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What makes you scared to give birth again? Kenyan mothers share their reasons

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By Maryanne W. Waweru l maryanne@mummytales.com

In African society, many women who have only one child are usually asked the question: “Kamoja tu? Mbona huongezi kengine?” (why just one child? Why aren’t you adding another one?)

This is because, in a society that defines a woman’s worth by her ability to give birth –and how many children she can give birth to, the expectation is for the typical African woman to have more than one child. In fact, it is demanded of her, so to speak. A woman’s worth is determined by her maternal capacities.

So, in one of the online groups I’m in whose membership is thousands of Kenyan mothers, the following question was posed:

“Mothers with only one child, what makes you scared to give birth again? What makes you reluctant to have a second child?”

Hundreds of women responded. There are many reasons why women choose to have only one child. I will just summarize the main (and repeated) reasons that were shared in response to that question. Important to note is that I was not able to deduce the women’s ages or the ages of their children, or their marital statuses.

The comments are also not reflective of mothers with secondary infertility (unable to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term after previously giving birth).

Some of these responses can help inform healthcare workers as they handle pregnant women and mothers, for better outcomes. See the reasons below:

Traumatic pregnancy and birth experience

  1. Most of the respondents said the labour pains they felt with their first child has made them never want to have another baby. The overall sentiments they used to describe their labour experience can be summarized in these three words: ‘I saw death’. Their experiences were so horrible that they dare not contemplate ever having another birth experience.

Watch: My experience giving birth to a 5kg baby – Catherine’s story

  1. High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) that almost cost them their lives.

Read: Helen Njoroge’s story with high blood pressure in pregnancy

  1. A horrible vaginal examination (VE) experience left some women too traumatized to attempt to get pregnant again for fear of undergoing a repeat experience.

Read: 13 Kenyan women’s experiences with vaginal experiences during labor

  1. Caesarean section (CS) recovery. The mothers who cited this said they experienced extreme pain, infection and bleeding that almost led to loss of life. Reading the descriptions they gave of their post-CS experiences was quite distressing I must say.

Read: Betty Mueni’s story on her complications from a CS

  1. Nausea and vomiting throughout the pregnancy. Those who cited this reason (also known as hyperemesis gravidarum) said they vomited from the first day up to the ninth month –including on the day of delivery. An experience they can never wish to go through again.

Read Victoria Gachuche’s experience with hyperemesis gravidarum.

  1. Excessive bleeding after childbirth (post-partum haemorrhage -PPH) that almost left some women dead

Watch Stephanie Mwangi narrate her experience with excessive bleeding after childbirth

  1. Having a delicate pregnancy that involved having their cervix temporarily closed through sewing in a cervical stitch (McDonald stitch) procedure and being put bedrest for most of the pregnancy

Read Selina Ojwang’s experience with a McDonald stitch.

  1. Those who experienced third or fourth-degree vaginal tears during delivery (which in some cases led to urinary and/or faecal incontinence (fistula)

Great fears

  1. The fear of losing another baby
  2. Fear of going to the theatre again
  3. Fear of giving birth to a special needs child again
  4. Fear of giving birth to a premature baby again
  5. Fear of having another sick child (newborn had a medical condition that made them spend months in hospital)
  6. Fear of becoming a single mother again
  7. Post-partum depression that lasted months, which at some point made them suicidal
  8. Extremely painful breastfeeding experiences (inverted nipples, cracked nipples that left the mother bleeding, in excruciating pain and in tears, as well as general exhaustion from breastfeeding)
  9. Sleepless nights that would leave them drained, weak, fatigued and unable to function properly (especially for working mothers)
  10. Their marriages ended and they don’t want to get a child outside marriage
  11. “I don’t like kids. I don’t have that connection with children. Catch me dead doing it for the second time. Not all women are meant to be moms.”
  12. “I was never interested in being a mother. It just happened and I couldn’t get out of it. I can’t repeat that mistake (of getting pregnant) again.”
  13. “I lack the time to raise another child” (too busy with work/career)
  14. “Kids are emotionally draining. They are too much work and too much responsibility. I can’t ever do it again.”
  15. “I love my space and independence. Children take that away from you.”
  16. “I’m too unhappy in my marriage to have another child with my husband. If I meet the right person in the future, I’ll probably try again.”
  17. Financial reasons, where they don’t feel confident about being able to give the next child the kind of life they desire for them due to their financial challenges.

So now, in case you see a mother with just one child, and you are tempted to ask her: kamoja tu? Si uongeze kengine?, I hope you now have an idea of some of the reasons as to why she has that kamoja tu.

Did I miss another reason? You can add it in the comments section below.

Do you have a motherhood experience or testimony you’d like to share? Email me: maryanne@mummytales.com

Mummy Tales by Maryanne W. Waweru is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

Cover photo by isaiasbartolomeu, Iwaria. 

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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.

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