It was a simple question, “How many children do you have?” and she had burst into tears. Dr. Ade, the husband of a colleague was surprised that a routine question he often asked his patients had caused this particular woman to break down.
Obviously knowing something was wrong, he had let her compose herself and had then rephrased the question, “How many pregnancies have you had?” More composed, she told him about her two pregnancies, which had both ended in miscarriage, all in monotone.
Dr. Ade said it was like pulling teeth to get information from her. She answered questions with the simple fact; no more, no less.
“How many pregnancies have you had?” Dr. Ade had asked
“Two” she answered.
“Did you lose both pregnancies?”
“At what stage in the pregnancy did you lose the pregnancies?”
“Ninth and Seventh weeks.”
“Were you treated for the repeated miscarriages?”
Dr. Ade did not get much from that initial contact with that woman and being pressed for time, he couldn’t give her the amount of time he thought she needed to loosen up. However, during her next appointment, he had more time, as she came late and the patients waiting were not that many.
That day, he heard the full gist of her journey for the past 8 years. Her name was Sadiya and for the past 8 years since she had been married, she had suffered two miscarriages, between which had been dry spells, when she neither ovulated nor conceived. After being around some clinics that had pitched IVF to her, she had gone to a government hospital to see a traditional gynaecologist, to find out if he could help her.
Well, they are still working on it. Hopefully, she will get pregnant, but she had to answer that hated question. She has children…only her kids are angels watching over her.
For Hannah, hers even felt harder, because she had to explain to her older daughter that the baby that was in the bump, whom she used to sing to and had plans of how she would share her favourite toy with, was no more.
So, she had to bear the constant questions from her toddler, “Where is my baby?” Nothing diminishes the impact of that question, whenever the little madam asks. Imagine holding your toddler to your chest, and she’s still mumbling about her sister and patting your tummy, where the bump used to be. That scenario had played out several times between Hannah and her baby.
There have been times Hannah had caught herself crying in that state. There have been times her husband had come to her rescue from the curiosity of their daughter. They have explained to her that her baby had gone to heaven in a way they thought she understood. At least, it looked as though she did, but not enough not to ask that question again.
Hannah is yet to conceive again after that painful miscarriage, and every time someone innocently asks, “How many children do you have?” She wonders if she should tell a total stranger about her loss or just count the living child, even though her womb had formed two babies.
Innocent question, but still painful.
This last account is of Ronke’s. She is in her early 40s, in a long-term relationship that had remained the same way all these years, because of her inability to conceive. She and her beau live together, she even wears a wedding band although not legally married.
However, that’s not the gist. What is, is the fact that she was constantly told to greet her children by particular presumptuous colleague of hers at her new place of employment. She had often answered in Yoruba, “Won a gbo!” literally meaning, “The children will hear.”
Whether it was sincere or not, she didn’t know, because this colleague seemed friendly and was like that with every other person in the office. Ronke did not want to rock the boat, but she did not want to be sent to her unborn children almost on a daily basis either. Worse was the choice of becoming the butt of the office gossip, if it came out that she was yet to have those children.
As they say, the truth always has a way of coming out. Ronke wasn’t in a good mood on the day it happened. She had had an extra busy day, chasing down old clients and cold pitching new ones. By the time the day was done, she was tired and just wanted to sleep. As she hurried out of the office to her car, it was as though this colleague had been waiting for her to come out, she said, “Ronke, you are leaving early today o. Say hello to your children.”
That grated on Ronke’s already stretched nerves and she retorted clearly, “They will hear, when I have them”
Let’s just say, Ronke could feel the change in the atmosphere, as she stepped into her office the next day. She was the latest news in the office grapevine. She could just imagine the rumour mongers talking about how, at her age, she was yet to have kids. Perhaps, she had several abortions while she was young and the numerous other thoughts that would have come to their minds. But she wasn’t into all that.
Like most women, Ronke, who is an older friend of mine, wouldn’t have wished her lot this way but this was the reality of her life. Even with all the sex they had been having, she hadn’t gotten pregnant in the early days of their relationship.
When opposition from their families had arisen to their union, they had decided that she should get pregnant, at least that would force the families to co-operate. That did not happen. That was the beginning of their TTC struggles. They loved each other enough to stay together, but not legally, which is really a disserve to Ronke.
With couples, who have to answer this question, it’s a hard one and it bears understanding, if sometimes such a simple question causes introspection before it is answered, or even a tear or two.
Ultimately, it is about pulling through all the emotions that a loss brings, grieving, moving forward as much as is possible, and trying to reach for rainbow.
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