I hate to admit weakness. What was I thinking! Yesterday I had another meltdown with all those tweets I was sending under the hashtag #StillAMum. I tried to hold myself, I promise I tried.
Yesterday October 15 was the launch of the Still A Mum project, started by a fellow blogger, Wanjiru Kihusa after going through two miscarriages. At least she was brave enough to form something out of her pain.
Listening to all those women share their stories of how they lost pregnancy after pregnancy, and how the society sometimes expects them to accept and move on. Maryanne Waweru, the moderator put it well, she mentioned some of the common comments that people ignorantly tell mothers who have just lost a baby, “You know, this is the will of God, you are still young, you’ll have more babies, this baby was not yours, thank God now you can pursue your education, get married properly and have children the right way”. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything, just being there for the person is enough.
There was doctor Jane Wakahe, a gynecologist who shed light on the different possible causes of miscarriages.”The main causes of miscarriages include genetic malfunctions, issues with the cervix and infections such as Malaria”. She encouraged couples who have gone through loss to seek counselling.
The thing that drove the nail deep on the “festering wound” was the short video, “More than ready”. I could not hold it, I had to leave the room and shed some tears after watching this video.
I know I have never had a miscarriage, but I could identify with the women in the room. Most of them had gone through not one, not two but several miscarriages.
Yeah, I know it is long since I lost my child. I was lucky to have stayed with him for five months. The pain is still the same. I thought I had healed after all these years. Maybe all I needed was to remind myself that I am #StillAMum
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:
Attend the Pregnancy and Infant loss day on October 15th
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.
Write about Still A Mum or any of the above mentioned issues on your blog.
I have suddenly become fixated on babies, as if they feel a growing desire in me to have another one of my own. We all know that that time is no yet. (By we, I mean me, myself and I). Well, I must concentrate on making my life a little better before considering the thought of bringing another life to this world. The first time it was disastrous… but that’s not the story for now.
So in June 2012, I met this mother who had been rescued from the streets by a kind member of our church. She was not really a street mother; she was actually standing in the rain outside the gate to their court at Kariobangi South Estate. She had a baby, without an umbrella and was looking for a kibarua- casual job of laundering clothes. This woman- the church member, was overtaken by compassion and invited her for a cup of tea at her house.
The rest are details. Long story short, I found her living in the lady’s house. Her baby was sickly and from how he was breathing, I could tell that he needed urgent medical attention. The mother did not look any better. She was also coughing and her dark skin looked pale. Now I know this is wrong, but I seized the opportunity to share that the baby was breathing abnormally, just like mine before he died. I talked to the mother and she opened up to me. She had been tested and found to be HIV positive during her ante-natal clinic. I suggested that we take the baby to Blue House Clinic the next day. Blue House was a Comprehensive Care Centre run by Medecines Sans Frontiers- France.
We went to the hospital the next morning and after a myriad of tests, baby Earnest, 9months, was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. No wonder he looked like a three month old or even younger. I couldn’t stand it just seeing the doctors pocking through his skeletal hands and feet looking for veins to draw blood from so as to get his blood work underway. He cried till he lost his voice in the process. The things mothers do to innocent babies in the name of denial of their HIV status. But this was not the time to point accusing fingers. What had been done could never be reversed. Our priority was saving baby Earnest. After that long day, I left the three (Earnest, his mother and their hostess) to go back home with a cocktail of drugs, while I went to school for my evening class.
Two days later, the hostess asked me if I could take over hosting her guests because her husband was not comfortable having her around their children. They had five children, two of whom were equally young and they feared chancing infection with TB. So in the midst of mixed feelings of anger toward her hostess because of the sudden subtle stigma, and compassion for the young baby, I took in the two.
My heart may have overtaken my mind, because I was bringing them to a single crammed room, which was already bursting with my books everywhere. To make matters worse, I didn’t have a job. I comforted myself by the thought that where there’s a baby, lack is a rare visitor. God would provide. He sure did provide.
After two months of living with them. Baby Earnest had started looking like a baby, not scrawny as I first saw him. He together with his mother had been started on ARVs and were adapting well to the drugs. His mother was even back to looking for the vibaruas- odd jobs of washing clothes. Luck was on her side, because she always came home having gotten at least two hundred shillings. I advised her to start buying things and we started hunting for a house for her.
The responsibility of providing for a mother and her baby while I didn’t have a job, was weighing me down. One day, I just told her to go back to her former hostess because I could not manage hosting them. I gave them two hundred shillings (I wish I had more, because I could have given it), prayed for them, then sent them away, with my younger brother Clinton escorting them- they had luggage to carry, so my brother came in handy.
They were not received by the former hostess. She went to Korogocho slum, and found a cheap room, at 800shillings. The land lady was kind enough and accepted half of the money, as she looked for the balance.