Pregnancy and Infant loss day on 15th October 2015

Credits: blog.bake.co.ke
Credits: blog.bake.co.ke

Funerals are a sad affair. Watching relatives mourn their departed loved one is just heart rending. We recently went for a burial at Langata Cemetary and as we walked past the tiny graves, it all flooded back.

A 19 year old girl mourning her baby boy.  Not a huge number of mourners. Just my parents, my boss at the salon, my uncle, two pastors and of course me. Baby daddy didn’t even bother to show up.

Little David now laying in the small coffin. The five months that I was blessed with him were now a thing to be forgotten. My siblings were not there to support me. I understood why. So I could not blame them. I didn’t have the strength to blame anyone.

I kept having flashbacks of standing for a whole day and half the night holding the oxygen mask on little David’s face. Calling the nurse to come check on my baby all through the night and having the same answer… “I am coming”. Carrying my David to the room with the resuscitation machine and seeing him breathe his last.

After the burial, my father warned me sternly not to go back to the salon. Said it was the source of bad morals. I had shamed our family  enough by finishing high school with an extra certificate. He could not risk letting me get advise from Luo women on cultural practices.

When a child dies, I hear the mother is supposed to go back to the child’s father for cleansing- have sex to clear the way for future babies. Assuming I knew this fact, how could I return to a man who wanted nothing to do with the baby I had just burred? Anyway, it was his way of protecting me from the retrogressive cultural practices.

My sister was in  hospital bringing her  bundle of joy. The same day we were burring my son, my niece was  being born. I was going to be an aunty, so all was not lost.

I was only 19, how could I have known I carried a shadow of death? I remember a woman saying I had an agenda to kill her son. I just went to her house to borrow a gospel music cassette. Staying alone at home was depressing. I needed some distraction. After all, my neighbor’s  house was a place I was free to enter any time. Not anymore. It was an innocent mistake.

Did I mention I was an aunty? Yes, that too, I was not allowed to go visit my niece. Not that my sister was superstitious. In fact my whole family does not believe in that crap. My sister had Luo neighbors and relatives who held on to cultural beliefs.

My niece is now a grown girl. She never died from my shadow because my sister allowed me to go visit her two weeks later. I sure will give motherhood another chance when the right time comes. Langatta Cemetary will always be a reminder that my baby was laid somewhere in the midst of the many tiny graves. (I don’t know which one.) But one thing’s for sure, I healed.

Many women go through similar stories in silence. Many suffer depression. Many pick themselves up and give motherhood a second chance.

Whether it is loosing a baby after seeing them, holding and loving them, or having a miscarriage, the pain is still the same. Women who have lost babies need to be allowed to grieve without society placing labels on them. Society needs to be understanding and supportive to such women.

It is because of this that a member of BAKE, Wanjiru Kihusa came up with the Still A Mum campaign. This was after going through two miscarriages. On the 15th of October, we will be commemorating Pregnancy and Infant loss day by launching the Still A Mum project at the Nailab from 5pm.

We are not only commemorating infant loss and miscarriage. Though that forms a big part of the discussion, we are also exploring alternative forms of motherhood like adoption and surrogacy. We are also looking to expel the myths surrounding infant loss.  You are welcome to the event and to join the conversations on social media.

How to get involved:

  1. Attend the Pregnancy and Infant loss day on October 15th
  2. Participate in the #StillAMum online discussions on 1st, 8th and 15th October at 2pm. We shall discuss issues related to miscarriages and adoption. Some of the topics are mentioned above.
  3. Write about Still A Mum or any of the above mentioned issues on your blog.
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3 thoughts on “Pregnancy and Infant loss day on 15th October 2015”

  1. Julie, this is indeed very touching. This kind of loss is very hard to bear especially that you were alone dealing with it. I like the two words, “I healed” because it is not easy and is taken for granted. People need healing.m
    However, the detail about the customs and rituals in my view distract from the story especially because these are hardly ever observed any more and also because many people who mention then do so inaccurately. It’s like the forced “inheritance” motif that keeps on being pandered on. Anyone will tell you that it no longer is an issue but every Luo widow story I read has that “my in-laws wanted to inherit me and I refused” added for effect. I have my theory about its allure but suffice to say it falls into the stereotypes and ethnic characterization like the “black savage” once did.

    1. Dear Oby,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that these cultures are outdated and are no longer practiced. However, during the time, and in the slum setting, there were people who held these cultural beliefs dearly.(My parents were trying to protect me from some of these cultural practices.)

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