The time has come

[cross posted-everywhere]

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We got the phone call from the hospital. We need to go in after lunch today to be admitted and Abigail will be having open heart surgery tomorrow! (That is as long as the children prior to her stay on schedule). When we met with the Dr team Saturday evening we received a mix of good and bad news. The good, her ASD (the smaller of the two holes) has been closing on its own and is no longer an issue. The bad news is the larger hole, VSD, is much larger than expected. She is also in heart failure which pushed us up near the top of the list for operations. This is common in children with defects like hers, and should be completely reversed with the operation. The head surgeon assured us it should be a straight forward closure, which brings some relief. But this is still our itty bitty baby girl going into major surgery. Please please please pray. Will update if they tell us a set time, though I won’t have my laptop it will probably be through FB/instagram.


The constant battle

I’ve been going back and forth on if I wanted to write anything before we go to the hospital. If you are on facebook or Instagram you’ve seen what we’ve been up to. Seeing the giraffe’s and the elephant orphanage. Eating our way around Nairobi. I had set up those few days in Nairobi to try and distract myself from what was coming. Though I could still feel it. In the fun and excitement of Nairobi something loomed over me. It sat on my shoulders and weighed me down. It casted a shadow over my head. It slipped in through all the cracks.

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Abigail at 6 weeks and 29 weeks. Same shirt. Sized 0-3 months

It’s fear.

I’m afraid. I’m terrified to be honest. Why is it my baby girl? Why was she born with this condition? Why do I have to place her in the hands of a surgeon at a mere 6 months old. She’s not even 12 lbs yet. She’s still so tiny and fragile.

Though we were told upon her birth she had a heart murmur, I didn’t think twice about it. They didn’t recommend anything else, they didn’t set a follow up.

She had symptoms from the start; we just didn’t quite know what we were looking at. The symptoms are so subtle for her type of defect: constant feeding; falling asleep quickly when eating, but not staying asleep very long before needing to eat again; sweating while feeding; fast breathing; trouble growing and gaining weight. It was so easy to explain these things away, which is what I did. Breastfed babies eat frequently, so intervals between feedings don’t matter. Some babies are not sleepers. I’m so hot all the time so she’s probably just sweating from me. Babies breathe faster than big people. It was all so dangerously easy to explain away. CHDs can be subtle and insidious, even when your baby’s heart is literally failing. We were incredibly lucky that the delay in diagnosis didn’t cost her her life.

Even when we finally received her possible diagnosis, at just over two months, I didn’t yet start to worry. But that day in the cardiologist’s office in Dar es Salaam, when I heard the words, “your daughter will need surgery”, my world collapsed. Every moment of every day I worry. I know I shouldn’t, please don’t write to me and say things like “Don’t worry, God’s in control.” I know that He is. And trust me, I am trying to surrender everything to Him. But if He decided to take my daughter home, how would I handle that? I can’t even begin to think without tears.

We meet with the Dr(s) tomorrow. From there they will give us a surgery date (within the week). I will update when I can.

In the meantime, even if you are not on facebook or instagram, you can follow us on without an account.


One in a hundred

I never would have thought or expected it.  A few hours after Abigail was born and the pediatrician came to examine her I heard the words “heart murmur”. I didn’think any thing of it. Heart murmurs can be a normal thing right? My worries went away when no follow up was scheduled. “She must be fine” I thought. 

Time passed and I talked to some friends. They told me to schedule an appointment with our pediatrician to double check. Sometimes heart murmurs can be a sign of bigger problems. I started to get nervous and set up an appointment. They day came and for sure I was told, yes, that’s a large heart murmur. And then he said “I think she has a hole in her heart.”

We had to go to the other side of the country to see a pediatric cardiologist. There is not a single one in Arusha. We sat in an overcrowded room of people with all sorts of different heart problems and waited for our number to be called. When we finally got in with the Dr and saw and heard Abigail’s heart during her echocardiogram we knew something was wrong. What the Dr said next tore my heart into a thousand pieces.

“She has a large hole and a moderate hole in her heart. There is no way they will be able to heal on their own. Surgery is your only option.”

My heart sank and the tears started leaking out of my eyes. How is this possible? Why my little girl? Why was she the 1 in 100 to be born with these Congenital heart defects. There is no reason or any answers to why her. There is still no known cause for congenital heart defects. 

Abigail is almost 6 months old. She is barely 11 lbs. Because of these holes in her heart, her heart is constantly in overdrive making it very hard to gain weight. It’s like she’s running a marathon all the time. Since our appointment in January she has been on diuretics to help prevent heart failure. She gets tired when nursing and so it’s hard for her to even get full. She still needs to nurse every 2 hours to be satisfied.

I have spent hours and hours researching where we could have surgery. It’s not an easy thing here in East Africa. We have found a mission hospital outside of Nairobi Kenya through a friend. They have an American surgeon team coming the first week of May and have already put Abigail on the schedule. The only thing standing in the way of our daughter having this life saving surgery is $3500.

The place where I have volunteered during my three and a half years here in Tanzania, has offered to help fundraise with us. Please message me or email me at for a way to donate that is tax deductible. If you don’t care about that, feel free to donate at

Thank you for your prayers and support to save Abigail’s life.

Abigail Nainyori Dickson Mollel

img_7121I’ve always believed names carry strong significance. Naming a child should be no easy task, and we thought long and hard about the name for our child. I wanted to share what we are speaking over her life when we say her name.

img_7104Abigail – “Joy of the Father” or “Cause of joy”
Scripture References1 Samuel 25:1-42; 2 Samuel 3:3
Abigail is as “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.” In her, winsomeness and wisdom were wed. In her, loveliness and intelligence went hand in hand. Her own soul, like that of David, was “bound in the bundle of life with the Lord God.”

Nainyori –  This name comes from the language of Maasai (KiMaa) and was given to her by her grandmother. Nainyori means beloved one, one who is dearly loved and loves greatly. Her essence is love, and from her comes loves.

img_7114Dickson – In Tanzanian culture, all children are given their father’s name as their middle name.14671098_10153773772941567_3953655848242299353_n

Mollel – Our family name. One of the most common surnames in Northern Tanzania, as part of the Maasai tribe. img_7345

The House a Village Built

The days kept passing and my frustrations continued to grow. I asked God “why” over and over. How much longer would we live in our single room. How much longer would I trek back and forth to the outhouse. How much longer would I have to cook three steps away from my bed?

I know I will look back on the first 6 months of our marriage crammed into that tiny room as a strengthening exercise. And truly, I feel I learned more about Tanzanian culture and life in that time that any other time here. I truly lived like my neighbors live, though often whole families, inside one single room.

But this past Sunday I finally let out a sigh of relief. We could move into “the house a village built”.

I am so thankful for every single one of you who helped us get to this point. They say the easiest part of building in Tanzania is getting the walls up and I found that to be true. The material for the walls is so cheap. It’s the “finishing” that eats up your money and takes the longest! We are not completely finished, but we can sleep easy knowing this is OUR home and we are excited to grow our family here.

Here are a few pictures, excuse the slight mess!

In the future we plan to add plastic carpet to the rest of the rooms, not just the sitting rooms, as the cement is very cold! We will add tiles on the walls in the bathroom (hence the “half paint”) and add a shower and the flush mechanism to the toilet once we can get a water storage tank. We will build some shelves/cabinets in the kitchen. Also we have no interior doors (hence the curtains!) I did not take pictures of the two bedrooms because they are still getting organized but I will later!

Because people have asked, these additional projects we still have to finish will cost as follows: Carpet -$200, Tiles – $90, Doors – $180, Shower/Flush – $30, Water storage tank – $450, Cabinets- $150. These are in no way urgent needs and all in all we are SO happy to be moved into our house.

Karibuni sana (you are very welcome) to visit!

A letter to my Unborn child

Dear Baby Mollel,il_214x170-927607008_3iy3-copyNot much longer til we get to meet you now. I mean, I hope you stay put until you’re good and ready to come out, but we are so excited to meet you. As you grow bigger and stronger I feel you more and more, wiggling all around in there. I’ll admit it took me awhile in the beginning to figure out if it really was you moving. Sure enough, you made yourself known.

You know, never in a million years did I think this is how it would go. I never expected to fall in love in Tanzania. Trust me, I am so glad I met your Baba, and God knew what he was doing bringing me here but we have and we will continue to face many challenges. Some people think I’m crazy to give birth to you here in Tanzania. But this is my home, this is your home. This is our home.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what your life will be like. Will you prefer English or Swahili? Will you identify as a “Mzungu” or “Mswahili”? Or both? Will you long for America even before you know where it is? Or will you be content here in Tanzania? Will you have your Baba’s big nose? His deep, dark brown eyes? Will you be born bald like I was?

We aren’t nearly as ready as I hoped we would be. Being a “type A” person has got my stomach in knots thinking of all the things I haven’t been able to do. We haven’t  even been able to move into our house yet and the thought of bringing you into this world while still living out of this single room sends my heart into a panic. I also prayed and wished your big brother would be home with us first. We continue to pray that it won’t be too much longer for him.

You are so loved. I’m sorry I haven’t taken much time to document your growth thus far. I feel like I’ve been in shock through most of this pregnancy, but you ARE real and you will be here SOON! Despite all the chaos around us, when I sit still and feel you move I am filled with peace. As I sort through your little clothes and teeny tiny shoes my heart is overwhelmed. I love you so much.

Your Baba is excited too. He’s always talking to you and dreaming about your arrival. In a lot of ways he’s probably more prepared than me! He’s always so calm and collected about things but he’s so excited about your arrival. He’s ready to be “Baba “insert your name here”, and he wants the world to know it.

We are waiting for you but please, no hurry.


“Simple” grocery trip?

In general, there is no such thing as “a simple errand” here in Tanzania. Or even a “simple chore” at that. Everything takes longer than you would expect, and there are plenty of additional difficulties. With our simplistic life, and our current single room living situation, the littlest tasks can take a whole different approach. Dishes to wash? Grab your bucket of water that has come out of the pump over at the in laws house. Fill a basin with dirty dishes and water. Have a second basin for clean water. Wash from the first basin, rinse in the second and then find a cloth to dry them to place them back on the shelves. When finished the second basin can be emptied onto the “porch” area so you can mop as well.

Another thing that is not so simple here? Grocery shopping…. Here are some comparisons from when I lived in the US to now.

Getting To the Supermarket

US: Walk a few steps from my kitchen to the driveway where my car is parked. Drive to grocery store. Park, usually not very far from the front doors of the store. Done.

Tanzania: Depending on which supermarket I want to go to that day. Say I want to go to Nakumatt, the largest (though not best stocked so I usually only visit once a month) supermarket on the opposite end of town. I leave my house and walk about 20 steps to the waiting point for a dala dala. When one arrives check to see if its standing room only or seats. If seats are available climb on board. Ride all the way to the end of the route, which is a giant open lot of tons of dala dalas going every which way. Walk quickly across the lot while trying to avoid getting run over and all the conductors trying to get me to climb into their dala dala. Exit the lot and cross one of the busiest streets in town. Walk about 5 minutes and enter the supermarket.

The Supermarket

US: The store features huge shopping carts, wide aisles, and some kind of pleasant background music. No one looks at me or cares that I am there, except for the occasional employee who asks if there’s anything I need help finding. There are a million different kinds/brands of most products.

Tanzania: People stare. Often I am flirted with/asked for me number even though I wear my wedding ring. Employees constantly ask if you need something or are welcoming you. The stock varies and you can usually only find one brand/kind of anything, that is if you can find it at all. The “Americanized” items are 3 or 4 times the price you would pay for them in America, or occasionally even more ridiculous like 6 times the price.

What I Buy

US: Whatever is on my list. Usually enough food to last us a week. Often this includes things like freezer and convenience foods, pre-washed produce/veggies, cheese and breads.

Tanzania: Whatever is on my list that is also actually in stock that particular day. Since I do not own a car, I also have to plan for carrying my bags to public transport and being able to hold them on my lap for the duration of the ride. My fridge and storage spaces are limited and so there is very little “stocking up” and more so what can I get by with for maybe a week.

My meat is generally bought at a separate store. As well as most fruits and vegetables are bought at the market. In order to get everything I would want to buy for the week I generally need to visit at least 4 different locations, though without a car, I cannot accomplish all of that in one day. 

Getting Home

US: Reverse of “Getting to the Supermarket.”

Tanzania: Hand carrying bags of groceries to public transport where you then find a way to hold them on your lap and not spill out contents onto the floor while people stare at you. Try to ignore looks you get when someone sees you carrying a large container of mayonnaise or other specialty items.  Get off the dala dala at the same place you got on and carry the bags up to the house where you fiddle with the padlock until you can get inside.

There’s always more…

And that’s just the groceries. I could go on about all the other tasks of daily life that require more effort here. We don’t own a washing machine, dust covers every inch of every surface until cleaned multiple times a day. I have to COOK my dogs food from scratch. We don’t have a oven, all meals are prepared over a gas stove. There have been months and months of every other day power outages (from 7am-7pm). I buy all my clothes at a giant second hand clothing market. There is no Target or Walmart for one stop shopping.

Please don’t think this is all about complaining. I am trying to be more intentional in sharing what life really looks like here in Tanzania.  It’s been almost 3 years and I have gotten use to the routine of life here, but I realize most of you don’t even know what “routine” for Tanzania even is!

Maybe our next goal after the house is finished will be a car 😉