The new doctor who came in was calm, and firmly spoke to me.
“June, I’m not supposed to be here. My work hours ended and I was on my way for Bible study when one of the nurses found me and insisted that I needed to attend to you. I am now here for you.”
I continued listening to her.
“I understand you’re being taken to theatre, but I want you to have faith that you will deliver this baby vaginally. You have a big baby, but I will not cut you. I just want you to listen to me very carefully and do everything I’ll tell you to do, and exactly how I’ll tell you to do it.”
Ethan is Born, Different
She was so firm but yet so comforting, that all my fears ebbed away. I felt so reassured. She took control and everything began happening so fast, but I was very keen on listening to her instructions amidst all the drama. The delivering team was also very supportive, urging me on, holding my hands, and telling me that I would be okay. I recall the “Chariots of Fire” soundtrack track playing in my head.
By the way let me emphasize the importance of being attended to by a doctor or health provider who is confident in their work, and does not panic when things begin going awry. A confident doctor is able to conceal their emotions, reassure the patient and also reassure the team working with them for best results. This is very very important.
In no time, I safely delivered Ethan.
But it was different. It was a completely different birth from those of Victor and Makena. Maryanne, let me tell you something. There is a very huge difference between a live birth and a still birth –they are worlds apart.
While Victor and Makena had come screaming their lungs out, Ethan was silent. The room was silent. I saw him –his head was slumped down. There was no life in him. His color was not pink like those of Victor and Makena when they were newborns. Ethan’s skin was grey and ashen. He was pale.
But I had been prepared for that. I had been counselled and mentally prepared for the delivery of a dead baby.
Ethan was weighed. He was born at 37 weeks –weighing 4.56kgs. Indeed, he was a big baby.
I had let Ethan Down
The doctor then gave me some medication that put me to sleep. When I woke up, my sister Celeste was there, watching over me. I remember the room being so quiet. She asked if I wanted to see Ethan. I did.
She brought him to me and I held him as I cried. He was so sweet, so innocent. Celeste told me to hold him as long as I needed to. I got lost in the moment as I held Ethan, rocking him, singing to him, hugging him and loving him with all my heart and soul. I told him that I loved him so much, and that I was so sorry that my body had let him down, sorry… just so sorry. My husband meanwhile never wanted to be in the room. It was too difficult for him to be. He didn’t see Ethan.
I stayed in the hospital that night, grateful to be surrounded by my loved ones.
The following morning, the doctor who had delivered Ethan came to see me. She comforted and counseled me, as I cried and let out my emotions. She told me to cry as much as I could, that it was okay.
Laying Ethan to Rest
We had thought of bringing Ethan home to Kenya for burial, but we decided to lay him to rest in Tanzania instead. I didn’t want him far away from me.
At the mortuary, I had initially thought that I would be strong enough to dress him, but I wasn’t able to do it, so my sister undertook that task together with my sister-in-law. I asked them to take photos of him.
When they brought him over to me, all dressed up in blue, I held him tight and hugged him as I cried, saying my goodbyes to him.
My husband chose not to see or hold Ethan and to date, he’s still never seen any photos of him. We all handle loss and grief differently, and I’ve understood that this is his way.
As we laid Ethan to rest in Dar es Salaam, I didn’t expect many people at the burial, but I was humbled to see so many join us -people who had left their busy schedules to be there for us. I will always be grateful to all of them for standing with us during that difficult time.
Seeing the casket being lowered to the grave was extremely painful for me. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to move from that spot –at some point I actually contemplated staying there forever. For five minutes I just stood there, silent, holding my husband.
Then suddenly, I let out a scream so loud as the casket rested. I don’t even remember the scream, but my family told me that it was a raw scream that emanated from deep down in my belly. They told me that it was good; that I needed to ‘get it out’.
The days after that were a blur, the only thing I clearly remember was my appointments with the doctor (the one who had delivered Ethan). We’d go together with my husband, and the doctor was so kind to also go beyond checking me up physically, but also ask us how we were handling the loss. She counseled us and played such a significant role in helping us deal with our emotions –both as individuals and as a couple.
A close friend from Kenya, a counsellor who had also gone through pregnancy loss also helped me get through the tough moments.
What I can say is that relationships can be hard after the death of a child. Talking things out and speaking to a counsellor is very important. Loss and grief is a process, and we’re still going through the healing.
The Mysterious Cold Rush Feeling –Ethan’s Goodbye?
Whenever I look back, I believe that the evening I felt a sudden cold rush sweep through me is the exact moment that Ethan died. It was a very strange feeling that I’ve never been able to explain to date, and my instincts have always led me to believe that the ten minutes of that extraordinary feeling was Ethan saying goodbye. My gut feeling tells me that’s the moment he became an angel.
When all that was happening, I remember searching online for stories of women who had gone through still birth. I was specifically looking for stories from African women, but I didn’t find much. For some reason, I wanted to read a Kenyan or Tanzanian woman’s story of still birth, because I felt that it was a woman I could strongly relate to. But I didn’t find, and when I came across Catherine Njoki’s story on Mummy Tales, I completely felt her. We had gone through the same loss.
I made the decision to share my story too, maybe it will be of help to another woman. A woman who needs to know that she’s not alone, that one day, she’ll be able to talk about it. One day she’ll be able to smile. One day she’ll be able to encourage another woman too. I’d like to tell her that one day, the sun will shine.
I share my story… for the moms who wanted to speak, cry and scream but couldn’t… for the dads who wanted to comfort the mother of their dead child… for the friends and relatives who want to hold and hug you but don’t know how… but most of all, for us, as Africans. to open up and share experiences that are considered taboo or hush-hush”.
I have found that sharing my story of Ethan is so therapeutic for me, and it is part of my healing process.
For the diabetic mom, I’d urge her to be extra careful about what’s going on with her body and the baby, and how the body works in relation to diabetes. That sometimes, no matter how well you prepare for something, no matter how vigilant you are with your body, no matter how careful you are, sometimes life just happens. And that’s okay too.”
Thank you for sharing your story Mbithe. May God continue to heal you and your family. Hugs.
If you are a woman, just like Mbithe, and would like to share your personal story that you believe will help other women and moms, you can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be in touch with you.
You may also want to see the testimony of Mary Wanyoike (below), who was pregnant with diabetes. Watch her talk about her fertility challenges, and eventual pregnancy.
If you have gone through child loss and are looking for a support group, you can get in touch with two organizations that were started by women who underwent a similar experience. These are Empower Mama Foundation and Still a Mum. They will be of great assistance to you, so get in touch with them.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share this article with someone who you know will benefit.
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