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Glory, Glory

9 Jul

It has been two+ months of a feeling of completeness that I cannot put into words.

I am reminded every day now of a sentiment that a good friend shared with me about having her son. She said that she and her husband could not remember what they used to do from day to day before their son came about. When she said this to me, it had been a few months since losing Demilade and I too, could not remember what life was like before my heart was torn into pieces.

I recently read a blog post by another grieving mother where a quote seemed to capture how I had been feeling over the last two years. The quote from the book, You are the Mother of all Mothers by Angela Miller, says that it takes invincible strength to mother a child you can no longer hold, see, touch or hear. 

I see you walking this path of life you’ve been given, where every breath and step apart from your child is a physical, emotional, and spiritual battleground. A fight for your own survival. A fight to quiet the insidious lies.

Upon reading this, I felt like someone out there truly understood what it feels like to live without one’s child. Whenever a parent speaks of their living child, I wonder if they look at me and consider that my own, although not present, is always on my mind. I read this quote and offered words of encouragement to the mother, the blogger who had just lost her newborn. I wanted to say more. Not only that it gets better and the pain is not so haunting after some time but, that eventually she would find the courage to be present in the life that keeps on going around her. I wanted to tell her that eventually she will get the courage to try again. I tried again.

At the time I was reading the blog, I was about seven months pregnant with my second child and son. While I could offer words of encouragement to someone else, I couldn’t readily share where I was in the healing process because it was very hard to be sure of what the future held. If there is one thing I have learned from Demilade’s loss, it is that nothing is promised from one day to the next. It is important to live in the present. I just had to hope for the best.

I cannot say its been easy because it is experience that has taught me this lesson. For 10 months I prayed for peace of mind and God granted me just that. It is an overwhelming task to be pregnant and aware of the many outcomes (even for someone who hasn’t walked in my shoes) and, to actively work on keeping a healthy balance between being overjoyed and being grounded in one’s reality. I can not begin to explain how important it was for me to be at peace during this time. I shut out all outside noise and tried not to let all of the knowledge I had gathered about preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, since suffering from it, bother me. Many people experience loss, some are unfortunate parents like me who lose children. It is not a club anyone wants to be a part of.

I now understand why in many African cultures (and many others) a pregnancy is treated as though it is invisible until the baby arrives. I don’t agree but I understand. When one’s life has been transformed by this kind of loss, there are a few lessons we grasp very quickly. One prominent lesson is that very few truly understand your grief and most would rather not have to talk about/acknowledge your dead child. For most people, my still born child was just that, still born and then the next day everyone’s life moved along. People say their sorry and expect you to carry on with life the way it was before your unfortunate life event. For us, for the grieving parents, it is a pain we have to learn to live with every day of our lives. It never goes away. Except with the less than handful of people who may be in tune enough to check on our wellbeing or oblige us by speaking about our son by his name every so often, it is a lonely journey. For this reason, my husband and I decided that this pregnancy would be a personal journey for us and we embraced the custom of our motherland. The anxiety, fear and doubt we felt and then quieted away with prayer, could only be understood by ourselves.

Now here we are. Two months after the birth of my handsome warrior. We did not know what to hope for while I was pregnant. We just hoped for the baby to be healthy. I went through this pregnancy with nearly no alarms and delivered him (after over 48 hours of labor) without any incident. He is healthy and much more than I could have ever hoped for. Akinlabi is a joy to behold and a daily reminder of God’s miraculous work in our lives.

Everyday I look at him, grateful for his life and with a heart full of joy. Everyday I wonder what I was doing before he came along. His face makes my heart smile and, for the second time, I get to experience unconditional love. Whatever I was doing before heartbreak and all, I don’t miss it!

 

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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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