When Yemisi* found out she was pregnant, she was elated!! For many months, she had waited and prayed to get pregnant, and finally she had gotten the BFP. Getting pregnant was a tough one, because her husband was a Marine Engineer, attached to a Multinational oil company, so he had to go onshore two weeks every month, and sometimes her fertile window collided when he was out of town. Finally, she had gotten lucky and was quick to tell family and friends about her good news. Everyone was happy for her and wished her well…no-one anticipated that she was going to miscarry the pregnancy. Unfortunately, she did and it was a bad blow for her. Her mother travelled from Abuja to be with her, and her mother-in-law also spent a few weeks at her house, because her husband was unavailable at this time.
For someone who had struggled to conceive, a miscarriage can be especially hurtful, and if it so happens that a good number of people were in the know of your pregnancy, you run the risk of hearing things that could even add insult to injury. Some people can be downright insensitive, like one of Yemisi’s church members she ran into at the market, who had and said “I heard you lost the pregnancy. Is that why you haven’t been coming to church? Ha! Don’t do that oh. It is God’s will, so you just have to accept it”. Yemisi went home that day wondering what this sister-in-the-Lord meant by her miscarriage was God’s will. So it was God’s intention for her not to have children? Or it made God very happy to grant her a BFP, only to snatch her joy away again? Saying that it was God’s will made her wonder what the purpose was; did God take pleasure in taunting and teasing her? Her mother-in-law, however, was able to make her understand that the woman’s comment was, indeed, insensitive “Sometimes, people don’t know how to sympathize so they just say the silliest things”, her mother-in-law had consoled her.
Another insensitive response she got was from her husband’s sister, who called to sympathize when she heard the news of her loss, only to say “Just be grateful for one thing…at least you know you can get pregnant. Even if you don’t have kids tomorrow, nobody can call you barren, because you have been pregnant before”. Like, huh??! Who says that?? Oh well, Yemisi’s sister-in-law did and this time, her patience was completely thinned out, so she responded “I will have kids tomorrow! Please, don’t curse me! I am not barren! Before I got pregnant, nobody could call me barren!”. This led to a huge verbal altercation, as her sister-in-law simply did not see anything wrong in what she had said, while Yemisi saw everything wrong in it. She decided not to tell her husband or his mother about it, so as not to cause an even bigger rift, but her sister-in-law tabled the matter before them herself. It wasn’t until then that she finally realized that it was a very insensitive thing to say.
Yemisi was still smarting from her sister-in-law saga, when her mother’s elder sister called her to say commiserate, and also said “Maybe it’s because it was your first pregnancy. You need to be more careful next time, and take good care of the baby”. Yemisi couldn’t believe her ears! “Aunty, are you saying I was careless with my pregnancy because it was my first time?” Her aunt said no, she wasn’t implying that she was careless, she was only saying she needed to be more careful. After that phone call, Yemisi sat down and started to check everything she had done, from the moment she conceived. She had taken her medication religiously, eaten well, slept well, didn’t overwork herself. It was painful because she knew how much she craved for that pregnancy, and how well she had taken care of herself. Her aunt’s response made her believe that it was her fault that she lost the baby; that something she did, or didn’t do, had prompted the miscarriage. It was at this stage that depression hit her, and she started to feel as though she had failed. Thankfully, her husband, Fisayo, returned home soon, so she was less lonely and suicidal, but she still couldn’t open up to anyone about it.
Fisayo only found out what she was going through when he wanted to do a quick Google search with her phone, and her search history came up. He discovered from her search history that she blamed herself for the miscarriage, so he reached out to her and tried to make her understand that sometimes, one could do everything perfectly but yet still lose a pregnancy. Society’s insensitive response stems from our judgmental standpoint, and the need to pin everything on someone, or something. I In our society, situations cannot just happen naturally, apparently! There has to be a scapegoat who takes the fall. While I agree that there are some factors that could affect fetal health, some miscarriages happen without any explanation. I think that because miscarriages are so common, people have undermined the hurt that comes with it. I once heard a woman say to another over the phone “Ehya, my dear! I didn’t see you at work and when I asked, they said you were recovering, that you lost the pregnancy. Nne, I am so sorry to hear that. But let’s just be grateful that you had not already given birth and trained the child before losing it. Imagine if that child was already a graduate before dying, what would you do?” This woman was obviously trying to make the lady on the other end understand that it could have been worse, but those words held no consolation at all. It’s like, okay, you have no right to cry and mourn a miscarriage, simply because it was ‘just’ seven weeks old.
I have learnt to toughen up to society, and to expect nothing less. Hopefully, with more awareness and advocacy, the plight of women dealing with fertility issues will be spot-lighted, and society can become more empathic to the battles we fight daily.
God help us all!
*Names have been changed
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