be close to her mother but still refused to eat and drink as swallowing was becoming increasingly difficult. Mama thought of the elderly clients she’d referred to a speech pathologist for swallowing problems. But there was no such expert for a life that only cost $12.93 to begin with.

Throughout the day, Mama continued with her work with Tiny tucked into her chest. She took phone calls for work, started dinner, laundry, changed lightbulbs, dusted, did homework with her older kids, and cared for the other twenty-six non-human dependents, before getting the house ready for three guests arriving the following morning. Mama had too much to do, but Tiny gladly rode along that day. Tiny had never experienced nurturing, as she’d been born in an incubator. And despite the continued pain, rest came easier in her new quarters.

Day seven was over and the extra attention may have allowed Tiny more time to make her own journey less hurried. Tiny relished the warmth, the fragrant lilac and white tea scent of Mama and the steady heartbeat of the one who made her want to stay. By late evening, Tiny was still inhaling, exhaling, labored but steady.

Fearing she might smother the little one, Mama carefully placed her between two clean towels then laid her on a heating pad inside a straw basket. The basket was perched atop the bedside table on Mama’s side. Mama heard Tiny cry out throughout the night, dutifully rising to offer Tiny food and water that Tiny inherently choked on, causing further discomfort. But the thought of her baby dying of hunger or thirst was unacceptable.

At 1 a.m., all was quiet but a familiar chirp indicating that Tiny needed to be turned. Her body was weak and elastic, so Mama tucked what had bent and put Tiny’s parts where they should comfortably rest, before climbing back into bed.

When the rooster outside the window crowed at 6 a.m., Mama sprung up to check on her patient to find the underweight body warm but still, the delicate diaphragm no longer siphoning precious air. Mama’s eyes began to leak as she examined the towel and baby’s bare backside still damp from an eleventh hour unproductive attempt to void. Tiny’s lower stomach area akin to a porous painted Southwest rock.

Mama imagined how the blockage must have agonized the little female and determined that seeing Tiny rest without pain was the only upside to her loss.

She had spent most of the week angry with for sending her Tiny, a sickly Golden Comet chick. Mama needed a healthy egg-laying hen, not another mouth to hand-feed. She didn’t have the time or attention to pour into one more needy thing.

But when Mama’s heart finally changed from anger to sorrow, she was able to hear the voice of the One who makes all things new.

Tiny was never intended to nourish with her eggs. Her abbreviated life was a downy reminder to love (the broken) as abundantly as we are loved.

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