Mother in Spirit By
Charles Bonenti, Berkshire Eagle Staff
she has no children of her own, Gloria Gery is learning, at
60, what it's like to be a mother.
found out in Romania, where she just spent three weeks holding,
feeding and cuddling infants abandoned by their biological parents.
came as a surprise, she said in a phone interview Monday from
her home in Tolland, "how quickly the bond [with each child]
developed and the intensity of it and how much you care. Now
I understand being a parent."
a semiretired software-design consultant, went to that former
Iron Curtain country last month to work as a volunteer at the
Tutova Clinic in Barland, about four hours by train from Bucharest.
The clinic is for infants and toddlers whose parents have abandoned
them because of health or economic problems. Because the clinic
is understaffed, most of the children spend their days alone
in their cribs.
the stimulation of human contact, they become lethargic and
often fail to thrive.
is a human need for touch and warmth and security," Gery said.
"You just die without stimulation."
that's what she volunteered to give -- by signing up with Global
Volunteers, a Minnesota-based charitable organization that has
been arranging such "volunteer vacations" in 18 countries for
was her second trip to Romania. She went for two weeks to the
same clinic last December.
that time, she went alone and had 37 children to look after.
time, there were seven other volunteers, including her husband,
Robert, and she had 12 children in her charge.
found the experience even more intense.
broke my heart to leave them," she said.
kept an online journal of her experiences both times. It can
be read in full, with pictures, at http://www.performance-vision.com/gery/
in her visit last December, she wrote:
am loving this experience. . . Here's my typical day: 7 a.m.
wake up. . . . breakfast ... at 8 and picked up ... by Dan,
the night nurse at the clinic.
a 20-minute drive, I walk in, change my shoes and we start bringing
the "non-mobile" babies (who are my charge) into the large playroom.
I have between 10 and 12 all day. We bring them in one at a
time and place them in either little jumper seats that the volunteers
have brought or on pillows on the floor surrounding me in my
white plastic chair.
aides then bring in bottles for each child and the babies, who
range from 2 to 9 months, "drink up" as best they can until
I can get around.
hold Mihai (Michael) first since he is the tiniest at 6 pounds.
. . and then I work my way through them up to another Mihai
who looks like the Michelin Tire Man. Today they were all dressed
in the new outfits that I brought and it was such fun. I took
a bunch of pictures. No one who knows me ever would have expected
clinic is incredibly clean. The stunning thing is how little
crying there is. The babies are so used to being alone in their
beds that once they see me, they smile, reach up and/or are
just frantic to grab me....
the way, I sing away all day behind the closed door. They fall
asleep in my arms when I sing "True Love" and they all cheer
when I sing "UConn Husky."
couldn't be happier with things. . . . although the evenings
are dark and long. Thank goodness for books (and my 25-watt
light) plus the Internet cafe to catch up.
said she and her husband, a semiretired insurance executive,
have always traveled extensively, but after reading an article
about volunteer vacations in Business Week magazine last year,
she decided she wanted a more "hands on" experience with people
-- young or old.
found the opportunity in Romania through the Global Volunteers
Web site: www.globalvolunteers.org.
[The missions to Romania cost volunteers between $2,000 and
$2,500 exlusive of air fare, according to the Web site.]
she said the experience was emotional and that it was difficult
to leave the children behind -- she is going back again in January
-- she is not prepared, at her age, to adopt an infant.
people don't have children for a reason," she said, complaining
of aching muscles. "They're demanding!"
does she regret her decision not to have a child of her own
in order to pursue her professional work.
was "a trade-off" she said, but one that has left her and her
husband with the resources to help children who have no families
of their own.
addition to their volunteer work in Romania, the Gerys have
also "adopted the orphanage," giving money and mobilizing friends
to do the same."
many people bring children into the world unaware of the consequences,"
Gery said. "I had parents who were always there. I know how
critical that was to me."
the evening before she flew home last Sunday, Gery wrote in
trip was so different than my individual trip in December. ...
I spent time with less than one third of the kids -- and as
a result developed intense emotional relationships with them.
I laid on the floor with these babies all around me I was overcome.
Somehow they sensed I was leaving......Four of the children
were right on or next to me and were fussing and looking directly
at me and demanding to be held or covered. I could hardly bear
would have thought this would happen to me at this point in
my life? Certainly not me.
am weeping as I sit at this computer in the lobby of the hotel.
I hope no one comes by.... but then what do I care.