Archive | August, 2013

It is not witchcraft!

30 Aug

If you’ve read the About page on this blog, then you know that I am African. My son’s name should help to demonstrate just how much of a connection I have with home. This open acknowledgement and awareness that I have about who I am and where I come from doesn’t always allow the decisions I make comfortable to contend with. I have to consider my family, both immediate and extended. How do my decisions affect others’ views of me and my family? Really, I’d be ok if the backlash was only toward me but, in most cases its not. Every Mugala or DaCosta out there might be looked at differently all because of my decision. It’s a heavy load and one that is sometimes hard to juxtapose between two very different worlds.

Luckily, I was raised in the Western world and therefore, a product of two distinct cultures. I have the liberty to take from each one the best practices and customs. Some actions that are not understood by my own or other Africans can just be chucked up to my Americanness. I’m fine with that.

I am sure sharing something so personal on such a public forum is one of those things that has left some of my family scratching their heads. But it’s not just for me, it’s for you.

The decision to start this blog weighed on my mind for a few months before I finally decided to get on with it. The main impetus being how many women from my own community I could reach and make aware of this thing called Preeclampsia. I have heard so many stories from women in this community about their hypertensive problems during pregnancy that I am convinced (like many other illnesses) we are disproportionately more affected than our counterparts belonging to other races. Of course, there can be many explanations (social economic status, access, education and awareness, racism, etc.) for this but without any references; it is hard to say for sure.

I work in public health so this seems like a natural course of events for me. Something happened; I wasn’t aware; now that I know; I want to share and make others aware. When one is aware, she can make better decisions about her health.

I find it stunting that African women do not share such vital information as what could happen to complicate a pregnancy and, in some cases may result in death. We are raised to keep matters of the family to ourselves and not call attention to ourselves by highlighting our misfortunes. But what about when these misfortunes could mean a cousin, sister or another family, doesn’t have to suffer your same fate. What do I gain by keeping the cause of the loss of my son to myself?

It isn’t witchcraft. I know there are many who probably think this but, it isn’t. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. At least I think I’m a good person. The tens of thousands I have read about since losing my son, they couldn’t all have been bad people could they? The unthinkable happened to them too. And you know what? They aren’t all African, so can we stop with the taboo over sharing vital information?

No matter which of your enemies you don’t let see you pregnant or see you happy, it is no indication that your pregnancy will not end in tragedy. Far more likely, is the fact that in spite of your enemy seeing you happy, good things still continue to happen to you. So live your life without fearing the ill intentions of another human being. They are just human! The best thing you can do for yourself is be as aware as possible and take your health and the health of your unborn child into your own hands because doctors are not foolproof.

We are doing a much bigger disservice to our daughters, nieces, cousins, etc., when we shield them for these lifesaving experiences which should help shape their futures as pregnant women and then mothers. After all, we are always supposed to learn from our experiences. What good is the lesson if you cannot/will not pass it on?

We are in the year 2013. There has been much advancement in medicine and still some being researched now. We do not have to suffer from the same infirmities our sisters suffered 100 years ago. We should be building upon all these experiences and lessons so that our daughters know how to respond. So they don’t suffer the same traumatic experiences.

I cannot just be silent. I must share. My experience touches on a wide range of subjects related to pregnancy and postpartum that I know we African women don’t and won’t talk about but, someone has to start. It is for the good of our community.

 

If you have questions about what preeclampsia is, visit the Preeclampsia Foundation for more information.

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First Early Onset Preeclampsia Screening Test

28 Aug

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Find the full article here.

‘Your brain is injured, it needs time to heal’

26 Aug

God is good. All of the time…

Have you ever prayed so hard for something that seemed so elusive? I’m not talking about a better job, more money or even someone to love you. I’m talking about something that seemed like it was completely out of your control and reach, even though you prayed fervently about it. I have.

Over the last five + months, I have prayed for one thing daily: peace of mind. I have not had it since the moment the doctors told me that my child’s heart had stopped and that my 33 weeks and three days of pregnancy would end in broken hearts for me and my family.  It is one thing to mourn the loss of my child but, it is totally something else to also have to deal with post-partum anxiety at the same time. I’ve had it badly.

I was left feeling like I was on the outside looking into my own life. I didn’t recognize who I was anymore. Afraid to be alone, go outside, take the elevator, sit in my car in traffic, travel any long distance away from the apartment I call home, ride the subway, and fly among many other ‘normal’ things. Most of all, I was afraid of being afraid.  My fears kept me up at night and when I finally did fall asleep; my fears caused me to abruptly awake an hour or two into slumber. It was mentally taxing and I was physically exhausted and frustrated because I could not rest. I did not rest.

Every night I prayed the same prayer. Reminding myself that God is in charge and that He is bigger and mightier than I and that I was choosing to overcome this great obstacle no matter how long it would take. When I wasn’t praying for the hurt and pain to go away along with my panic attacks over the most normal routines, I challenged myself to face my new fears once or twice per week. I took trial runs on the subway and even went underground. I shook in distress and sweated the whole way but, it was one step to conquering one fear and getting my life back. Every single time I challenged myself the result would be a sense of accomplishment and then deep depression. I thought will I live my life this way forever? Surely, there is much more of the world I want to see. This cannot be it for me. So these exercises/challenges became worth it and instrumental to my recovery.

I continued like this for the first three months often getting frustrated and sometimes losing hope. At my lowest moments I relied on my husband and my sister for reassurance. One evening, my sister was visiting and although I tried not to alarm her, I know my husband kept her abreast of everything happening with me. I unloaded on her my emotional and mental state and beat myself up a bit about how long it was taking for me to get back to normal. She looked at me and said something that has made me look at my temporary inability to thwart off unfounded fears in a new light. She said to me, “your brain is injured” and like any other injured part of your body, it needs time to heal.

Wow.

It seems so simple but how many people overwhelmed by traumatic and tragic experiences beat themselves up and think they’ve lost their marbles when in fact, there is good reason for that state of mind. I lost a child and my body had to abruptly stop a biological and physiological process before it was able to finish. Of course I’m going to be affected, my mind and body is trying to figure it all out too.

When my sister said those words, I immediately changed my outlook on the healing process. I knew now that I didn’t have to push myself so hard. That if all I could handle was one task or challenge per day, then I was not going to allow myself to get frustrated for not being able to do more.

At five months post-partum, I am where I couldn’t even imagine one month ago. I have been on four trips and 10 planes. I did it! Flying has been my greatest new fear. The thought of sitting on a plane for several hours (I’m African, remember we have to go a long way to visit family) was debilitating and would send me into panic.

As much as my husband wanted to whisk me away to some exotic place where we could try and forget our pain for a short time, I just couldn’t bring myself to entertain flying. But God works in mysterious way, I had to two opportunities to fly locally, one for an hour and the other for two and a half hours. The one hour flight was the most nerve wrecking and agonizing. Everything that could go wrong ran across my mind and I was a mental mess. There were tears but, as the old saying goes, no pain no gain. Thanks to these two short flights I was able to fly all the way to Malawi and then Spain earlier this month. The impossible became possible.

Although, I am still not eager to jump onto the next plane or be by myself, the fact that I have flown 10+ hours at a time on several planes and to different far away and unfamiliar lands, has given me new vigor. I can do anything (through Christ)! And with my sister’s sagely advice, I know that my mind is still healing and I will have peace again.

 

Everyone has a story

5 Aug

My husband and I have been to quite a few doctors’ offices since we lost our Demilade. I couldn’t bear the thought of walking back into the same OB practice that sent me home  two days before I found myself hopeless in an OR, after not hearing my son’s heart beat; so we have been “interviewing” as many other doctors as possible to ensure that I’d have a caring and attentive pre/postnatal health care provider going forward.

The last Obstetrics physician we saw is a high risk pregnancy specialist. She sees patients like me all the time. She started the consultation by asking me what happened and what brought me to see her. She listened actively and took pages of notes. She asked about my family history and any other conditions i may have had in the past. She asked my husband too. She then reviewed my medical history files during my pregnancy with us and confirmed what We had already been told. We had lost our child due to severe preeclampsia.
Before she ended the meeting she said two things which stood out. The first was that we would have to wait one to two years to get pregnant again because although outside wound looked as though it was healed, there’s a second cut inside, on the uterus that must also heal. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to ask about this before. Or why all the other doctors thought it was common knowledge and didn’t bother mentioning it. It was hard information to digest because you know that whole I’ve realized I’m not in control thing? Yeah, it’s a process…I had already made plans for when we would try again so, imagine my disappointment at this news.
The second thing she said was that “everyone has a story” and then proceeded to tell me about how she had lost her first child to preeclampsia as well. She had tried again and gave birth to a second healthy child but, still that pregnancy proved to be a difficult one. She later resolved to adopt instead of enduring a third or anymore pregnancies. Her story put everything in perspective for me.  Just minutes before meeting her, I sat with my husband in the waiting room and looked with a broken heart at all the pregnant women and other new moms bringing their babies in for a checkup. I started to feel hurt, envy and even hate and then quickly told myself to snap out of it. I leaned over to my husband and told him what I was thinking and then I told him, why should I be envious of anyone? I don’t know what life experiences have brought them here. I can’t compare myself to people whose life story I don’t know!
When God wants to teach you and make you understand, the message will be loud and clear. Up until this point, I would see pregnant women and babies and immediately go into a deep state of depression. In the few weeks after our loss, this depression was accompanied by anger. The message I received this day helps me to overcome the hurt I feel every time I see a mother and her baby, guesstimating how old the baby is and if Demilade would be that big as well.
I went home feeling a bit defeated by the waiting news and knew it wasn’t going to be a good rest of the day, until I picked up my Bible for some reassurance and read Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Doesn’t this sum it all up? Not my plans, but God’s plans. My story is not finished yet.
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