If you have ever experienced the trauma of being called Iya Beji, even though the baby you carry is dead, then you will understand the pain that Nellie went through when she was told her joy, her first pregnancy, would not end in a bouncing baby.
Rather, that her baby had grown from a defective embryo that shouldn’t have implanted in the first place, but through an accident in nature, it had implanted and turned into a baby, albeit a baby that was dying as much as it was growing in utero.
All of these discoveries weren’t made in a day, or days for that matter. She went through several rounds of testing, so many ultrasound scans, and appointments with specialists for a baby that wasn’t yet born and, week after week, the diagnosis got scarier. There was no hope. The final diagnosis was the baby was 95 percent going to be born dead, and if it lived, then they were going to be facing lots of surgeries to help her live at all and then she would be severely handicapped for the rest of her life, which they didn’t expect to be long.
After all the back and forth, it was time for Nellie and her husband to make a decision and that was when it got tricky. It was a foregone conclusion that they did not want a child that would be dependent on them and possibly his/her siblings for the rest of its life, but it was against their faith to terminate the pregnancy.
It wasn’t an easy time for them. The doctors took it as a given that an evacuation was the next step but it was not something Nellie and her husband could do. So, day after day, week upon week, they watched as her tummy grew with a growing and yet dying baby.
The chorus of congratulations came from people who hadn’t realised Nellie was pregnant before them, “You have fine body oh, that you are just showing now.” They would say. The belly touchers were on active duty, patting the bump and cooing to the baby inside. For those who dared ask when she was due, some wondered how come her bump was so “moderate”. She went through all the rigmarole any pregnant woman would go through, yet hers wasn’t going to result into a baby, at least not a living baby.
According to Nellie, when we chatted, there were times she wished the baby would just die in utero and then they would be able to do an evacuation. It hurt her from the inside that what she was carrying wasn’t a well formed baby. That she couldn’t end this life, because she did not create it in the first place.
Each day that she carried that baby she wondered if it had died, and she was walking around with a dead baby inside her. Each morning she woke, she often wondered if this would be the day the baby would die. If she hadn’t felt any movement of the baby in a while, she called the doctor to see if she could come in to find a heartbeat. Another ultrasound that would most likely show that the amniotic fluid was no more, no kidney had been formed and the brain mass was still almost non-existent..
Each day was a waiting game, a game filled with tortuous what-ifs and pain. What kind of life could the baby have if it survived birth? How was this going to affect her marriage? This was their first child for goodness sake. How would their family and friends view them and their decision to keep a dying baby, until birth? All of these thoughts and questions tortured her on a daily basis.
They were even times she rushed to the clinic, when she hadn’t felt any kicks in a while or when she felt odd, and the now regular scan would be done, only to discover something more to worry about. It came to a stage their doctor no longer asked if they were terminating the pregnancy, but he also warned that no life saving measures would be administered on the baby, after one scary scan showed that most of the baby’s internal organs hadn’t formed at such an advanced stage in pregnancy. Now, the baby wasn’t even a few weeks behind, it was several weeks behind and with the amniotic fluid that low, it was not going to catch up, that was aside the other physical anomalies.
Honestly, he couldn’t understand the reason for their refusal to terminate the pregnancy. He pushed aside all their reasons, cajoled them, told them it was not safe even for the uterus to carry such a malformed child to term. He said this more than once, but it was a no go area.
So, Nellie went about with her bump until nature took its course. At 37 weeks, she went into labour and delivered a baby girl, still born, but so malformed she wept in relief that she had died, that she had known no pain, as that would have hurt her more.
She cried over the fact that this was a baby she had wanted. She cried over the fact that the first fruit of her womb was a malformed child, a genetic freak that had happened, for whatever reasons freakish things happen. She felt like she had failed at something so fundamental to her womanhood.
It took a lot of consoling and therapy for Nellie to want to try for a baby again. A statement she hammered on was, “It changes something inside you when you carry a dead baby for nine months”
I don’t know if she would ever recover from the experience, but I pray she does, so her body and mind can work together in achieving this baby goal.
Baby dust to her and all TTC moms.
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