Below, is one strong lady’s account of still birth and how she coped through her loss. Fatim Dossa has allowed us to publish her story, which was originally published in The Muslims Mums Magazine Issue 10. Trigger Warning: Stillbirth & Baby Loss
One of the first things a couple plans when they get married is how many children they want to have. My husband and I were no different. We talked of having at least 4 as we both come from big families and wanted the same for our children. After my 2 sons (both pregnancies concluded without any incidents), I had a miscarriage. With the grace of Allah, within three months I was expecting again. Because of the miscarriage, I made a conscious effort to take extra care of the baby and myself during the gestation period. The 12 week and 20 week scans revealed that the pregnancy was progressing well.
Engrossed with the challenges of caring for 2 young boys (and not to mention their father!), before I knew it 9 months had passed and I realised I was experiencing contractions. Since I had had long labour periods in the past, I decided to stay at home as long as possible. It was later that night when the contractions became severe that we made our way to the hospital.
In the past, both my deliveries had progressed without any complications, which meant I was home with the new baby not more than a day after delivery. We went to the hospital with this expectation. However, it was not to be the case. The labour ward was buzzing with activity that night. It seemed that everyone had decided to have their baby then. I was not concerned as it was the half term and so there was no school run in the morning to be anxious about. We were taken to a delivery suite and I was hooked up to the foetal monitor for a while. Everything seemed OK. The midwife told us that as this was my 3rd “normal” pregnancy, I didn’t need her there all the time and to call her when I could feel the baby coming. It was not long before my husband went to find the midwife. We assumed it would be minutes before the baby was born. The midwife then informed us that the baby was in a breech position and called for the registrar. This was the first time the term “breech” had been mentioned to us and we were taken aback. Subsequently, she went on to inform us that the hospital policy was to deliver breech babies by caesarean section. This scenario was something my husband and I were totally unprepared for. As I was rushed into theatre, I thought “nothing else can go wrong now”.
This scenario was something my husband and I were totally unprepared for. As I was rushed into theatre, I thought “nothing else can go wrong now”.
It was when I couldn’t hear the baby’s cries that I realised something was amiss. My husband wouldn’t look at me when I asked him why the baby wasn’t crying. I think he was afraid to tell me. It didn’t even occur to me to ask whether it was a boy or a girl. My husband then told me it was a girl but she wasn’t breathing. I was later informed that the doctors spent half an hour trying to revive Khadija but she was stillborn. I kept on telling myself that this was just a nightmare and that I “would wake up soon”.
We were taken to the recovery room while thedoctors tried to find an explanation for the stillbirth. They suggested a post mortem but we opposed this; nothing would ever bring her back, even finding out how she died. This is something we still don’t know the answer to and will probably never know. While the nurses came to monitor me after the surgery, my husband was left with the dreadful task of informing our relatives. Both our parents were devastated as were the rest of the family. To say that this had come as a shock was an understatement.
I kept on telling myself that this was just a nightmare and that I “would wake up soon”
My husband and I had come to hospital to take a newborn baby home, not to make arrangements for a burial. My husband contacted the relevant people in the ghusl/kafan committee and the burial committee was informed. We needed to get a still-birth certificate issued, before the burial could go ahead. I recall looking at her and thinking that this time yesterday, she was still inside me and we were getting excited about the birth. How things change in a few hours. Due to various reasons, we were unable to have her buried the same day. For me, this meant I could keep her with me for longer. I didn’t want to let her go.
My request for Khadija to remain in my room for the night was granted. I was able to hold and kiss her. She was so beautiful and looked like she was just sleeping. I remember looking at her and silently willing her to open her eyes. She looked so peaceful. This was the only time I spent with her and I cherish every minute she was with me. The hours flew by and as dawn broke, so too came the time for her to be taken to her final resting place. Letting her go was one of the toughest things I have ever had to face.
My older son Ahmed came to the hospital with my husband. We realised we had to somehow explain to him what had occurred. He was nearly 5 years old and knew that I had come to hospital to “get the baby”. We told him that his baby sister had died and was now in Jannah. Although it was difficult at the time, we are glad that he did get the opportunity to see Khadija. Later on, we explained this to our younger son. We regularly visit her grave as a reminder to all of us that although she was with us for such a short time, she will always be a daughter and a sister.
Due to the c-section, I was unable to leave the hospital and attend her burial. My aunt came to keep me company while the rest of the family were at the cemetery. She was amazing. I was incoherent and upset about Khadija and the c-section. She gave me the strength to go on and get better, reminding me that this was a test from Allah. I told myself I had to pull myself together for the sake of my 2 other children who needed me. I was grateful to Him for blessing me with children. There are many women who do not get the chance to experience motherhood at all. I will always be thankful that Allah gave me the chance to carry her for the nine months, and to be her mother. Nonetheless, going home “empty handed” was not easy.
My in- laws were extremely supportive, in particular my mother-in-law. She handled the running of the house, whilst my husband took care of the boys. I was given time and space to grieve in my own way. I literally cut myself off from the outside world, not speaking to anyone apart from my immediate family. My mother –in-law told those who wished to come and visit that I was not ready for company. I didn’t answer the phone or attend any functions at the mosque, choosing instead to spend this time with my husband and my sons. It was a difficult time for all of us, having to come to terms with there being no baby to take care of.
A couple of months later, we decided to try again for another baby. I had mixed feelings when I got pregnant once more. I felt we prayed to Allah to do what He thought was best for us. It was the longest nine months of my life, in contrast to my previous pregnancy. I was monitored throughout and was induced for the birth. Alhamdulillah, a year later, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Hearing him cry was a relief for both of us. It didn’t matter to us that it was a boy, the fact that the baby was healthy was far more important. We will never forget our little girl, but having Hassan has filled the void we felt after Khadija. Hassan’s birth allowed us to move on in many respects.
Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a baby. Everyone grieves in their own way, including my husband and I. My initial feelings were “why me” and “what did I do” for this to have happened to me. I also felt a sense of guilt – had I done, or failed to do, something which caused this? Should I have realised something was wrong earlier on? A plethora of such thoughts went through my mind.
The doctors notified us that according to the medical records, she had died 36 hours before. I recall going over my actions during these 36 hours, minute by minute to try and pinpoint a time when I stopped feeling her movements. I blamed myself for a long time, even though I knew that life and death are in Allah’s hands. I have come to realise that if she was meant to have survived then she would have. There is nothing I could have done to change the outcome. It has taken both of us a long time to accept her death and come to terms with what transpired. The grieving process in the immediate aftermath greatly assisted in allowing each of us to mourn for her in our own way. They say time heals, but the pain of a loss of a child is still very intense a time.
When I hear of another couple losing their baby, it brings back painful memories. Allah, however, gives the strength to continue. Allah says in the Holy Quran in Surah Ash-Shura, Verse 49, “To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills (and plans). He bestows (children) male or female according to His Will (and Plan)”.