I still remember that day vividly as though it were yesterday. I tried to take a step but the pains in the pit of my tummy hindered me from moving a muscle. The only muscles I could move were those on my face that worked together to portray anguish. I tried yet again but I was stuck. I bent my back involuntarily and moaned lightly. My younger sister got perturbed and in the split of a second, I saw her move from exhilaration to exasperation.
“Aunty, what is happening to you?” she asked with a shaky voice. (For some reason, my younger sisters call me Aunty).
I had no answer for her because I was asking myself the exact question. She turned to my mom,
“Mummy, what is happening to Aunty Pre?”
My mom quickly cooked up an answer for her:
“Don’t worry, Mum. These things happen to women who have children. Don’t worry she will be fine.”
The answer my mom quickly cooked didn’t feed our little “Mum’s” curiosity. As I kept on in my futile attempts to walk, I could see the tears welling up in my sisi’s eyes. My tummy was in turmoil. It was like five invisible scissors were being used to make horizontal cuts across my belly. After the drama caused by pain during my first birth experience, this was the second time that pain was causing me to stage a play un-willfully. Worse still, this time around I had a bigger audience. My audience consisted of friends and family members like us who had come to spend time with students at the Presbyterian Secondary School, Mankon.
It was the official visiting Sunday at the boarding secondary school located in Bamenda, the capital city of Cameroon’s North West region. I cheerfully went visiting with my Mom, Dad, younger sister and girl number one who was a 9 month old baby at the time. Little did I know that my cheers will quickly turn into tears.
That morning, I had noticed I had an unusual menstrual flow as I took my bath in preparation for church service. Sorry if I get a bit graphic here… the blood from my lady parts had very dark clots in them. I had never seen anything like that since I hit puberty. Though I didn’t feel even the slightest pain, I was distraught. So instead of heading first to church, I went to a mission hospital- the same hospital where I had my first baby.
I was greeted at the hospital by some light-mooded Reverend Sisters who suggested that I got admitted. I told them I had an issue that needed urgent attention. They told me since it was a Sunday, there was no doctor on duty. They asked me to register at the hospital and get admitted as an in-patient to be seen on Monday. I felt their suggestion was senseless. What was the use of lying on a hospital bed for several hours with no doctor to see you? Was I supposed to depend on the air in the hospital wards for answers/healing?
I probed them further and discovered that the hospital pharmacy was closed and there was no hope of getting any treatment if needed on that day. I advised myself and hurriedly gallivanted from the hospital premises and boarded a taxi to church for service. I was strong, sassy and sanguine and I was not going to let any misguided hospital staff put me down. I entered the church, clad in an old-fashioned pink skirt paired with something in the form of a blouse and found my way to the back pew where I sat with other mami pikins (nursing mothers). I was upset that I had missed my favourite part of the service, which was Praise and Worship yet I sat hoping to enjoy what was in store from me.
From service, I went to my parents’ home where I lodged at the time. Mr N. was at his work station in a neighbouring country, Equatorial Guinea. In his absence I lived with my parents to evade loneliness. I narrated my strange blood flow to my Mom and she didn’t consider it anything serious. I took a nap that afternoon in preparation to visit my sister, Faith, fondly called “Mum” at her school. When I woke up from the nap, I felt blood gush out of me. Still, I felt no pain. So I cleaned up, put on a pair of trousers (pants in American English) and a glittering blouse and off I went to see little sis.
I had not foreseen that my visit will lead to this session of agonising. There was I at the school campus flanked by fellow visitors, struggling to do a simple thing, struggling to take a step. As I saw the tears in my sister’s eyes, I knew my situation didn’t look good. The pains were excruciating and I was determined to go somewhere and see a doctor. I staggered to my Dad’s car where I managed to find comfort in the back seat.
We drove off and made the first stop at a nearby private hospital with a huge building that stood out on the street where it lay. The nurse on duty asked me to sit and she struggled to take my temperature and do the regular things they did to patients. By this time, I was shaking, twisting my body and turning and the bleeding was getting heavier and heavier. My uncontrollable shaking caused the thermometer that was put in my armpit to fall to the ground and broke into pieces. Ooops! The nurse was enraged and she didn’t hide it. I had more pressing issues to deal with than sooth an angered nurse over a broken thermometer. My bleeding had thoroughly soaked the pad I was wearing and had begun to soak my trousers. A quick inquiry revealed that there was no doctor on-duty. I had to leave for another hospital.
We zoomed to a nearby clinic. This time, the building was not outstanding but lost in the array of buildings on that street. As I staggered into the house with pale-looking walls, I was hopeful that my solution lied within those walls. Hope stared at me in the face when the nurse at the inquiry desk announced that the Doctor who doubled as a Gynecologist was present. I queued up to see him. This time, blood was permeating my trousers and painting the hospital bench. It was a sore sight.
As I switched to a bench closer to the doctor’s office door, drizzles of blood followed me. Does embarrassment come any worse than this? Finally, I got into the doctor’s office and after he asked me a few questions and got some answers, he unquivocally announced, “You are having an inevitable abortion.” Those words… I lack words to describe how those words entered my ears then my heart and my whole being.
He took me to another room and had me lie down on an examination bed where quick check into my uterus took the maddening pain away. He told me I needed to have a D & C to properly remove the remains of the foetus in me. He said he was not going to do that until I brought a deposit of 30,000 CFA Frs ( about $60). We left and in a few minutes, we were back with the required deposit.
For the first time in my life, I went into a theatre. I saw the doctor introduce strange instruments into me. I let out loud screams. At the end of the day, I went home with the knowledge that I had lost a pregnancy I never even knew existed. I was shell-shocked and utterly devastated.
Moreover, I was mortified to have been found pregnant when my first baby was just 9 months and still feeding on breast milk. How could I have been doing “that thing” when my baby was still so young? I felt guilty about thinking that my pregnancy was too early. I blamed myself for the miscarriage. Maybe I worked too hard. Maybe I was too stressed at the time. Maybe I could do something to prevent it. Maybe, just maybe!
Till date, the thought of having lost a baby via a miscarriage lingers with me. No, it wasn’t just a foetus- it was life, a real person, my baby, my seed. I wonder if that human being was a boy or a girl. I wonder what he/she could have looked like. I miss my baby. We never had a chance to play and laugh together. The years pass and I think of how old my baby would have been. We never got to celebrate milestones together. If it is true that all babies lost via miscarriages go to Heaven then God please take care of my baby. Tell he/she that I love him/her.
In my last two pregnancies, I have had the constant fear of having another miscarriage. Each time I felt an unusual pain, I shivered. Carrying a pregnancy till the end is a huge reason to be thankful. One too many women don’t carry their pregnancies to the end. And when that happens, they are deeply hurt. If you loose a baby, please take time to grieve so you can heal. I found these words that could provide some comfort:
Babies lost in the womb were NEVER touched by fear… They were NEVER cold…NEVER hungry… NEVER alone and importantly ALWAYS knew LOVE – sayinggoodbye.org
If you have lost a baby before, please share your experience in the comments below. You could be anonymous if you wish but please don’t be silent. Someone out there needs to know that they are not alone. Someone needs to hear your story, our story. Thank you for reading.