Surviving the Loss of 4 Children
Meet Jane, a mother of 8, but only 4 are alive.
Jane, from Luanda, Kenya, who was born 41 years ago. She lost her dad to illness at the tender age of 13. After finishing her class 8 studies, she lived with her cousins for about 6 years before getting married.
When she got married, she experienced her first child loss after only 6 months of pregnancy. She gave birth to her son, who survived for just a few minutes before passing away. Shortly after that, she got pregnant again, and this time around made it to only 5 months. Again, she gave birth to a son, but this time he was already dead in her womb. The young mother proceeded to get pregnant again, managing to make it only up to 7 months. Her son was born at home, breathed for a few minutes, and then stopped. A doctor was called, and when he came, he sent Jane’s husband for baby food from a hospital in Emuhaya. While on his way, the dad received a phone call telling him that the child was dead. Devastating!
The young couple continued to live together, Jane getting more and more stressed by the day. She conceived again and one night in a dream, she was led to a certain neighboring grandma to give her some herbal medicine. The next day, she visited the grandma, and she said she knew of no medicinal herbs, but would instead pray for her. She did, and Jane gave birth to a lovely baby girl, who survived. 2 other girls followed, and they are both still alive.
One day, her step-mother in law visited her and mocked her about having only girls, and told her that in that home, they don’t get only girls. Being that children are gifts from God, Jane was again devastated and cried out to God in prayer for a son. 3 years later, a son was born, and oh how happy she was! She went on again to get another child, this time round a son again. It was lovely! God had heard her cry.
But the joy was to be short-lived again. One day, when the boy was about 1 year 5 months old, Jane had gone to help her mother to harvest maize. It began raining, and Jane felt that she should go home, which was quite unlike her because whenever she visited, she would spend the day at her mother’s home and go home in the evening. But her heart was drawn towards home. Her sister in law asked her whether her child was sick, and Jane said no.
Jane hurried back home, only to find her son unwell. He had not eaten the whole day, she was told. Jane gave him one and a half bananas which he took. He had never eaten that much. She continued with her house duties, but the child kept getting worse and began to swell. It was now late in the night. She called her mother in law and sister in law who came in and stayed with her till much later.
At 4 am, Jane could not take it anymore. She left her home on foot, in search of a hospital. The first hospital she went to told her that she was too late, and refused to attend to her baby. 6 other hospitals said the same thing. When she got to the last hospital, the doctor wanted to refer them to a hospital in Siaya.
By now, Jane was shaking terribly from the stress caused by her child’s condition. She had also not eaten all day, and she had eaten poorly the day before which had been spent traveling to and fro her mother’s house. She had not even taken a cup of tea. The doctors wondered who was sick, her or her child.
The doctor requested a urine sample from the child, and this was hard to come by. Eventually, the child produced some deep orange colored urine. When Jane took the urine to the doctor, the doctor was astonished. He walked back to the ward with her to verify that it was indeed the child’s urine. Upon getting to the ward, they found that the child had urinated again, this time in the arms of Jane’s sister in law who had accompanied her. It was all deep orange in color. The doctor asked the people in the ward whether this was real.
After he walked away, one of the lunch servers came to wash their hands. Jane said that she wouldn’t eat, and encouraged her sister in law to eat since the food would be billed anyway. Her sister in law refused, saying that if she wanted to eat, she’d go and wash her hands at the sink then eat. After the server turned to walk away, Jane felt her child turn and breath out in a heavy sigh. She got scared.
She observed the child for about 5 minutes then told her sister in law that the child was no more. In disbelief, the sister tried to wake the child up, sit him up, but all to no avail. Jane began to cry and told her to stop and went to tell the doctor.
The doctor asked her how she knew, and Jane asked him whether she really wouldn’t know a dead child. When walking back to the ward, they found guards taking away her child, covered in white, to the morgue. Jane cried.
Someone recognized that Jane resembled someone he knew, and queried her about it. She confirmed that he indeed was her brother, and this stranger called her brother to tell him the news. Her sister in law called her husband, who reported that their mother, who had also accompanied them to the hospital, was just getting back home. They both got on the same motorbike and headed back to the hospital.
In no time, many people had gathered to comfort Jane. Her husband, who had traveled to Nairobi, was called back. A brother in Nakuru helped to clear the bill and they left with the child’s body and went home.
The days preceding the burial were hard, especially because Jane had to spend the night outside near her son’s body, which had been specially treated and preserved by a pathologist. On the night after the burial, she also slept there. After all the burial proceedings were over, she stayed at home with someone who helped her with housework and took care of her, eventually cementing the floor with cow-dung before leaving with a token of appreciation.
Encouragement from family, friends and the church kept her going, but great sorrow still perturbed her, especially being so near her children’s graves, until she decided to travel to Nairobi to join her husband and look for a job. She got employed as a house-help and found a young son in that home. The child resembled her son, and Jane took wonderful care of him. When he passed on several months later, Jane was heartbroken. She had seen it in a dream on her way back to Nairobi when she’d dozed off in the bus. But finding out and confirming it broke her.
After several months, she was no longer able to work in that home, and left, in search of other jobs. Years later, she went back to that home when that lady had gotten another child, just as she had promised. She is now taking care of that lady’s son and has only recently disclosed that the photo in the sitting room made it extremely hard for her to keep working there.
When asked about what kept her going, Jane said that prayer, singing – even along to music – and keeping busy are key. She still remembers her first 3 children, but because she did not stay for very long with them, she was able to heal after she got the next 4 children. However, after losing her 8th born, it has not been as easy to heal, especially because there are no children born to her after that.
However, she does not plan to have any more, because she is encouraged that God loves her when she sees her 4 living children. But should the Lord bring some more her way, she will be grateful.
Her children grieved their brother, but they were able to heal with time. Occasionally they will sing a song that they used to sing for him, and Jane will know that they are thinking about him.
She encourages other women who have gone through loss to pray, sing, look up to God for strength and encourage themselves in the Lord. She discourages putting away ill speaking friends, because they may not understand what someone is going through, but instead, to be in prayer as one interacts with them, renouncing in one’s heart any negative words that may be spoken. She says that she can tell when someone approaches and is about to say something bad, and she makes a prayer in her heart against it. Often, the person won’t say the bad things, or they won’t be as awful as they would have been.
She urges grieving mums to speak out and tell them if they say something inappropriate, so as to avoid hurting them again and others in the future. She discourages harboring a grudge because it could lead to gossip, which does not please God.
If you would like to share your experience too, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You might just encourage someone else even as you find healing.