The day I sat in Ms Al- Habib’s office to discuss Faith’s post-mortem result I just connected with her and felt totally comfortable and was confident I was in capable hands. She was the first person we informed baby number 3 and 4 were in the picture. Ms Al-Habib was with us every step of the way through out both pregnancies. If angels were men, she would surely have been one. She indeed was an answer to prayer. She went beyond the call of duty to look after me and both boys during my pregnancies. No question was silly and there was nothing like asking too many questions. Day or night if I needed Ms Al-Habib she was there for me. Even when she was on her off days and on one occasion she was away at a conference she rang the hospital to check up on me and ensured I was well taken care of. Her ‘wicked’ wink always worked wonders and put my mind at rest anytime I was concerned.
So grateful our paths crossed, when I think of Ms Al-Habib I can’t help but smile and say a prayer for her. There is nothing that I can do to repay my consultant for what she has done. As I look at my boys and cherish both blessings I will always remember the part she played in our lives. Many consultants have done well but to me she is a consultant who is in a class of her own. Each time I said thank you, she always replied ‘what for? I am just doing my job.’ If all medical staff and consultants did their job the way you do, many babies would still be here. So Ms Al-Habib, one more time I still have to say, Thank you!
The same day Isaac was born; one of the midwives came round later in the day and made enquiries about our funeral arrangement. At that point I was not in the right frame to make such a decision; still in shock about Isaac’s death. It was all too much for one day. We informed her we needed time to decide. Before long the registrar was also after our resolution, so they could finish up with their paper work. The next day she was back again. I felt like saying please go away, actually I wished I could go back in time and just skip this scenario. I never imagined I would be in this position in my lifetime.
After much pressure, we chose to sort out our own funeral arrangement. Just glad this aspect was dealt with by my husband as it was one less thing to worry about. So where were we supposed to lay Isaac to rest? I felt it was better to choose a cemetery far from home to avoid a constant reminder of my loss. My husband thought otherwise. Eventually I agreed for him to be buried close to home. In hindsight, I am so glad we went with this option as I go past the cemetery each week and it is good to know he is close by (physically). There are times I have gone past in recent years and because I am preoccupied with other things I totally forget about Isaac and also Faith’s physical abode (she was buried there too). But I know on the other hand that even whenever we relocate they will always be close to home (in my heart).
Everything had gone on fine from the start to nearly the end of my first pregnancy until the day I went into labour. I just could not fathom how things could change in a twinkle of an eye and what was meant to be a day of joy turned out to be one of immense sadness.
As the days, weeks and months passed by I could not help but ask, why me? I felt I did not deserve to lose my son. At that point in my life, I was totally oblivious to the thousands of women in a similar plight all over the world. Through my experience I have observed that adversity is indeed a part of life whether we like it or not or want it or not. And every human would face hard times; one form of hardship, sorrow, misfortune, trouble and distress at some point in his/her life.
I have come to the realisation that adversity though unwanted has enabled me grow, find out more about me, caused me to depend on God more and clarified my purpose. As a result of this process, when I lost my 23 week old daughter shortly after birth, what made me pull through and not break down was the fact I saw the bigger picture and not my immediate situation. I believe the right support structures would enable anyone climb and overcome every mountain of adversity and come out stronger.
Two days after I lost Isaac a nurse walked into my room and asked me where my baby was. I could not believe my ears. It was clear there was no baby from my notes and the sticker on the door. I politely replied ‘we lost him.’ Similar questions are still being asked even years after this incidence. Each time I fell pregnant I had to recount my whole pregnancy history and what happened to each doctor, midwife, sonographer … I came across, and that was a lot considering the extra number of appointments I had because of my ‘history’. It makes me wonder why patients have notes in the first instance. Similarly anytime I am asked how many children do you have? I may have to disclose what happened to my two children if I choose to.
Over the years, I have learnt not to be heartbroken each time I have to recount my tale or I am made to remember what happened to me. There’s no hiding from my past. It has actually molded me into the person that I am today which I am totally grateful for. Each time I recall my experience either personally or by others instigating it, I am reminded of the countless women in my shoes that I can reach out to because of common ground. As I end this post let me leave you with the words of Elie Wiesel.
“Better that one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling, he has decided, if it means that a thousand other hearts need not be broken at all.”
I just could not understand how others (both known and unknown) were able to laugh, smile and celebrate whilst I mourned my loss. I remained in hospital for a couple of days after Isaac’s departure and being in there was like being in a cocoon which I did not appreciate until I stepped into the big ‘unfeeling’ world. As we drove home, I felt like hanging a sign on my head to portray the ordeal I had just been through in order for others to stop and stop carrying on as if nothing happened. Everywhere I turned it seemed it was business as usual. There were good days and bad days. I could not understand how people could pay us a visit and after conveying their condolence then engage in mundane talk, at that point I did not care about what was happening in the world. All I cared about was what had taken place in my world. In hindsight the ‘mundane’ talk at least helped take my mind off grieving continuously and focus on other things. From personal experience and my observations, I am of the opinion that majority of people who haven’t been through a similar experience are unable to understand the ups and downs of baby loss. My previous post ‘Out of sight is not out of mind’ highlights a few issues. Hence they may be unable to provide the on – going support (a phone call to check how you are, a shoulder to cry on when you need one, remembering the birth day of your baby(ies) and giving you space/time to adjust) required even days, weeks and years after the initial episode.
The day came when we made the decision ourselves that life indeed had to continue for us. We were very conscious that both our children (also Faith, who was born after Isaac) would never be forgotten. We planned and looked forward to a future with more children. I believe each mum can sense when it is time to forge ahead and when that time comes mum may life give you reasons to smile again!
I came across these quotes recently ‘when life gives you limes rearrange the letters until they stay smile’ and when life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.’ Of course, it was not easy for me to smile after trying to conceive month after month with no success nor after conceiving twice and losing both babies when all was deemed fine. But I came to that point shortly after we lost our second child, that although discouraged I refuse to be down and defeated. In my mind I decided not to be a victim but to be a victor despite my present or future state.
It took a lot of effort as both quotes depict (rearrange the letters until… and show life …) but it was a daily and continuous fight both internally and externally to keep smiling. Just having that mindset gave me the courage to face each day expectant that everything would be alright even if I did not achieve my desire of being a biological mum. Of course physically speaking I had many reasons to smile: we were still together, I was still alive, my blood pressure was under control, the assurance that I would see my kids again and finally my purpose in life was worth me hanging on.
I am grateful that I now have two boys that make me smile each day and for the opportunity to walk beside and encourage other women who have been given limes and I pray you would have many reasons to smile soon.
I have always been the strong one. I have always given my shoulders for others to cry on. I have always listened to others discuss their heartache and hardly shared mine, because I could handle my own, until the day I went into hospital to give birth to my first son. After 8 hours of labour with intense pain and in and out of sleep, I woke up to find the room full of medics and the Registrar asked me ‘do you understand what is going on? We cannot find a heartbeat! I nodded my head but thought it can’t be and I was waiting to give birth to my son and was positive he would be born alive. He never uttered a sound after he was born, you could actually hear a pin drop in the room. It is a scenario no one would ever wish to live again and I did nine months down the line.
So, being the person that I am, who could I talk to? I am so grateful for the relationship I have with my husband, we talked a lot and sometimes we sat quietly as words sometimes could not express how we felt and other times we cried individually and together. But we believed against hope and were confident our story would have a great ending.
Despite my secretive nature and keeping things to myself, I knew I could not handle this on my own. Yes, I talked to God but I also needed to talk to other people. I found it useful to talk to others who had gone down this road before, women who were currently in my shoes and people who had never walked in my shoes before (medics, strangers, friends and family). The interesting thing was although the people I spoke to could not reverse what had taken place nor guarantee a ‘happy’ ending they provided a platform for me to ask questions, they listened and sometimes their encouragement brought comfort and gave me a glimmer of hope. And sometimes their comments made me very upset. I certainly had mood swings. The funny thing I discovered that though my situation looked bad some other women had it worse off than me and I ended up crying for them and myself after hearing/reading their stories.
We all need an avenue to be real, to say how we really feel and that in itself is liberating.
Although I was taken aback by my baby loss episodes, I came to the understanding that it is not over and God indisputably has my back. Our second child Faith was born premature. I was confident she would survive and so I prayed. When the doctors told us we were losing her, I prayed the more and trusted God for a miracle. Faith however passed away nine hours after birth. Despite the fact my prayer was not answered, I still had Faith in this God I prayed to. I was more resolute in my Christian faith and made up my mind that nothing would stop me loving God. My journey through loss has demystified certain myths I once held and I have now acquired great insight into certain issues people grapple with in the area of loss.
- God is still God even if things don’t turn out the way I expect
- ‘Bad’ things surely happens to ‘good’ people
- God hears me even when it doesn’t feel like it
- Times of pain and loss reveal where our hearts really lie and what we believe
- Even when death occurs, it is not the end
Faith is physically not here, but I still have her and I am looking forward to the day we will be reunited to part no more. That’s a little incentive for me to maximise my life, make it count, make a difference in the lives of others and make my Faith proud!
We were made to believe that my first son’s death was unavoidable and it was unfortunate Isaac was born stillborn. As the days and weeks passed by, I spent time processing what happened and lots of questions ensued. The response we got from the hospital was unsatisfactory and we decided to take it further because I felt if we let go, the same thing would happen to another family and I was also disappointed with the level of care I had received. After going back and forth for nearly three years, some of my complaints were upheld by the Health Care Commission but due to the length of time it had taken to get to this point, we had very little time to take the hospital to Court. I found the whole thing mentally, physically and emotionally draining. At that point I was upset that after trying for so long to get to the bottom of what happened, time was not on my side.
About two weeks to go to this deadline, I decided not to proceed any further because the road to discovery was far off, and neither an apology from the hospital nor compensation would replace what we lost. Instead I decided to let my loss/pain benefit others in similar situations and to prevent the same thing happening to expectant mums. It was not an easy journey but looking back, reaching out to other women in my position presented me with the opportunity to turn my loss to joy!
I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in the world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by
before they think of how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of the shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.