I sat at the head of the little grave that had been made in my absence for my unborn baby that I lost, rearranged the stones neatly as though to prevent them from weighing too heavily on him. I sent out a weak faint wail, with a flood of hot tears streaming down my cheeks. Gosh I still had that amount of tears after crying for so many days, I was even surprised myself.
Losing baby Langazelwe (The name meaning Yearned for) was not just a heart wrenching experience for me and my family, it was almost a revelation of something I clearly would have never fully understood had I not experienced it. For many years I had comforted and counselled many women that I had miscarried pregnancies or had stillborn children. I was certain all along that I understood the extent of their pain and trauma and had done well in counselling. Until I went through the experience I learnt the power of the bond between a mother and the unborn child. That without sight or a touch, two souls can be extra ordinally joined to share such a strong bond.
We had struggled for a couple of years to conceive another baby after our baby girl and when I fell pregnant with Langazelwe we immediately named him. The pregnancy wasn’t at all a difficult one and couldn’t have prepared us for what was coming. On the 30th week of my pregnancy I began spotting and quickly went to the Doctor who took me for a scan and very casually told me that there were no movements or heartbeat which meant the baby was dead thus in the morning I’d be taken to theatre for a D&C. I froze, almost lost my own heartbeat. I opened my mouth to speak but no sound came out. It seemed forever before I could squeeze out a sound of “Please rescan Doctor”. He did reluctantly, and still confirmed the same.
My world seemed to crumble in that moment. The last I remember was trying to get down from that bed then waking up in the ward with an oxygen mask. I had collapsed I was told. I wished I hadn’t woken up from that. As I remembered why I was there, I felt the coldest chill strike down my spine, a sharp pain came from my stomach as though someone was pulling the umbilical cord through my naval.
I screamed at the top of my voice “Nooooooooooo, God please don’t, I beg you please.” I was inconsolable. I wailed halfway into the night, mumbling lamentations from time to time. When my mother came through she held me tight and told me to pray. I didn’t want to pray, I never wanted to pray ever again I told her. I was angry, I felt betrayed and abandoned by God, I didn’t understand why he had allowed me to conceive in the first place if he would not allow me to hold my Zelwe. We clung together helplessly with my husband and wept together.
I eventually fell asleep from the exhaustion I think, woken up by nurses coming to prepare me for theatre. I once again requested for one last scan, I could swear I felt my baby move as I slept. The Doctor said it was a normal reaction of denial and another scan would only just be torture for me, still I begged within my sobs until they allowed me. The scan still confirmed the worst.
I sounded like a lunatic wailing all the way to theatre. It seemed like forever before I woke up to an emptiness that I have never felt. It wasn’t just my belly that was empty, it was my entire soul that seemed ripped out. As though programmed, I returned to my weeping with a new reservoir of tears streaming down my worn-out face. I requested to see my baby but was told that he had been taken by my family for burial. I don’t know if seeing the body would have made any difference but it tore me up that I hadn’t gotten a glimpse of my little Zelwe before he was buried. Two days after I was discharged I went straight to the little grave. I remember walking up to that mountain with such emptiness even my body feeling lighter.
I realized that there are some things that you can only truly know from experience. My years of counselling hadn’t prepared me for this and I don’t think anything would. Weeks and months passed and I’d look at someone’s baby on the street and imagine that my Zelwe would be that age now. It’s a page you quite never get to close, despite people saying that with death comes some form of closure. As a mother, the loss of a baby whether born or unborn can never be a page that will close, no amount of counselling or letting go ever gets you to a point of being alright. I learnt again that we often think all things can fit into a certain category or box but this isn’t always true. Some things don’t really go away and you must do what will keep you afloat. People expect you to mourn according to their standards and within their set time frame. Your experience cannot be stencilled by people that are not in your shoes. You own journey will have its personal timer so go with that flow.
Of all the social challenges we often address and speak off, miscarriage remains taboo in our African context, it’s a hush hush issue that’s treated almost in passing yet thousands of women go through it every day. I hope that everyone who has gone through this gets the amount of healing, of peace and embrace. I hope beyond the pain and fear, each woman can renew their faith and hope, do move on or to try again understanding that it may never be alright, but it will be OK.