My name is Nhalahla and I am 35 years old. I am a secondary school teacher and a mother of seven children – three of whom were stillborn. My first born is 15, the second is 10, the third born is 8 and fourth born is 7.
My first pregnancy was when I was 20 years old. I remember I was [doing] my teacher’s training school then and in my first year. I carried the pregnancy well, but it was a bit hectic because like any other pregnant woman, I craved some things and hated other things. But eventually everything was fine and labour started normally. My husband was not home but I called him.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was examined by the midwives and they told me the labour was progressing normally and I would deliver. But after about seven hours, they did another examination and that’s when they pronounced that the fetal heartbeat could not be heard.
Being my first pregnancy, I didn’t know all the terms and I didn’t really know what it meant. So, I continued because I was already in labour. My husband was there now and because he is in the medical field, he knew the baby was dead. My labour progressed and when it was time to push, I began to push but the baby wouldn’t move.
They cut me and the doctor ended up pulling out the baby using forceps. They showed me the baby and that’s when I found out the sex of the baby. It was a boy. Eventually, I learned that the baby was dead. They took the baby away for burial. My body was in a lot of pain for about a week.
I asked the doctor what caused the death of the baby and he told me that the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around the neck of the baby. That’s why I was pushing and the baby wasn’t coming out.
I was heartbroken. I thought of the many months I carried this baby. It was my first pregnancy. I had shopped for babies’ clothes and my heart was broken. I cried day and night, and I asked myself so many questions. So many things went through my mind. I was still a young girl. I was brave enough to carry my child whereas many women my age would have chosen to abort.
I thought the only thing that could take away the pain so soon was to conceive another baby, which I did.
I was not afraid to a conceive again. I was counselled and I could see that there was nothing else that could take away the pain from me apart from having another baby. I had my baby girl.
The labour was very short. I was rushed to the hospital and within an hour, I’d given birth. I was sent home the next day and it really relieved me of the pain that I’d been going through. I now had someone to look after.
When my girl was about 16 months, I conceived again.
The pregnancy went well. I carried the pregnancy just like any other pregnancy I had. But one night I slept and did not feel the baby move inside my womb. The next night, I slept and the baby still didn’t move. I told my husband that I could not feel the baby moving, so we went to the hospital the next morning.
They sent me for an ultrasound and it revealed that the baby was dead. I was brought back to the hospital and they induced labour.This was my third pregnancy and the baby died at 7 months.
This time nobody told me the cause of the baby’s death. What was going through my mind when they induced labour was, I was really worried about the pain I would go through simply to push out a dead baby. That was very, very hurtful.
After the baby came out, my husband’s relatives took the baby to the village for burial. I remained in the hospital for one day and was discharged the next day. The grieving process for the second child wasn’t as bad as the first one because I already had a baby girl. I mostly found comfort in her. Whenever I would think about my lost baby, I would at least thank God that I have one child.
After the loss of the second child, the other three that followed I gave birth to them with ease. I had actually finished having children. I had four children now – two boys and two girls – and I was done. I even told my friends and relatives I was finished giving birth.
Eventually, I really don’t know what happened, but I conceived again.
When I told my husband, he was happy and decided to pray that all would go well. I had prenatal care as ordered by the midwives. I went for ultrasounds and everything was fine. I shopped for the baby’s clothes, but on the 10th of April this year – it was Good Friday – I woke up feeling a very sharp pain in my lower abdomen. I had almost two weeks to go.
I told my husband, but with the lockdown, there were no private cars allowed to move on the road. The ambulance came within 10 minutes and took me to the hospital. When I reached the hospital, I explained to the midwife that I was feeling a very sharp pain but it didn’t feel like labour pains because I’ve gone through several labour pains and I know how they feel.
She examined me and told me she didn’t know what was wrong. She called my husband and told him to go get me painkillers, which he did. She suspected that I had gotten an infection somehow. I went for bed rest and was expected to recover to go back home.
My husband called another doctor to examine me. The doctor heard the fetal heartbeat but didn’t tell me anything. He just told me to go for another ultrasound. Using an ambulance again, we went for the ultrasound because I was in a government hospital and the ultrasound scan for the hospital wasn’t operating that day because it was a public holiday.
When we arrived there, the ultrasound revealed that the baby’s heart could not be detected. There was no activity by the baby. I was 38 weeks pregnant and the baby was about 3.3 kilograms (7.2 lbs).
As I was getting off the scan bad, I felt some liquid coming for my birth canal. I told my attendant that I was bleeding. We had left everything in the hospital, so we got some toilet paper. I used that to pad myself, then we went out and went back into the ambulance that had brought us.
By the time we reached the hospital, I was bleeding heavily. The midwives knew it was an emergency. They quickly told me to remove my clothes and to lay on the theatre bed. They inserted a catheter and rushed me to the theatre. It was my first time ever being operated on.
When I entered the theatre, I told the doctor I was so fed up and tired of this. I told him to cut my tubes during the operation because I don’t want to have kids anymore. He asked me if my husband had consented and I told him that he would consent later.
They started operating on me at around 11 a.m., and I regained consciousness at 6 p.m. I remember seeing one friend of mine standing by me and I asked her where I was and she told me I was in the hospital. I asked her what I was doing there and she told me I was sick.
I became unconscious again. Around 3 a.m. is when I [came to]. After regaining my consciousness, I still remembered what happened to me last. I remembered that I had been operated on and that my baby was dead. I asked my attendant if they had taken the baby for burial and she said yes. I asked her what the sex of the baby was and she told me it was a baby boy.
So many people had come, my husband’s relatives, friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, and it was in the morning when they told me exactly what happened. They told me that I took a long time to become conscious again and when I became conscious, I blacked out again because I had lost almost all the blood in my body. They told me that I almost died.
It is this last loss of my baby that has really, really hit me so hard. I had said that I had given up with given birth because I felt I had enough babies. But here came this pregnancy in a mysterious way that I proceeded to carry. I don’t know why God allowed me to carry that pregnancy when he very well knew that I would not hold that baby alive. I don’t know what kind of test God was putting me through.
I spent two days in the hospital – Saturday and Sunday. I was discharged on Monday. The doctor [not the one who operated on me but the one who discharged me] told me that they had to remove my uterus because it was beyond repair.
I was very worried because of the removal of my uterus. There are so many myths about it. When I asked my husband, he told me that the doctor had done a subtotal hysterectomy, removing the uterus but leaving the ovaries and the cervix.
I searched on Facebook for women who had lost their uterus and fortunately I came across many. Most of them had their uterus removed because of fibroids and other diseases. But they’re still living normal lives which gives me hope.
I remember when I came back from hospital, all of my children knew I was pregnant and they were very eager to have another sibling. When I arrived home and entered the house, my youngest asked me, “Mommy, where is the baby?” I had to be strong and explain to her that the baby had died and that they had taken the baby for burial.
After that incident life has not remain the same, I don’t know whether it’s the effect of removing my uterus or the loss of the baby. After coming from the hospital, I was so moody. I’d been operated on and everything would annoy me. I would just cry out.
My babies would stop me from crying because when they would see me crying, they would come and join me crying. So, I decided that whenever I needed to cry, I would just go lock myself in the bedroom and cry. But as you’re in the bedroom and you’re having your time to cry, you hear a knock on the door and when you open it’s a young child complaining about another one who’s disturbing him, or you hear someone crying and you need to go and attend to them.
But all in all, I thank God that I lived, I survived that ordeal. Even the doctor who operated on me still wonders how I survived. I thank God that I’m able to take care of my four children and I think with time, I will celebrate the lives of those children that I buried, and maybe the memories will fade.
My advice to others who have had stillborn babies is that they need to be strong. Whatever happens under the sun, God has a reason as to why it’s happening. I have come to realize that several times. I have gone through a lot and I’ve come to realize that God allowed me to go through that pain for a purpose.
I’m still waiting to know why I went through all of this, especially the last one. Maybe God will one day reveal it to me. So, women who have had stillbirths, pray for God to give you strength and pray for the angels that you’ve lost and pray for yourself. For those who can still have children, they should have children, because it may comfort you. And it helps you heal from the loss.
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