It has been said that silence is golden and it is, in the right context. Like in a scenario where you need to listen or when you find yourself part of nonsensical argument. At that time, silence is golden. In fact, a guy call Will Rogers once said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”
That being said, there are times when silence is not the answer; when it does more harm than good. Like when we watch in silence as social injustices increase, racial and religious intolerance hits the roof and when corrupt people continue to rob the country blind. But none of this is my fight today. Today I want to talk about a different silence; miscarriages in Kenya.
Before I lost my baby, I had never really thought having a miscarriage was possible. Then I had one. In my grief I started researching on this thing that had broken my heart. I found out that 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. This means that best case scenario, 1 in every 10 women will have a miscarriage or worst case scenario 1 in every 4 women will get a miscarriage. Each year in Africa, 4.2 million miscarriages are estimated to take place. The ratio of miscarriage rates is 22 per 1,000 women. This estimates to one miscarriage per seven live births. Studies also show that 1 in 100 women will experience recurrent miscarriages (three or more successive miscarriages).
So, why is it that no one was talking about it? Out of curiosity I started looking around for a support group in Kenya. You know how many I found? None. Zero. I remember calling a certain counselling center and they told me that they had many patients going through such loss and that if I ever started one they would give me counselors to come speak at the sessions.
At some point I thought “This is not too serious, maybe it’s not so bad in Kenya. Maybe I am over reacting”. Then I wrote my story on this blog and I was proved wrong. As soon as I wrote about losing my baby, the stories from women began to trickle in. Some have come in email and Facebook inbox and others have been told over coffee dates. Throughout 2014 I met beautiful and amazing girls and women who shared their sad experiences with me, some so devastating I found myself encouraging them yet I was hurting too. Every time I got an email or listened to woman talking about her loss I became more and more angry at the silence surrounding this miscarriage monster.
Why is the media quiet about it? Other than a few shared stories I have not come across a well done informative broadcast or newspaper piece. Every time I watch those IFAS campaigns on TV, or even malaria campaigns I wonder why there isn’t one about miscarriages. I mean, with such high statistics you’d think someone would talk about it. Any media personality reading this?
Now, the campaigns and support groups I have come across are in developed countries. And it has challenged me because I know our situation is worse than theirs. Here are a few reasons why we need to talk about this in Africa more than anywhere else.
Some people think it’s the woman’s fault so let’s get our son another wife: It is not everyone who has learned and understanding families (especially in-laws) and so most women have to be constantly reminded of their inability to bear children for “their son” and are constantly threatened that they will bring in a new wife is she ddoesn’t“give their son a child”
Some people think its witchcraft, others think it’s the work of the devil: So, you went to a biology class and know that sometimes fertilization does not happen as it should and that can result to an early miscarriage. Or that there is a hormone called hCG that maintains a pregnancy and some women don’t have enough of it and this can cause miscarriages. Well, good for you. But unfortunately not everyone knows that miscarriages are caused by health issues. Some think you have been bewitched, are demon-possessed or that it is because you have not finished paying dowry.
Some people associate it with abortion: For some reason, some people associate miscarriages with abortions giving it “you didn’t want this baby so you lost it” negative connotation. I don’t where this came from but it is there. In case there is dispute, a miscarriages is an accidental, non-volitional termination of a pregnancy beyond the mother’s control and desire, mostly cause by health problems and an abortion is the intentional ending of a pregnancy by whatever means. Are we good now?
As if losing a child is not hard enough, let us stop talking to that woman because she must be bewitched. Know what’s even better; let us get a new wife for her husband! As absurd as these things sound, I am sure there are many women in Kenya going through them. And that is why I think we should talk about miscarriages.
My fellow women, I know this is a sensitive topic because it touches right at the core of your womanhood. I know the inadequacies you battle with because you can’t seem to do what a woman should do; get a baby. Trust me I know. But silence is not the answer. We have got to rise up and speak up, tell our stories so that other women can benefit. Maybe you encountered a nasty or aloof doctor or a negligent hospital, speak up so that another mother does not lose their child at their hands. You don’t have to be good at writing or even an eloquent speaker, just tell it the way you know how. Tell it at your chama, bible study group or share it with a close friend. It will help other women and it will help you heal. Whatever you do, don’t be quiet about it
And you know what? You can tell your story here on this blog. Let me start. My name is Wanjiru Kihusa and I have had two miscarriages…What’s your story?
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.