To all the women who’ve lost their lives giving birth

PHOTO | FILE For many women living with HIV, giving birth can be a matter of life and death if they fail to take precautions.

PHOTO | FILE For many women living with HIV, giving birth can be a matter of life and death if they fail to take precautions.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Posted  Wednesday, May 22   2013 at  01:00

In Summary

  • Remember, you do not just want a baby: you also want to remain alive and healthy to love and hold your baby for as long as possible. For me, that is the whole essence of motherhood.
 

It is a fact that we have a high maternal mortality rate. For many Kenyan women, there is no guarantee that once you go into the delivery room, you will walk out alive.

This thought was always at the top of my mind during the four times I went into the delivery room, even though I did not allow fear to paralyse me.

I have had several miscarriages that have left me with unseen scars, which I have yet to come to terms with. Many mothers-to-be already have names for their unborn babies — I know I did. I am a Christian. I am pro-life. I believe, like my Bible says, that God knows us when we are still inside our mothers’ wombs. My miscarriages were not mere statistics; they were babies who had names.

For many women living with HIV, giving birth can be, if all caution is thrown to the wind, a matter of life and death. That is why I cannot emphasise enough that you should not just plunge into it headlong because Asunta has done it four times and come out unscathed.

Remember, you do not just want a baby: you also want to remain alive and healthy to love and hold your baby for as long as possible. For me, that is the whole essence of motherhood.

The other side of HIV contraction

Things going wrong in a labour ward can negatively affect an entire family. Years ago, I had a friend who contracted HIV when she went to give birth.

She was being attended by nursing students. Believe it or not, they used surgical instruments that were contaminated. What she knows is that she entered that ward HIV-negative, and came out HIV-positive. And she only figured this out months later.

“My husband refused to hear my side of the story and swore that there was more to it than I was telling him,” she told me when she came to see me.

“Our baby is HIV-negative and so is his father — it is hard for me to deal with this fact.”

This woman — and I know there are others — had a tough time dealing with it and accepting her status. Why, in group therapies where people who shared how they had been infected by HIV, most of the experiences had something to do with sex. She could not find anyone to relate with.

Speaking of which, another member who contracted HIV after being raped also had an emotional roller coaster while sharing her experience. I think this is the other side of HIV contraction. These are stories, often untold, of people living with HIV who always feel “innocent”.

(In the past, we used to refer to children living with HIV as “innocents”. Then we realised that, though we had the best of intentions, this would infer that there are persons living with HIV who are “guilty”, which is not true. So the “innocent” moniker was struck off the vocabulary).

Last-minute jitters

For me, this time round I would say everything went well, except at the last minute. And it came from the least-expected quarter. I was scared because the hospital I was to give birth in was in the news for all the wrong reasons. The wife of someone prominent had died while giving birth there and, if it were up to me, I would have changed my plans.

But I had done everything there — clinics and prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

There was no way I could now take my file and up and leave. It is not like college credits that can be transferred. I would have to do a raft of tests, which would take time and money. And which my doctor politely told me was impossible.

I delivered at this hospital, and everything went just fine for me. For this, I am thankful to God, the doctors, and all those who whispered prayers for me.I know that many mothers and babies do not make it. And I know that I am fortunate because, even in the best hands in the world, things can go wrong. My heart goes out to this family who lost a mother and wife, and to all those other countless unnamed women who give their lives to bring forth new lives.