The experience of losing a child can cause enough grief to last a lifetime.
But many women experience even further emotional distress after having a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
Relationships can become strained, the risk of domestic violence increases, and women can feel ostracized by their communities.
Misinformation regarding pregnancy and infant loss is only one of the many reasons the international community commemorates Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week from October 9-15.
According to Wanjiru Kihusa, “there are a lot of myths surrounding child loss, especially surrounding witchcraft or surrounding God. People think there must be something wrong with you if you’re losing babies all the time.”
Ms Kihusa is the founder of Still a Mum, an NGO dedicated to spreading awareness about the causes of pregnancy and infant loss, and to supporting those affected by it.
Based in Nairobi, the group offers one on one and group counselling sessions to help parents process their grief, and to support them in restarting their lives.
The group sessions – which are offered over WhatsApp as well – provide parents with a space to talk about how to obtain support from friends and family, how to approach employment after their loss, and ways in which they can reclaim happiness.
“We are very careful not to promise perfection. We are not fixing anyone. All we want to do is get them back into life in different ways,” Ms Kihusa told Nation.co.ke
In addition to the support groups, Still a Mum conducts awareness-raising campaigns that Ms Kihusa hopes can help prevent certain cases of early miscarriages.
“There are so many factors that can be prevented,” she added, noting that many women tend to seek out information from social media instead of going to the hospital when they have a concern about their pregnancy.
“I feel the numbers can be reduced by good information.”
Of course, many cases are impossible to prevent. For those cases, the support offered by groups like Still a Mum is monumental.
“The Women are usually very excited to find out they’re not alone. They realise the numbers are really high and the issue is bigger than them.”
She noted that after her organisation was interviewed on NTV’s Victoria’s Lounge last Thursday, they were picking up phone calls into midnight.
“We are barely scratching the surface; the numbers are so high.”
On Saturday, Still a Mum led a group of women to Ngong Forestry Sanctuary in to plant trees in honour of their lost infants.
Ms Kihusa said that planting the trees was a unique way of honouring how many of the participants had not ever had a proper burial for their lost children, or for those who find it too difficult to visit burial sites.
TREE SIGNIFIES LIFE
“A tree signifies life, and that is something that you can go visit,” she said.
Beyond the counselling sessions and the tree planting initiative, Still a Mum intends to widen its impact even further. Ms Kihusa says that she is currently working to create hospital partnerships, so that women who are faced with infant loss know that there are resources they can access. The hospitals would receive brochures and posters about Still a Mum’s programs. Ms Kihusa also plans to lobby the Kenyan government to introduce legal amendments that would allow for women who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss to take maternity leave.
Still a Mum’s tree planting ceremony was not the only way in which Kenyans commemorated pregnancy and infant loss last week. On Sunday, families gathered at the YMCA in Nairobi for “Lights of Love”, a candle-lighting ceremony co-hosted by the Empower Mama Foundation, Doula Wambui, Lovage Events and Cozy Gardens.
The event featured Member of Parliament Mwaura was a guest speaker. Earlier this year, Mr Mwaura and his wife lost two of their newborn triplets; they have been open with the media about their grief and how they have coped with the loss.
Do you have feedback on this story? E-mail: [email protected]