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The East African : July 14th 2014
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE JULY 12-18,2014 sho≥t sto≥y The agony of losing a baby By DIANA KARANJA S he was a good baby, just like her big sister Keira. The skin on her cheek was warm and as soft as velvet. I snuggled up closer to her tiny new born body and inhaled her sweet intoxicating baby smell. I closed my eyes in content and succumbed to the lure of sleep. I woke up later to the creak of the door opening and when I looked up there stood my mother and mother-in-law. I smiled at them and put my index finger on my lips. She’s still sleeping, I whispered loudly. They exchanged a look and inched further into the room. Just then the baby let out a gurgling noise and her pink rose bud mouth opened wide to let out a yawn. I laughed in delight. Gingerly I picked her up and held her close to me. “You can hold her after I finish breast feeding her.” I told the two grandmothers, knowing how eager they must be to hold our new bundle of joy. With that I removed my breast and proceeded to feed her. A muffled scream broke through the silence. I looked up sharply ready to reprimand the culprit. Instead I saw the back of my mother as she ran out of the room, followed closely by my mother in law. I quickly shifted my attention back to my baby and softly hummed to her. We both sighed in contentment. We were in a bubble of joy and we were both determined to stay there. I looked up again as the door swung open. “Hey.” I said and smiled at Alan. had been married for six years now and every time I looked at him, my heart still skipped a beat. His eyes were blood shot but I wasn’t surprised it been a Sunday. Once a month he went out with his male friends and the night usually ended more or less in the wee hours of the morning. He looked haggard and tired. “She’s fed well today.” I said as I buttoned up my night gown and placed her on my shoulder to burp. Still Alan said nothing, only his hand moved to close the door. She leaned against the closed door and just looked at me. “I miss you,” he said. “I know my darling, but soon the baby will settle and won’t need much of my attention.” I said, thinking Alan was feeling left out. Like my mother and mother- IX in-law earlier, Alan fled to our bathroom. I lay the baby down and with a kiss to the forehead, I followed Alan. I stopped short at the door. Alan was seated on the cold white tiled floor crying, deep agonised sobs that shook his whole body. My body felt cold and fear gripped me. I had never seen my husband in such a state. He was the strong one between us. “Hush, you’ll wake the baby.” I said. Stop it, just stop it.” Alan yelled. “I can’t take it anymore.” He broke into fresh sobs. “I can’t bear to lose you too.” Alan said and looked at me, his face thin and bony. I was puzzled. A nasty taste filled my mouth and I gulped down saliva to get rid of it. Everything seemed different and I knew then that I was missing a link. It was within my grasp and I could feel my brows crease in concentration. But just as I was about to grasp that missing thread it moved out of reach and I was left as clueless as before. Wanting to get out of there, I turned to leave. “Let me see baby.” I mumbled. “There is no baby!” Alan shouted. I froze. No baby? I stumbled out of the bathroom. I stood over our bed. It was empty. I closed my eyes, counted to five and opened them again. There was no baby. “My baby, my baby, where is my baby?” I cried. Frantically, I grabbed the duvet and the bed sheets and stripped the bed. I could not find my baby. I went down on my knees and searched under the bed. Alan grabbed me in a rough hug and I fought him like a wild cat. I punched his chest over and over again with all my might, but still he held me. After what seemed like forever I went limp, spent from all the panic and anger. “We lost the baby. Rachael. We lost our baby. The baby is dead. We are burying her tomorrow,” Alan said. Something akin to car wipers cleaning a windscreen happened to my brain. The fog lifted. The windscreen became clear. I could see in front and behind. I remembered the slippery, blue skinned body. The stillness in the delivery room as if we had all been frozen in place. Then all at once the frantic activity. “Oxygen! Suction!” And Paul’s voice as clear as crys- tal, removed from the cacophony in the room: “What is it Doctor, what is wrong with the baby?” “She’s not breathing.” And then mercifully, I slipped away. I woke up later to find a pink chubby baby in my hospital bed. And we had been together since then. Until now. A panic rose up in my chest and I took a deep breath and reminded myself that the baby was not real. It was a figment of my imagination, my way of coping. I thought I would drown in the tears. They would not stop. And the pain in my heart was like a vice’s jaws, squeezing harder each time and leaving me out of breath. “Where’s Keira?” I asked in be- tween my sobs. Shame washed over me. I had been so absorbed in my phantom baby that I had forgotten about my real baby, the one who needed me, our first born. “She’s ok; she’s at her Aunty Moira’s. I didn’t want her to see you like that.” “Thank you.” I said and Alan nodded. Most of all I felt thankful that I had returned from the throes of grief in time to say goodbye to my baby. To give her a good send off.
July 7th 2014
July 21st 2014