Why mothers must open up on difficult pregnancy, childbirth

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 00:00 |
Mercy Nyambura, Jane Gitau.

Harriet James @harriet86jim

July 28, 2019 is a day Mercy Nyambura will never forget. It was her due date and she had anticipated she would go to the hospital and deliver a bouncing baby boy. Everything was okay until doctors discovered a complication. 

“When I went to the hospital, the doctors discovered I had high blood pressure and decided to stabilise it.

I was induced and my water broke, but my baby was not playing around. When I went for another scan, I was told my baby was no more,” she narrates.

“It was the worst day of my life. It affected me so much both mentally and physically. I was sad, felt neglected and blamed God for everything.

I felt he had abandoned me. I used to be prayerful, but since then my faith went down.

I felt as if I was cursed and used to cry whenever I met mothers carrying their babies,” the 26-year-old says.

Mercy adds that she had a problem talking about the experience, especially since at the beginning she blamed herself for her son’s death, and believed she was cursed. 

She only spoke about it with her family and husband, since some people also blamed her for her son’s death.

But through the support from her family, especially her husband who stood by her all through, Mercy was able to move on. She also joined a support group called, Life Beyond Brief.

Meeting other women who have had the same experience  and others who  had babies after losing prior pregnancies gave her hope that she would one day hold a baby in her arms. Mercy admits that she desperately tried to get a baby. 

“I was feeling lonely and I badly needed a baby. After eight months of trying I was blessed to have a baby, but my husband and I still had fears of losing her,” she says.  

The pregnancy went on well with no complications and Mercy was able to deliver a bouncing baby girl through caesarean section this year. However, she still keeps her first-born baby’s clothes and baby bump photos. 

Anne Kathomi, 32, a mother of three, is glad that she carried all her pregnancies to full term.

Her first pregnancy was normal labour, but for the other two, she had to go through labour induction after going past her estimated delivery date.  

“Induced labour is more painful and intense when compared to normal labour.  I have been induced with tablets, and then they did sweeping of the membranes and artificial breaking of water.

The process is usually very painful, emotionally draining and can affect one’s mental health if not well monitored,” she narrates.

Unfortunately, many women she has met suffer in silence.

“From my interaction with expectant mums, most of them don’t talk about the tribulations they go through to bring life— the headache, fatigue, nausea, backache, mood swings, and others— because they will be labeled ‘weak’.

They would rather till the shamba up to the last minute so that they can be called ‘heroes’,” she adds.

Yet, even with these challenges, some still find the strength to get expectant again. 

“Children offered social security; assisted in free labour, secured conjugal rights, secured rights to property and inheritance, offered generation propagation assurance and family lineage continuity. 

Infertility and difficulty pregnancy leading to the loss of a child, therefore, translated to negative repercussions to the attainment of the above associated benefits,” says Jane Gitau, a psychologist, about the traditional African set up.

Jane adds that in such a setting, the grieving process was characterised by ritual practices such as cleansing of the mother.

It is important to note that the rituals vary from different ethnic groups and have varied symbolic significance.

These rituals are mostly associated with maintenance of balance and harmony between the living and the living-dead.

“In modern African culture such cleansing rituals have been replaced by professional psycho-support process such as loss and grief counselling, medical investigation into the cause of death to inform management of future pregnancies.

Modernisation has changed the worldview of the value and motivation associated to benefits of having children and thus reduced societal pressure to individual family/parent consideration.

This shift has therefore informed coping strategies to the loss of a child by the affected parent,” she notes. 

Jane adds that difficulty in speaking about difficult pregnancies and childbirth stems from a lack of a support system. 

“People open up depending on how receptive others are to what they are saying. Social media has given people a chance presently to talk about it easily.

Even though some mothers decide to process it alone, others talk about it or visit psychologists or talk to friends” she explains. 

Jane insists that a mother goes through the grieving process because if they don’t and act strong, they will be depressed, and when they see other women carrying their children they will cry or react. They will always feel death around them and live in fear.

“Women need professional assistance when they lose a baby and they shouldn’t brush this off.

Talking about these details depends on whom they talk to. There are those who will support her and there are those who will think she’s a crybaby, wants sympathy or is cursed because of the misfortune,” adds Jane.

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