…and the baby?

23 Dec

Its the end of the year. For whatever reason, I’m running into a lot of people that I have not seen for some months now. I never remember that the last time I saw some of them was when my stomach reached out ahead of me. It was front and center. Anyone who knows me would have known I was with child.

For over nine months now, I have been grieving the loss of my first child. The one who’s cry I didn’t get to hear; who’s little fingers never gripped my own; who’s absence left me broken. But I have been feeling one with myself as of late. When images of his face flash before my eyes, I am no longer overcome with sadness, anger or hopelessness. God has granted me some peace of mind.

However, it is the season of holiday parties, gatherings with friends and family and apparently a time for me to be reminded that Demilade is not with us for his first Christmas. I have been to maybe four or five holiday gatherings and at each one I have been greeted warmly with the usual “hello, how are you?” I am never prepared for what comes next out of these well meaning individuals. “And the baby, how’s he?” 

It makes sense. They saw my size 2 body morph into something much more meaningful. They shared in the excitement of the new life we all expected. It makes sense that after an appropriate amount of time, they’d ask how my baby was. And on some level, I really do appreciate the acknowledgment. It is what comes next that I don’t yet have a handle on. My first instinct is to walk away and find a corner to fight back the tears in. However, it has been just as effective for me to respond with the only truth I know. “He is fine.”

He is fine. With God. That’s as fine as he can be.

 

Today, an old colleague stopped by. I hadn’t seen her since January or February but we work with the same people so, I did not expect her to ask me how my baby was. She had to have known. But there I was, in front of my supervisees who have no knowledge of my loss, having to say out loud once again that my son didn’t make it. I can no longer take the time to delve deep into all that has happened to me and my child with every person who insensitively asks “what happened?” when I actually answer the “and the baby?” question. What happened is that my son died and I will not be giving the play by play of the causes while standing in a room full of cheery party goers or worse yet, in a quiet office with random passersby. It has taken me nine months to stand in such rooms, among oblivious people and be able to smile like my life is just fine.

Uttering those simple words in response to this inevitable question help me to believe that my boy is just fine. He is fine. As bad as these circumstances may seem, this too is therapy because tomorrow I know how I will respond.

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Peace which surpasses understanding

14 Oct

Philippians 4:7 (KJV) 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

7 months.

Today is my birthday. On this day last year as I awoke, I was greeted by an email from the Baby Bump alerting me to the 3rd month of my pregnancy.

Yesterday marked the 7th month since Demilade Christian left us. I can finally say and think this without feeling like the ground has been pulled from under me.

Earlier this week something profound happened to me. I was on a work trip driving from Kitwe to Lusaka (Zambia) along with two colleagues when one of them suggested that we stop and visit the site where Dag Hammerskjold’s flight crashed. Hammerskjold was the 2nd United Nations Secretary General. I had no previous knowledge  of this history and when I looked at the untarred road that led to the site, was not the least bit interested in finding out more about this wreckage site or the man who made it so significant.

We drove 4 kilometers to the site and it seemed to have taken ages. I had no idea what to expect except maybe the wreckage itself  at the original point of impact. I mean it was in the middle of bushes and hardly any community around it as far as I could tell. What we found, however, was a beautiful forest of foreign trees; firmly planted on the grounds where the plane carrying 16 individuals had crashed many years ago.

I jumped out of the car and was immediately met with a sense of calm. Perhaps because I was on grounds dedicated to the departed which, to me, are sacred. I took a huge breath in and walked toward the hill with a gazebo atop it. Apparently, this is the site where Hammerskjod’s body was found. I felt uneasy being there but, I proceeded to walk up the stairs that led to the gazebo and once I reached, sat on a bench. I wanted to cry. The image of my son had crept into my mind. and vividly so. But something told me it was alright. I called out my boy’s name under my breath and smiled. I closed my eyes. The wind blew ever so softly and I felt like a burden had been lifted off of my spirit. In that moment I felt peace.

For the short time I was there surveying the memorial site, the thought of my child did not cause anguish or pain. I just was.

During the last 7 months, I have not felt the calm, peace, and joy that I felt in those few moments. I didn’t know how to describe it or where it came from but, was reminded of the scripture above. Truly, I do not understand it and surely, it must come from only one place.

I prayed for peace daily at the beginning. I know I’m achieving it but wasn’t quite convinced. That moment gave me vigor to continue seeking peace of mind. It is possible after all.

I said a prayer for the lives lost and I left the memorial grounds praying that they are at peace. I thanked God for the life of my little boy and thanked Him for this unexpected moment.

Da Hammerskjold Memorial site - Zambia

Da Hammerskjold Memorial site – Zambia

Babies everywhere!

29 Sep

I’m not sure if I just notice it more if every woman on my friends’ list is having a baby but, everywhere I look there’s a baby born. In the last couple of days two acquaintances on one social network have had baby boys; in the last two weeks two others have just successfully completed their pregnancies with live healthy babies. One of these new babies is also named Christian. How can I possibly not wail for my boy???

I’ve kept it together over the last six months and have actively tried not to be outwardly affected at seeing others so happy with their new additions. I’ve attended baby showers and baby birthdays, hoping I can heal faster. However, deep inside, I’d rather be anywhere else! Afterward though, I feel like I have conquered something monumental.

A few days ago, I saw yet another parent flood my Facebook news feed with pictures of the newly born child. I’m sure my reaction was the same as the other friends who looked upon this little angel and oohed and ahhed at the cuteness of the little one. What always follows for me though, is what was wrong with me that I didn’t deserve these kinds of moments. What did I do wrong? And why should I be happy for anyone else (although, I am)? On this particular day, I just cried as I was filled with so much emptiness. Why did this have to happen to me? To us?

Life can be so cruel.

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.

First Early Onset Preeclampsia Screening Test

28 Aug

“PerkinElmer, a global leader in human and environmental health and an innovator
in the field of prenatal screening for more than thirty years, announced today
the first available early onset preeclampsia screening test in the United
States. The PreeclampsiaScreen(TM) | T1 serum screening test enables physicians
to more precisely detect asymptomatic patients in the first trimester of
pregnancy who are at high risk for developing the dangerous condition, allowing
for earlier identification, management and intervention. Early onset
preeclampsia is a potentially serious condition that affects 0.5% of all
pregnancies, often contributing more to the pregnant mother’s and baby’s risks
of morbidity and mortality than does the late form of the disorder.”

Find the full article here.

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