By Lollette Oliva-Alipe
I HAVE an enlarged heart but it isn’t what you think.
When my husband, Em, and I had Gabby, our firstborn, I was so in love with him that I thought that it would be impossible for me to love another child. But, after almost five years, I gave birth to a precious baby girl whom we aptly named Manna because we knew she was a blessing straight from heaven. These two kids filled my life, and when my husband and I separated, they were the ones who kept me focused and grounded.
But, by God’s grace, my husband and I reconciled after five years of separation, and Gabby and Manna were the two happiest kids. We were a complete family again. And God showed us that He had other plans for us.
Soon after our reconciliation, we had Joshua. It was a simple case of “love is lovelier the second time around” kind of thing, and we were ecstatic! What better way to seal our newfound love than with an adorable baby? But, God again had other plans!
In just a few months, I found myself expecting another child! This kind of threw me off my guard because I was re-starting my career but, when Sarah arrived, Em and I knew that the family was really complete. Two boys and two girls? Two pairs of each! What could be more perfect than that? Did I love them all? Yes, of course! Yes! My heart had grown to encompass each one with a love so strong, I thought it would explode.
God had other plans… again!
In 2007, God showed us that we were to take care of four siblings — who attended our church — when their Italian father had died suddenly. When we were told that they had no one actually taking care of them, Em and I felt compelled to begin helping them. Within the year, the two younger ones, Savina and Luigi began to live in our home and shortly after, the elder boys, Maurice and Nana, moved in as well. So, our brood doubled within a year.
In our church, I have been given the esteemed title of “Mother of Multitudes,” making me feel so much like Abraham’s wife, Sarai. I think Em feels like Abraham as well. People always ask me, “Can you love children not born from you?” I’d jokingly reply, “Do I have a choice?” But seriously? My answer is, “I’ve learned that my heart has grown proportionally to the number of children God has given us.” And still, God had other plans…
In October of 2009, we found among the bushes across our house a newborn baby girl. She was inside a plastic bag and almost blue all over from the cold. Like a lost kitten, she was crying pitifully, but as soon as I held her close to my breast to make her warm, she immediately stopped crying, as if she knew that she was safe. In the emergency room, as we were waiting for all the tests to be done to make sure she was fine, I wrestled with God, praying “Why naman us, Lord? You already gave us four additional kids! Di ba OA na ang pagka Mother of Multitudes ko?” Em, right from the start, was fully convinced that God had given her to us.
We have named her Faith Makana (Hawaiian for “gift”) or as everyone calls her, Baby Maki. Her adoption has brought our kid tally to a whopping… tah-dah!… nine! Do I love her? With such a passion that, again, I feel that my heart will explode.
Being a quack doctor on the side, I have diagnosed myself to have a cardiac enlargement but of a beneficial kind, the kind that enables me to embrace all the children that God has given us. It is the kind that has stretched my heart with the exercise of loving unconditionally each child, though they have different personalities. And just like any exercise, there is some pain involved, some stretching and some resistance, but the benefits far exceed the discomforts. My Personal Trainer, in His wisdom, planned it all. I have an enlarged heart and I’m glad I do.