'Death is the daughter-in-law of all families': Mom shares her story of stillbirth

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"The only reminder that I was almost a mother is the extra body weight I am attempting to get rid of – what a cruel reminder." Photo: Getty Images
"The only reminder that I was almost a mother is the extra body weight I am attempting to get rid of – what a cruel reminder." Photo: Getty Images

"I cannot seem to find a heartbeat", the doctor said worryingly.

Figuratively, those words immediately shattered my heart and brought on one of the most indescribable pains I have ever felt. However, it just did not make sense to my brain.

You see, I am a practical person. I prefer to be in control and be prepared for things. I prefer to know what I am getting myself into – the good and the bad.

And since the doctor never mentioned things could get this bad, I was dumbfounded when she told me that my unborn baby died in my womb.

Out of the array of pregnancy-related realities she encouraged me to bear graciously, at every check-up, how come she never spoke about the 'worst case scenario'?

Must read: Miscarriage: Your questions answered

'The same womb in which life is nurtured, death lurks'

How come those websites that offer week-by-week descriptions of one's pregnancy and compare the size of your baby to fruit, did not say, "Hey, watch out! Your child might die in your womb this week!"

Perhaps if someone had warned me that the maternity ward is not only reserved for giving birth to life – you could give birth to death too.

Perhaps if someone had warned me that I might leave the hospital empty-handed. Perhaps if someone had told me that the same womb in which life is nurtured, death lurks.

Maybe, just maybe, not finding my child's heartbeat would have been more 'logical' because I would have been forewarned! As the saying goes: "Forewarned is forearmed".

Read: How long after a miscarriage should I wait to try again?

'Riddled with extreme guilt and regret'

Months after giving birth to a stillborn baby boy, I continue to battle to understand this deep, dark silence engulfing pregnancy loss experiences.

I must admit I experience this silence in my life: no mention of his name; his ashes remain at the back of some cupboard I cannot reach, and what would have been my 1st Mother's Day on the 9th of May 2021 went unrecognised and uncelebrated.

The only reminder that I was almost a mother is the extra body weight I am attempting to get rid of – what a cruel reminder.

There is a saying in Setswana that translates to "death is the daughter-in-law of all families", so essentially, death should not be an anomaly to us.

However, the death of an unborn child tends to be more devastating – similar to the death of any child who had their whole lives ahead of them.

The death of an unborn child tends to be riddled with extreme guilt and regret, especially for women.

Also read: Four women talk about their miscarriages and what it’s taught them

'What kind of a woman am I that I failed to carry a baby to term?'

As a woman, I questioned my womanhood: What kind of mother fails to protect the baby nestled in her womb?

What kind of a mother am I that I did not know in time that the baby was in trouble? What kind of a woman am I that I failed to carry a baby to term? What kind of a makoti am I that I cannot bear children and grow a family?

Yes, I know. "It is not my fault". This is one of the many things the doctor said after declaring my child dead, but those words are little comfort when you leave the hospital with nothing but a discharge letter and a sorrowed heart!

So why does it appear that South Africa is a society that shies away from talking about pregnancy losses?

My theory: That topic is taboo because a pregnancy loss is deemed the 'unspeakable', the 'unimaginable'.

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