By Fred Makori
I had to be on set for a production I was involved in. That meant I wouldn’t be available to accompany my wife to the imaging center for the ultrasound. We were happy that our firstborn was going to get a sibling in a couple of months. We had big plans; a cot, readjusting to nighttime parenting, budget for diapers, etc.
I envy our parents who had nappies that they would wash and hang to dry. A family friend who had visited narrated to us how there were nappies specifically kept for the day of the clinic. They were dazzling white, unlike the rest that had stains here and there. We had all these plans. We had even gotten a name. Yes, we were the typical parents ready for the arrival of the new addition to the family.
I went on with my shoot on set. I don’t remember whether it was a drama or a lifestyle show. It was one of those. I kept busy the day away till the phone rang and I saw that my wife was trying to reach me. I called her back. What she told me shook me. Within split second, I did lots of introspection, prayed, analyzed, thought, prayed again, worried, did it all over again, before responding to my wife who was on the other side of the phone. I fumbled a few words, I do not remember, and we agreed that we would talk about it when we met in the evening. She said she was going to call her gynaecologist to share the news.
I put all that aside and did the rest of the shoot successfully before it was time to go face reality.
You ask, how can I put it aside? You see, men have this peculiar way of compartmentalizing stuff. That is why you will see a man have fun, laugh enjoy the day with you but hear that they committed suicide that same evening. There are those spaces in our minds that we are afraid to venture into, specifically the space of intense emotions. I had put it right there and enjoyed the day on set, but I can’t shoot all night as well. I had to go face what was awaiting me.
I walked into the house moments later and the look on my wife’s face automatically sent me to that space I told you about earlier. I remember the conclusion of the matter was that maybe the ultrasound machines were faulty or maybe they misread the image. A man has got to have faith. Is it not true that faith moves mountains? If you have faith as little as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain be thou removed? And a man has got to be strong; men are expected to be strong.
I had to be strong for my wife. I looked at her and told her, “maybe it is not a cyst, maybe it is the stress you have had. But I’m sure when we redo the scan at Aga Khan with a specialist, the results will be different.” My wife’s gynae booked us for another ultrasound at Aga Khan to confirm, but most importantly refute the earlier image and results. Anyway, that was me thinking and praying it would be this way.
Around this same period, a very close friend of mine lost his dad and the plans for the burial were on. The date for the burial was set on the exact date we had been given to redo the ultrasound. I struggled between being there for my friend and being there for my wife. This is where the leave and cleave is put right to test. So, as a good Christian and husband, I asked my friend to excuse me so that I could be with my wife.
My wife and I went to Aga Khan for the ultrasound. It took ages and along the way the specialist would call other doctors and they would whisper some inaudible words while pointing to the screen, as my wife lay on that examination bed and I on the visitor’s chair besides the screen. After what seemed like three lifetimes, the doctor was done and was ready to give it to us.
“The fetus did not grow a bladder. It is very crucial for the formation of the amniotic fluid. So, the kidneys did not develop and the one that had developed has a huge cyst around it, so it is as good as not there,” he said.
As if this was not too much to bear, he continued. Can you believe it? He went on and on and in my head I was thinking, how much more can a human being take? So, he said, “the four compartments of the heart do not have the separating walls, especially the upper part.” Bottom line, the fetus was NOT VIABLE. The baby was alive but wouldn’t be for long. And even if it survived to term, the baby would die immediately after birth.
My world stopped.
What was the cause of this? Did we eat anything to harm our baby? Were we being punished for past sins? Did we not pray enough? What could we have done wrong? We had kept to the routine and the supplements prescribed. We did everything the doctors had said. How could this be? Why would God allow us to get here then let this happen? Why was this happening to us?
The doctor’s prognosis was not clear but what he recommended jolted me back to the moment. The only options available were; wait it out, which could put my wife in danger, or terminate the pregnancy. Even if we waited it out, the baby would not survive to term.
We had a couple of days to consider before making a decision. My wife was looking up to me to offer the leadership and here I was, craving for someone to look up to for help, support and answers. It was tough enough for me to see my wife breaking apart and could do nothing to make it alright. I could not break apart as well since I had to be strong for her and especially for our then four-year-old.
We shared with family, friends and clergy. Some advised us to go with the doctor’s advice. Some believed we would be led by God to make the right choice and some empathized and said nothing. But there were those who, though not outright, seemed to ask ‘where is your faith?’ They gave us examples of people who had prayed themselves out of worse situations. Nevertheless, we decided to go with the doctor’s advise.
The night before the procedure, my wife told me to take care of our four-year-old should things go wrong. I was scared. All I could read from that statement was that she had lost hope and was afraid that things could go very wrong. I was worried. I was at the verge of a breakdown, but again I had to be strong for her. We prayed, and I told her she would come out and continue doing the amazing work of taking care of us as she had always done. No one could do that better, not even me.
On the morning of the fateful day, I took my wife to the movies. We had been given an appointment in the late afternoon for the procedure to be done in the evening. I took her out to get her mind off what lay ahead, but I must confess, it was more for me than it was for her. We then had lunch and off we went to MP Shah where the procedure was going to take place.
We had read about how things could go wrong very quickly. How a mother would walk in healthy to deliver a baby, only for the doctor to let her know that he did his best but could not save either. We had heard stories of how simple mistakes in such procedures could cost most dearly. So my wife was justified in her worrying.
I was scared that it could be the last time I saw her. I was scared that she might not come out of the procedure room. I was worried that I might never see her again. I prayed and worried over and over. The moment I caught myself worrying, I would remind myself that I am a believer and would switch to praying instead.
You know those sayings, why worry when you can pray? They are so wise, deep and profound till you are the one in the situation that could send you into Worry de Ville.
I have a phobia for hospitals. As a matter of fact, the moment I see blood I become dizzy and faint so easily. I cannot even slaughter a chicken. Call me an animal rights defender or whatever. I just fear blood. So, I know it is romantic to hold her hand as she goes in and whisper words of encouragement as she faces her pain, but why risk when you know yourself. All the encouragement I could give I gave before she walked into the room while I waited outside.
From where I was seated, I could hear her pain and screams. I fought so hard to keep the tears from flowing. I had to be the stronger one. I had to remain steadfast because if I walked down that road, I would have become a mess very fast. What nearly killed me was when I heard her tell the nurse, “I am tired. I can’t do this. I am dying”. All I could do was wait, pray, hope and worry. Yes, I worried a lot. But thank God for peace.
After what seemed like eternity, the deed was done and she was resting. Our 20 or so weeks-old baby was no more but my wife was fine, just tired and her breasts heavy with milk. I was confused. Was I meant to be relieved that the procedure was a success or grieve that our baby was no more? If I celebrated the success of the procedure, there would be guilt of not grieving the baby. If I grieved the baby, there would be guilt of not being grateful for what I had.
I was confused. I was lost. I was a mess. But I still had to be strong for my wife. I had to be strong for everyone else.
We were assigned a therapist to help us through the transition. Somehow, I did not manage to go even for one session. My wife did a couple, and this really helped her.
I remember one day, a couple of weeks after, I drove to work and as soon as I parked the car, all the overwhelming emotions just hit me so hard. I thank God it was within the privacy of the car because I could not control it. I just broke down and that marked the beginning of my healing process.
But that was a long way from healing completely. I think it will take an even longer time before that even happens. It has been a journey of one step at a time. I must point out that this nearly broke my wife and I apart as I felt that she felt I was not mourning enough for the loss. I also felt that she blamed me for putting us in this position. This was a struggle we had that nearly ended our marriage.
It is in such times that you know who is really for you and who is not. Adversity has a way of pointing the beam light at what friends you have and who are just fair-weather friends. Even among circles like church where there should be a community of people who truly look out for each other, adversity tests this theory to the core. Family as well.
We got to know who we can depend on and who we can go deep with. We got to realize just because people laugh with you doesn’t mean they will die with you. We got to learn bitter realities of who to call a friend and who to call….I don’t even have the word.
All in all, adversity makes it clearer and separates dross from silver. Let me conclude by saying a big thank you to all the people who shared their love and held us through that period. We made it through because you prayed us through. We came out stronger because you were there for us. I am big on people and this taught me valuable lessons on human relationships.
I sometimes look at the children born around that time and wonder how our little baby would be looking like. Would she be having a pretty face like my wife or a rough one like mine? Would he be running around the compound or would be those quiet reserved ones like me? Would she have been a good nighttime child or those nightmares that keep you awake all night?
Yeah sometimes I torture myself like that, but it helps me keep her memory alive. He was an angel we did not get to hold in our hands but will always hold in our hearts. She was a gift that never got to us but will forever be etched in the indelible memory lane in our hearts. As a man, the struggle is a million times bigger just as much as the confusion is.
We have never really gotten over it. Some days are heavier than others. But most importantly, we find strength in the promise we have in God that all things work together for good, and the assurance that My Wife has got my back and I have got hers. This experience sent me on a downward spiral. I underwent depression, but I thank God for the support system around us and the people who prayed for us and kept checking on us. I am stronger, better and alive to tell this tale.
The tale of how we lost our Baby.