I bless God for Former US President, Ronald Reagan, who came up with making October the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It allows me to tell my story yet again. It brings back memories for me. Memories of when it seemed like God was far away.
In all my experience as a mother, prayer was a very important part of the deal. It was the only way I could traverse the world of parenting without falling apart. I know some women are born mothers. Caring for children came naturally to them but I was not wired that way. I needed the grace of God all the way and still, draw on it daily. I depended on the word of God and whatever I discovered I lived by.
Since I saw God do great things in pregnancy and delivery of my first child I did not expect to have any problems. Apart from the breastfeeding saga, there was no major bump. With everything I had learnt as well as what my Mum showed me, I felt I was well equipped to cope.
My mother died after my baby was four months old. I was basically on my own. I did not have any form of help, at that time.
Shortly after my Mum died, my problems with Turuchi, that was her name, started. It was time to wean her and she did not like anything we gave her to eat. We tried sweet cereals and savoury meals, all to no avail. This led to her being small and looking malnourished. I kept praying for her and holding on. As far as I was concerned, the God that brought me thus far would perfect everything that concerns her. Yet she just kept clinging to my breasts.
At some point, a family friend in the church felt we should see her paediatrician. I knew it was not a medical problem because we had a good paediatrician, but we felt a second opinion would not hurt. So we took her to see him. He carefully examined her and pronounced her healthy but underweight. Apparently, some children just don’t like food, the doctor advised we managed the situation till she “outgrows that phase of her life”.
I was glad because we were now sure that nothing was wrong. I was so sure that God would see us through that situation. I had to get back to work so I began to drop Turuchi at a daycare centre close to the house. That was when the matter took a different turn. She was not eating well, my breast milk was no longer adequate which made her susceptible to infections. Cold and cough were the most common. We were in and out of the hospital. The daycare centre bred different varieties of infections. It is not abnormal but if the babies are well fed they wouldn’t fall sick as frequently. She kept falling ill and was losing even more weight. At some point, I started taking her to work with me. Without a car, it was tough but I had no choice.
By the time Turuchi was nine months, she was moving around on her stomach and not talking at all. When she recovered from a bout of illness I took her back to the centre since she was okay and a few days later she would be coughing again. I didn’t think too much of it. A cough would clear.
It did not go away as expected so I took her to see her paediatrician. He recommended some antibiotics and we promptly administered them. This was on a Wednesday. By Sunday morning she had not improved. At this time she had started throwing up the little portions of food she managed to eat. This meant her medication wasn’t staying down. So on that Sunday morning, we took her back to the hospital.
Her paediatrician was not there but a young female doctor was. Although I wasn’t keen on interacting with this young woman who had a slight attitude, she was all I had so I did not make a fuss about getting the paediatrician. She asked a few questions then put Turuchi on anti-malaria medication and recommended an injection. I was not too comfortable, but she was the doctor so I took her word for it. I had felt Turuchi would be admitted to get some intravenous feeding after all the vomiting but we were allowed to go home. I did not make a fuss yet again because she was the doctor, not me. You could say that was my greatest undoing.
We continued to pray, especially my husband. I was physically tired with all the pressure from Turuchi’s health. By the next Tuesday, she wasn’t any better and my husband and I agreed we would take her back to see the doctor the next day.
That night I had a dream and someone was taking the sick scrawny Turuchi away from me and handed a beautiful and chubby Turuchi back to me. I woke up feeling that God had turned the situation around. We got a neighbour to take us to the hospital.
On our way, I kept praying that my friend, who was a doctor at the hospital, would be there. I was sure that if she was there all would be well. Just as we got halfway, right in my arms, my Turuchi’s eyes turned. I did not know what it meant. I thought she had fainted and needed to be revived. I did not know what to do. Our friend started to race through Lagos streets. We got to the hospital a few minutes later and my friend, the doctor, was there. They quickly took Turuchi off me and tried to revive her but she was gone. It was like a bad dream. I did not realise that she had died at the time she passed out.
My husband was devastated. Although all the worrying would now end, not having a baby anymore was heartbreaking.
I remembered the night that the Lord told me I was going to have a baby girl. At some point in the conversation, while trying to convince Him to give me more time before I would get pregnant, I had an unsettling premonition that the baby would not stay. And I said to the Lord, ‘if You know she will not stay don’t let her come’. I did not get a satisfactory answer. He did not say anything or even rebuke me. It seemed like he just smiled at me. I felt that was an adequate answer.
As I tried to come to terms with the passing of my baby, I remembered the conversation, and said to Him again, ‘Lord I thought I told you not to let her come if she would not stay’. That was when the crying began, and I asked to see her. The nurses were not sure they should let me. However, I insisted. I went into the room alone. There she was lying peacefully. I had just done her hair and she looked beautiful. But she was gone.
I told her how much I appreciated and loved her. It had been such a privilege being her Mum. She taught me to be selfless. With her, I learnt to look beyond myself. I told her I would miss her so much and after that, the tears came in torrents. I did not make a scene but I cried my heart out. I left the room after that. My husband and a brother of his made all the funeral arrangements. I was not a part of all that. She was buried right away. We went home empty-handed.
When we got to our house gate, it dawned on me that I left home with my baby and came back without her. Her cot would be empty. Her clothes would no longer be needed. All her stuff would no longer be in use. It was a horrifying reality. It was the second time death came visiting within six months. I don’t know which death hit me harder, my Mum or my daughter. It seemed like the Word of God had let me down. What happened to the stripes of Jesus that were supposed to make her whole? Where was the God in all of this? He seemed so far away.
Even so, life had to continue. My husband and I made up our minds to allow God to comfort us by His Spirit. We were able to go back to church and continue our church work by the next Friday. I did not think it was wise to stay home and relive the experience all by myself. So we agreed I should go back to work. It was tough but God was right there. The next thing was to start planning another baby. The dream I had the night before Turuchi died was a strong faith builder. I kept seeing that chubby baby and knew that God was telling me I would have another child.
I had learnt a few lessons though. One was to never ignore my instincts as a mother. I have a God-given instinct that is always with me. Whenever I feel a nudge, I should respond to it.
Also, I never let a general practitioner attend to my children. It must be a paediatrician. I realised that not all doctors are equipped to treat babies. I learnt that lesson the hard way. Also, I learnt not to allow doctors to give my young babies injections except absolutely necessary. Apart from immunisation shots, I never allowed it again. If they needed to take injection I asked for intravenous feeding. I took absolute responsibility for my babies’ health.
I eventually had four other children, a boy and three girls. They were just as chubby as the baby I saw in the dream. They ate very well. I never had any more problems with feeding babies. They were also pretty healthy. Nothing more than a few bouts of cold, cough and malaria. We had a mild bout of Chickenpox with two of them and one bout of measles. Nothing to worry about. The stripes of Jesus was always available. My children know it as the way to get well. Anytime they feel unwell, the first thing we do is pray, a lot of the time they begin to feel better. That is the only weapon I have against sickness for me, my husband and my children.
I thought to tell my story at this time because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In our part of the world, we lose too many pregnancies and infants mostly due to medical carelessness and incompetence like it was with my daughter.
I am hoping that any woman who reads this will learn from my mistakes. I had my doubts about what the doctor was doing but I did not speak up. I should have insisted her paediatrician should see her. I did not. I didn’t think there was any difference.
Going forward when I took my children to any hospital, I would ask to see the paediatrician. Then I tell them my story of how I lost my first child. What that did was send the signal that I am an informed mother and that I will ask many questions as we work together to take care of my children. I no longer ignored my instincts. I believed they were God’s way of warning me of danger. I also believe He gives those same instincts to every mother. We should not ignore them but stay close to them.
Keep resting, Turuchi, till we meet at the Master’s feet. And to all the unborn and infant babies that have been lost, keep resting. To the mothers, God will always send solace. Let’s just wait for it.