My pregnancy was three months, two weeks and four days old when a doctor told me the words I feared most: “Here is the heart, but there is no heartbeat.” I heard machine sounds and the doctor pressing buttons. My baby was no longer living.
Earlier that morning, my fiancé and I had gone to the hospital for a consult for the lower abdominal pain and bleeding I experienced in the first trimester of my pregnancy. I now knew this was my womb trying to expel the dead fetus.
I had started my antenatal care early and followed all the treatments. The hospital ran all the necessary lab tests a month ago. My fiancé and I wondered, what could have caused our baby’s death?
The doctor said it could be from malaria that I had previously or maybe an infection. My thoughts went immediately to stressful moments in the first trimester of my pregnancy. Like many pregnant women in my country, I experienced a lot of stress. Earlier on, when I saw my work plan for the year, I had questioned whether a baby was a job I wanted to take on. My partner and I decided to keep our baby, but it wasn’t easy for me. It was stressful trying to keep up with a demanding schedule—and I believe this is the same for many other women out there.
Family stress and financial stress are also common. For instance, the 20,000 Francs I spent on my first antenatal appointment is more than many women in Cameroon are able to spend.
There could be so many reasons why the baby didn’t survive. Many pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and usually there is nothing that could have been done to prevent it. What I know for sure is that the pain of this experience can only be managed with the support of family and friends.
The doctor gave me two options. I could wait for days or weeks for the womb to expel the dead fetus. Or the doctor could induce labor and perform a dilation and curatage (D&C).
The next day, my fiancé stood by my side the whole time as the doctor induced labor. The procedure was as painful as the labor pains I experienced while having my daughter two years ago. But this was a different kind of pain because I wasn’t going to go home with a little angel in my arms. I wouldn’t have a smallie to grow and laugh with me and to cater to and care for.
My fiancé’s support as he held my hands during the induced labor is the kind of support every husband, brother, sister, and friend should offer to an expectant mother during pregnancy. What if our whole society supported women throughout their pregnancies?
What if the antenatal visits were free? What if nurses and midwives asked questions about the situation at home? What if they invited family members for counseling sessions and health education programs on how to care for expectant mothers? There is supposed to be a Community Nurse who follows up the care situation of patients in their communities and neighborhoods. But in practice, this follow up often doesn’t happen.
It’s time to prioritize the health needs of expectant women. All women deserve support and care during their pregnancies.
Emily Miki is a contributor from Cameroon. This piece was originally published on World Pulse. Sign up to get international stories of women leading social change delivered to your inbox every month here.