Here In Africa, The Stigma Surrounding Baby Loss Meant My Miscarriages Were Seen As Punishment From God

In many African cultures, people think you can lose a baby because of a curse or witchcraft – and the worth of a woman is determined by the children she carries to term
Oladayo Ashiru / EyeEm via Getty Images

This week HuffPost UK, with the World Health Organisation, is hosting a week’s worth of personal blogs reflecting on what it’s like to experience baby loss across the world: in the UK, USA, Nigeria, Colombia, and India.

Warning: This piece includes graphic descriptions of what it’s like to experience miscarriage, which may be triggering for some readers

When I first got pregnant, I was elated. I shopped for baby clothes, chose names, but then after three months, I had some light bleeding. I was put on bed rest and it stopped. When I was 5.5 months pregnant, I was awoken by a huge gush of water in the middle of the night.

I rushed to do a scan, and was told I was having a miscarriage. The baby’s heartbeat had slowed drastically and all the amniotic fluid had drained out. I was in agony and had to be induced for three days before I expelled the foetus of my baby boy.

It was such a painful experience, but thankfully I had a loving and supportive family. I had a year of fertility treatments before I got pregnant again, but I lost the baby again 6.5 months. I was so depressed, I couldn’t go to church or do anything that previously gave me joy. My husband couldn’t comfort me.

Coping with my miscarriage was traumatic. The medical staff contributed a lot to my grief, despite the fact that I am doctor too. They put my first baby in a plastic bag and left it beside my bed – thinking it was my sanitary equipment I picked it up, only to see my baby.

The practice here is to hand the dead baby to the father to take away for burial but my husband and relatives were not allowed to be with me, I picked my baby myself and took him to his father. It was the most sickening feeling I have ever had.

The nurses were so unfriendly towards me, and made the ordeal worse. I got the opportunity to talk with them when I was strong enough to resume work so I could sensitise them about the psychological trauma they put me through so they would not do it to others – that was therapeutic. The only person who gave me any support was the doctor who attended to me initially, and he delivered the two healthy baby boys I went on to have.

The other issue is the cultural attitude of people here. In Africa, people think you can lose a baby because of a curse or witchcraft. Here, child loss is surrounded by stigma because some people believe there is something wrong with a woman who has had recurrent losses, that she may have been promiscuous, and so the loss is seen as a punishment from God. In most traditional African cultures, these feelings are exacerbated because the worth of a woman is often determined by the children she carries to term.

My baby boys were both buried at a cemetery in town. I couldn’t be at any of the funerals and that still hurts. But whenever I pass those places I whisper a prayer in my heart for them.

Lanai is a 44-year-old pharmacist from Nigeria

For more information, visit the WHO website