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Miscarriages and Stillbirths in Kenya: In Memory of Babies Gone Too Soon

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Today’s blog post is a very difficult one to write.

I must confess that when I was young, I always assumed that getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term, then delivering and raising the child to become a productive adult –in that sequence – were automatic. That if you wanted to become a mother, you just made the decision to and it would happen. Like a button you switched on and voila, you were pregnant and nine months later, you were holding your bouncing baby boy or girl.

But over the last couple of years, I have come to the sad realization that I had been most naïve in my thinking. Perhaps the most naïve I have ever been all my life. So because I have come to learn of so many women -close friends, relatives, colleagues, friends’ of friends and other women who have gone through the loss of a child.

They have had miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, still births, have lost their babies during childbirth, or their babies have died within hours, days or months of being born. I have become aware of many such incidents especially in the last three or so years. Perhaps because I am in my early thirties and this is the time when just like I, most of my peers are now settling down and starting their own families.

My relatives and close friends who have lost their little ones –either in the womb or in infancy have been most painful for me. I have held these women close. I have cried with these women. I have cried for them. Unspoken words have been uttered during such moments. I have silently mourned with these ladies.

Most of the time, if not all the time, I didn’t know what to say.

And each time, I questioned God over and over again, asking him ‘why?’

I have come to know that many other women have gone through this –gone through the loss of their little angel.

I have also come to know that such a loss is not something that’s talked about much.

How it happens is that most of the time, the lady experiencing the loss will not share the news with many people. Maybe with just family and a friend or two. But yet in no time, her network of friends, colleagues and relatives will be in the know, with the information having been relayed though the phone, email, coffee with the gals, at a wedding, during office tea or lunch breaks, at family gatherings, during the chama meeting….. The loss is usually discussed in hushed tones, with people talking about it with forlorn faces. Most conversations often end with “woiye that’s so sad”.

I have also come to know that most of the time, friends and relatives are often concerned and want to help, but yet they don’t know how to go about it. They don’t know where to start. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know how to go about comforting them. Even though you badly want them to know that you are hurting with them, that you are there for them.

Now, the month of October is dedicated to remembering all those cherished little angels who went too soon. The ones we never got to hold in our arms. The ones who we held in our arms but are no longer with us. The ones who went to be with the Lord already. Actually, I didn’t know about October being the pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, until my friend Mama Azizi brought it to my attention.

Incase you are like me and didn’t know, pregnancy and infant loss awareness month is dedicated to the memory of our little babies, our little angels who are not with us today. Of honoring the babies that were never born into this world, or who were here for a short time. It is dedicated to those who are suffering or know someone who has suffered a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, a still birth or lost thier infant. To both mothers and fathers who live with the memories of their departed little angels.

While Mama Azizi and I were discussing the issue, she told me something that got me really reflecting. She said:

“….this is something that many people don’t talk about, and don’t realize how it greatly impacts on the grieving woman or even the entire family. In Africa, we just tell them not to worry, that you are young and you will have more children. But really, is it that easy to forget?”

I couldn’t have said it better.

So my blog this week is dedicated to creating awareness on this issue.

If you have a story you wish to share, and which you think will help other women, men or families going through the same thing, feel free to leave a message in the comments section of this post. If you wish to let other people know how they can help, what to say or how they can be there for their friends, relatives or colleagues who are going through something like this, you can leave a message too. If you have an inspirational quote or a Bible verse that got you through such difficult moments, you can share it here. If you have any words of encouragement to women going through such an episode, women who are wondering how to move on, how to overcome the pain, how to start living again, you can share here. If you know of any support group in Kenya that helps people going through this, you can share the information below. If you are a professional and have some advice, leave a message below. If you have any questions to ask, or if you have any positive comments, feel free to share in the comments section below. God bless you.

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Maryanne W. Waweru is a Kenyan mum raising her two sons in Nairobi. A journalist, Maryanne is passionate about telling stories and hopes that through her writing, her readers learn something new, feel encouraged, inspired, and appreciative of what they have in their lives. Maryanne's writing focuses on motherhood, women and lifestyle. "Telling stories is the only thing I know how to do," she says.


  1. Its so true that many times we don’t know what to say to such a woman and we just talk among our friends. Anyone who has gone through such please tell us how you would have wanted your friends to help you or words they could have said when you were going through such difficult time so that we can know. Sorry.

  2. I lost my little angel on his 1st birthday, mysteriously. i console myself with the fact that he got the best birthday gift anyone would ever give, Heaven. He would have been 6yrs now, in school, probably almost my height and very handsome. Since we buried him, I have never been to the grave, I guess I just cannot bear the pain even today. I don’t talk much about him, and many may assume that I have moved on, however, many a nights I have wept in solitude over what might have been if he were still here.
    God is the only one who can provide comfort and I look forward to Heaven so that we can be reunited, so that I can hear him call me Mummy for the first time.

  3. Having lost an angel that I never got to know what sex it was at six weeks was very painful and only a person who’s been through that can tell the pain. We truly appreciate the consolation from close family members and friends but talking about it and accepting the loss was vital in my healing. Also finding solace in God’s word and encouraging myself in him enabled me to move on and the Lord blessed us with two beautiful girls. I look forward to heaven to be united with baby no. 1. For anyone whose has suffered the loss of a young one, allow God’s comfort to overshadow you, accept and move on because one can easily suffer from depression.

  4. One of my best friends had a miscarriage; it was her first pregnancy. I cried for her and her loss but i knew i didnt feel anything close to what she was feeling. So the day she went to be ‘washed’ (im not sure what that procedure is called) we showed up at her place in the evening and cooked and ate alot.. and after that we had a moment of sharing what she was feeling… i thought this was a good idea coz that way, none of us was whispering behind her back coz she talked about it.

    She is now very pregnant and expecting to download soon.

  5. I cried reading this,i have a friend who lost a baby at birth,she would be my daughters age that is 5 years now.All i could do was listen and i hope that helped.

    Thanks so much for writing this.

  6. No mother should ever have to bury her child. A close friend with whom we rejoiced with and shared our young single days, engagements, bridal showers, wedding days, baby showers and the birth of our babies, lost her daughter. I grieved for days and I could not imagine what she was going through.
    It was painful, it still is. She has been blessed with another lovely daughter. We thank God.

    I ask God for life and life in abundance and that I get to see my 4th and possibly 5th generation. And these are the generations that will bury me.

  7. Pregnancy and Infant Loss is not just something that happens to ‘somebody else’. It affects many families every day. By spreading awareness we are able to let family and friends know how to support a family that has experienced a loss. Though we might not know what to say not saying anything is just as bad. I have shared this journey with many close friends but nothing hit home until when it happened to my own sister. I like Mama Kitty thought having a baby was a no brainer after my sis’s three healthy babies it shouldn’t be a problem, right? We were so wrong…Those hopes and dreams one puts into their child then left wondering what could have been and the incredible feeling of loss pain and guilt. Yes guilt, should have done this or that…My sis went on start the Life Garden – A living memorial garden for babies http://www.life-garden.org or http://www.facebook/the life garden. My sis has always been a talented gardener and said she always felt at peace in her garden so why not a garden coz “you’re closer to God in a garden than any place on earth”. Well, my sis went on to be blessed with two more “rainbow babies” (babies born after a loss)but our angel lives on through the garden providing many families with a place of solace and hope. My hope and prayer is that society with accept the grief that these families are going through and give them all the patience and understanding they need. So this October let us remember the babies who were born asleep, or whom we have carried but never met, or those we have held but could not take home, or the ones who made it home but didn’t stay…for all life no matter how little is precious and must never be taken for granted.

  8. I lost my little angel after carrying her for 6 months, but before she left us, we had the chance to hold her for a while. That’s the most beautiful memory I have. The most amazing couple of hours i’ve ever experienced. Then she was gone.
    This was just a few months ago.
    Losing her was painful. And no matter how determined I am to move on, the memory of it, the thought of it, still lingers. It weighs me down, holds me under until I feel like I can’t breath.
    But I know eventually it will remain a beautiful memory and everything else will, hopefully, fade away. That’s what I hope for.
    There is not much I can imagine being said to me that would make this feeling go away, make me feel ‘better’, but talking about it and hearing others talk about it helps. I didn’t know thisà this lossà happened to people until it happened to me. Then suddenly, there was everyone I knew telling me their stories. This may be a terrible thought, but knowing there are women out there who have gone through what i’ve gone through, some even worse, and have come out on the other side, makes me feel better.
    I’m so happy to have read this article.
    I often feel guilty for still feeling like I do. For still grieving and hurting. Like I should have moved on already. Thanks to this article, I realise that it happens. And if it takes five years, i’ll just let it.
    Thanks again, Maryanne for writing this.

  9. Ive had 2 close relatives of mine miscarry one at 8 weeks and the other at 7 weeks and it happened just last month 1 week apart. Luckily they were free talking about it and sharing with the family since we had been following their pregnancies from quite early. But one took it very badly and spent weeks mourning and it was difficult to find words to comfort her but i noticed she felt good when you asked about the whole experience instead of that awkward silence that sometimes we think is best. Though im sure she will carry the memory with her all her life but she now sounds like shes healing quite well. The other lady was not badly affected probably because shes younger and there was just a sac and no foetus in it while the first lady heard the baby’s heartbeat though there was no growth after the 5th week…….

  10. Thanks Ms Sarah, Mum Tash and Shi for sharing your personal stories of the loss of your little angels. Your comments have answered some of the questions I raised in the post. We pray for God’s continued comfort in your lives as you continue to heal. Thanks Patricia, Miss Babes, Santina, Njeri, Mama Azizi and Mama O for your comments too. Let us continue giving the needed support, patience, encouragement and understanding to our sisters who have experienced the loss of thier angels.

  11. My friends took over my house, cooked, cleaned and made sure my husband and I were taken care of. I felt loved. At the end of the day like TD Jakes said àall we can do is wipe our eyes, only God can dry our tears and heal completely.

  12. Something I found really really helpful (from babycentre)

    What we wish you knew about pregnancy loss:

    A letter from women to their friends and family
    by Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer
    I assert no copyright for the material. Please use it as you see fit to help women who have endured this terrible grief. Thank you.

    Date: Sat, 23 Mar 2002

    When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said to them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar. The comments are rarely malicious – just misguided attempts to soothe.

    This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured this loss.
    When trying to help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manners: don’t offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, her prospects for children. No woman is looking to poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened or how she should cope.

    -Don’t say, “It’s God’s Will.” Even if we are members of the same congregation, unless you are a cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don’t presume to tell me what God wants for me. Besides, many terrible things are God’s Will, that doesn’t make them less terrible.

    -Don’t say, “It was for the best – there was probably something wrong with your baby.” The fact that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby never had a chance. Please don’t try to comfort me by pointing that out.

    -Don’t say, “You can always have another one.” This baby was never disposable. If had been given the choice between loosing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, “Where’s the fork?” I would have died for this baby, just as you would die for your children.

    -Don’t say, “Be grateful for the children you have.” If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father?

    -Don’t say, “Thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it.” I loved my son or daughter. Whether I lost the baby after two weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him or her.

    -Don’t say, “Isn’t it time you got over this and moved on?” It’s not something I enjoy, being grief-stricken. I wish it had never happened. But it did and it’s a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own timeline, not mine – or yours.

    -Don’t say, “Now you have an angel watching over you.” I didn’t want her to be my angel. I wanted her to bury me in my old age.

    -Don’t say, “I understand how you feel.” Unless you’ve lost a child, you really don’t understand how I feel. And even if you have lost a child, everyone experiences grief differently.

    -Don’t tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times, or that I could carry until two days before my due-date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despair. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me.

    -Don’t pretend it didn’t happen and don’t change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, “Before the baby died…” or “when I was pregnant…” don’t get scared. If I’m talking about it, it means I want to. Let me. Pretending it didn’t happen will only make me feel utterly alone.

    – Don’t say, “It’s not your fault.” It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended upon me to bring him safely into the world and I couldn’t do it. I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn’t even give him a childhood. I am so angry at my body you just can’t imagine.

    -Don’t say, “Well, you weren’t too sure about this baby, anyway.” I already feel so guilty about ever having complained about morning sickness, or a child I wasn’t prepared for, or another mouth to feed that we couldn’t afford. I already fear that this baby died because I didn’t take the vitamins, or drank too much coffee, or had alcohol in the first few weeks when I didn’t know I was pregnant. I hate myself for any minute that I had reservations about this baby. Being unsure of my pregnancy isn’t the same as wanting my child to die – I never would have chosen for this to happen.

    -Do say, “I am so sorry.” That’s enough. You don’t need to be eloquent. Say it and mean it and it will matter.

    -Do say, “You’re going to be wonderful parents some day,” or “You’re wonderful parents and that baby was lucky to have you.” We both need to hear that.

    -Do say, “I have lighted a candle for your baby,” or “I have said a prayer for your baby.”

    -Do send flowers or a kind note – every one I receive makes me feel as though my baby was loved. Don’t resent it if I don’t respond.

    -Don’t call more than once and don’t be angry if the machine is on and I don’t return your call. If we’re close friends and I am not responding to your attempts to help me, please don’t resent that, either. Help me by not needing anything from me for a while.

    If you’re my boss or my co-worker:

    -Do recognize that I have suffered a death in my family – not a medical condition.

    -Do recognize that in addition to the physical after effects I may experience, I’m going to be grieving for quite some time. Please treat me as you would any person who has endured the tragic death of a loved one – I need time and space.

    -DO understand if I do not attend baby showers/christening/birthday parties etc. And DON’T ask why I can’t come.

    Please don’t bring your baby or toddler into the workplace. If your niece is pregnant, or your daughter just had a baby, please don’t share that with me right now. It’s not that I can’t be happy for anyone else, it’s that every smiling, cooing baby, every glowing new mother makes me ache so deep in my heart I can barely stand it. I may look okay to you, but there’s a good chance that I’m still crying every day. It may be weeks before I can go a whole hour without thinking about it. You’ll know when I’m ready – I’ll be the one to say, “Did your daughter have her baby?” or, “How is that precious little boy of yours? I haven’t seen him around the office in a while.”

    Above all, please remember that this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The word “miscarriage” is small and easy. But my baby’s death is monolithic and awful. It’s going to take me a while to figure out how to live with it. Bear with me.

  13. @MaNN, Thank u for posting. This is exactly how I felt after losing my Angel boy @ 19weeks gestation August 2, 2005. I can still see some of my friends, family and coworkers are uncomfortable when I talk about him, I wish they would understand that is how I honor him and keep the memory of him alive. I have since had a baby girl (whose due date was 8/3/07, 2 yrs & 1 day after losing my Angel boy). She has been told about her Angel brother, looked @ ultrasound images of him, she feels special to know she has an Angel brother watching over her.

    I love and miss my angel baby!


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