Love at first sight

“Welcome to the world baby Ethan!!! Baby and mom are healthy, the dad is still recovering…”61FxcIDphQL._SY500_

We often get such texts when our friends have just been blessed with a young one, but rarely do we think about what that statement actually means. More often than not, we assume that every mother goes through labour and delivery successfully, all children are born healthy and every father… well, let’s save this conversation for another time.

My son Ethan has just been born and since it was Cesarean section, I am waiting for the nurses to bring him down from the theatre to the nursery. For some reason, this time it has taken longer than usual. Unable to contain my anxiety any longer, I decide to ask if the baby has been brought to the nursery so that I get to bond with him.

There is a lot of consultation going on among the nurses which makes me more anxious. They get back to me after a couple of minutes and ask me the name of the mother. As soon as I  tell them, the look on the face of one of the nurses changes and she politely tells me, “Kama ni yule amezaliwa a few minutes ago huko theatre, ebu muangalie HDU”   (if it’s the one who has just been delivered in theatre a few minutes ago kindly go check in the High Dependancy Unit (HDU)). incubator.jpg

I don’t remember anything else the nurse says from that point. My legs become weak, my heart begins to beat fast, I am losing my breath and the word HDU keeps ringing loudly in my head. All I can mumble as a prayer is, “Please God let it not be Ethan.”

I gather courage to get me to the HDU and as soon as I walk in, I find the nurses and doctors attending to a little baby, putting oxygen pipes and other gadgets on him and one of them trying to draw blood from the baby’s little veins. These are things you only see on medical TV shows.

I can see the tag on the baby’s hand but I am afraid to look at it but deep down I know that is my son. Many thoughts are running through my mind but I am still in denial. Could they have swapped my baby by mistake?  At this point one nurse walks up to me and asks if I am the father to a boy delivered by Anne Wanjiku Waichigo. I am tempted to say yes but not the boy I have just seen being attended to.

Seeing my confusion, the nurse calls the pediatrician and they start explaining what was going on. I can hear what they are saying but my mind cannot process it. I manage to quiet my thoughts down and ask the doctor to explain to me slowly what was going on.

“Your son was born healthy. But as we were moving him to the nursery we realized that he had some breathing complications. Normally when this happens we put him on a life support system as we run different tests to find out where the problem is. Unfortunately, I can’t say how long this will take but we are hoping that your son is a fighter.”

I cannot take any more information. I think our mind’s first instinct is to think of the worst.  I immediately inquire about my wife and how she is doing and they reassure me that she is recovering well.

Helpless, I stand there looking at my little one fighting for his life in an incubator with all sorts of tubes and cables running in and out of him. I do not know what to say, but I hope the tears in my eyes are enough prayer to God.20140809_112231

This day hasn’t turned out as I had anticipated. Congratulatory messages are already streaming in with friends and family asking us which hospital and ward we were in so that they can come visit. I do not want to make people panic, so I tell everyone that my wife is very tired and getting some much needed rest so visiting us on that day was not such a good idea.

Meanwhile my wife Anne is still in recovery and my greatest issue at this point is how I am going to break the news to her without making her panic. Either way I knew she would not take the news very well so I decide not to tell her yet.IMG-20140810-WA0025

HDU is not the best place to be in because all around me are little babies in machines fighting for their lives. All you hear is the beeping noise from the machines. One nurse walks up to me and reassures me that all will be well, a timely reassurance, I must say. This is all I want to hear. She asks me to take a walk and try rest my mind off it because my wife needed me to be strong for her when she woke up.

I do not manage to walk for long before I find myself thinking about Ethan and how helpless I had left him. Someone once told me that there is a love that God gives us for children that cannot be explained. How could I love a being this deeply yet I had never laid eyes on him before?

After sometime I go back to the ward to check up on Anne. She is awake though still drowsy. “Where is Ethan? Please go and bring him I hold him.” She mumbles. I reassure her that all is well and that she needs to rest and once she wakes up he’ll be ready for her. My delay tactics do not work, she feels that something is not right. I finally decide to tell her the truth.

Anne immediately breaks down. I am at a loss for words. In addition to the pain in her body, I had inflicted emotional pain. When she manages to calm down, Anne insists that wants to see Ethan. I call a nurse and ask her if she could take her to see Ethan and she reluctantly agrees. She walks out of the ward and after a few minutes comes back with a wheelchair to take Anne to the HDU to see Ethan.

Anne never gets past the HDU door before she breaks down. The nurses quickly dash to reassure her that Ethan had shown remarkable progress.  I can attest to it because I can actually see some slight improvement on how he is breathing. We stay in the HDU for about 48 hours but by the grace of God, Ethan pulls through and is out of danger.

In hindsight, that period in the HDU made me realize how much we take for granted having healthy children which we assume is a normal thing. I realized how easy it was for a bundle of joy to quickly become a source of pain and heartache. I met parents of pre-term babies who had been in the HDU for months but they showed up every day to spend time with their little ones. One father shared his story with me and It broke my heart.

He and his wife had gone for a routine checkup but when they got to the hospital, his wife collapsed and had to be resuscitated and rushed to theatre so that the doctors could try  to save both the mother and baby. The doctors actually managed to save both the mother and child but sadly they were both taken to HDU because the baby was pre-term and the wife had to be put on life support. For over a month he had been coming to hospital daily to attend to his wife who couldn’t even talk and then visit his preterm baby. Adding to the emotional and psychological pain he was going through, his bill at that moment was in the millions but he still counted his blessings of having both his wife and baby alive.

After a few days, Ethan and the mum made full recovery and we were discharged. I am grateful for life and good health. I am more sensitive and considerate of this gift called children; they come from God. I have purposed to pray and support people who have children or family members in HDU and ICU in any way I can because I know how that feels.temp_regrann_1488630216953

Apart from sending ‘get well soon’ text messages, may we also be moved to help the families of loved ones who continue to accrue huge bills in the HDU or ICU. Find time and visit with them, pray with them. Even better if we can be a blessing in this way for a stranger. When you walk into any maternity hospital, there will always be someone in need, due to the huge bills that grow by the day, and especially for the little ones or loved one in HDU/ICU. Your contribution, however small will assuredly go a long way into easing off this debt. No one may ever thank you for it or even sing songs in your honor, but the peace and satisfaction that comes with knowing that you helped someone in need, is inexplicable, to say the least. So go on, be that angel.







Miracle Baby

Beautiful love stories start very simply. Like helping a stranger who later becomes a lover. Our story is very similar.  I bumped into an old high school friend at a bank a few years back.  After a brief chat we planned to hookup for coffee later that evening.67802_10150101201906535_4240559_n.jpg

The rest as they say is history. The lady I met at the bank that day is Anne Kamau, my wife. We have been married for the last 6 years and we continue to live out our love story.

Like any relationship, it has not been easy. I remember when we were getting to know each other, she confided in me that she may never be able to have children because of a condition she had, called PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).  At that point, I didn’t even consider what she had just told me because having children or not was not a big deal to me and at that point I hadn’t thought she was going to be my wife. Perhaps it was love that was clouding my judgement, because after all, they say love makes you do and say very foolish things.

After dating for two years, we got married in June 2014.

We both did not want to get children immediately so we settled on getting to know each other first and enjoying each other’s company before kids came. (Well at least that was our plan). While I was enjoying this new status, my wife had something that was apparently bothering her.  She was still not sure whether she would be able to conceive. Once in a while she would hint that we should start trying for a child but I would be adamant because we had agreed on how long we will wait. (For those who know me well know that i can be very stubborn if i want to) Slowly Anne began to get depressed and the roughest season in our marriage began.

When I realized that the situation was getting out of hand and my wife really needed to find out if she could conceive for her own peace of mind (read mine), I gave in and we started trying for a baby. In that season I realized why people say “mtoto ni zawadi kutoka kwa Mungu.” (Children are a gift from God). We always assume that it’s the contraceptive that allows you or keeps you from not being able to conceive but alas, I came to realize that conception is one of those things only God, the Giver of life, can do.

Days passed, weeks, months, years yet nothing. All this time my wife was on constant medical attention, moving from one drug to another and yet none of the interventions were working. I too began to get frustrated. I felt helpless – a feeling that is unpopular among men. Nothing I did seemed good enough and this began causing a rift between us because my wife didn’t feel I was according her enough support. I did not know what else to do, considering I always accompanied her to her doctor’s appointments, listened to her when she needed to vent and gave her a shoulder to cry on.IMAG0106

Our house became a warehouse for pregnancy test kits. Anne even felt kits sold locally were substandard and sent a friend in the UK to buy her dozens! The problem with the PCOS condition is that the hormones lie to the body that it is pregnant, hence at times when my wife would do the home test, the kit would show that she is pregnant only for her hopes to be shattered when she goes to the gynae and she is told there was nothing. This happened a number of times. (felt like a million to me considering the kits that were in our house)

At one point, I began wondering if perhaps I was the one who had a problem (not a very common thought among our species).  You know we always laugh about the phrase “shooting blanks” but at that point this had stopped being a laughing matter. I started researching about it and looking around to find out if there was any man in my circles who had ever gone for a fertility procedure and what it entailed.

Soon the awesome newlywed sex turned into a chore and I started feeling like an “insufficient” sperm donor. The doctors advise did not help me much as he recommended that we have sex on a schedule. Trust me even though this may have meant more sex it wasn’t as good as it sounds. Woe unto me if I came home late or dared to say I was tired! That would be cause for us to fight for the rest of the month and yes still perform my “rightful duty” nonetheless. She even started doing weird things like keeping her legs up for like 30 minutes after a session to assist the “boys” swim deeper. (There are things we men will never understand 🙂 )

At times things got so bad that we had to get counsel from our best couple, sometimes even as late as 1am. Anne eventually stopped going to church or any social gathering because she didn’t want people asking her why we were ‘keeping them’ and not getting babies. Anytime someone jokingly commented “Mumetuweka sana, mnangojea nini?” (Why are you keeping us waiting), I knew that was the end of that day and the week ahead would be hell.

This went on for months. More tears, more pregnancy tests, more doctors’ visits until the doctor finally made the call. I remember his statement word for word..”I have done everything possible as a doctor to help you guys conceive and now we need to look at other alternatives” He gave us two options; we try IVF (In Vitro Fertilization- an assisted reproductive technology of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish) or we do surgery both of which were still not 100% guarantee.

This was the last nail on the coffin and all our hopes of ever getting children started dimming. We started considering adoption as we researched on the pros and cons of the surgery which we hoped would have better chances for us. We later agreed to try out the procedure and I also decided to go for a fertility test before my wife went for surgery just to be sure that I was not the one with the problem.

To be honest, at this point Anne and I had given up on ever having children of our own and all we could do is pray and wait. I remember coming home from work in December only to find 3 pregnancy kits on our bed all indicating positive – I would know! I had become somewhat an expert pregnancy kit reader. I asked whose pregnancy kits they were as if they could have been someone else’s.

We refrained from getting too excited as we had gone through episodes of false pregnancies a couple (read millions) of times before, so we chose to wait for the holiday season to end and confirm results with the gynae.

We were pregnant! The doctor was possibly more excited about the good news than we were. What a journey!  “People often lightly say that the final report is not the doctors, but God’s.” For us these words will remain very dear for ages to come.

Children are a gift from God!

I learnt a few things that I would like to share with you especially if you are in the same place Anne and I were a few years ago:

  1. Doctors often do everything they can to help, but some situations are beyond human ability. Put your trust in God.
  2. I know we do it on a light note but asking people “Kwanini mmetuweka?” can be very insensitive because you never know what the couple is going through.
  3. Men, let us be bold enough to get checked during such times. We may be heaping all the blame on our wives and perhaps we are the cause of the problem.
  4. During such times we men may never fully understand what our wives are going through but we can offer the best support. Be there, listen and care for her even when you think she is just being petty and unrealistic.


Labour Day

A year and a half ago i did what most women wish their husband will do for them and what most men would rather not do. I went in with my wife as she labored and gave birth. Yap!! I did it. Sema siku mrefu. Wah!! Sema kuchanganikiwa!! Enyewe mwanaume ni kujikaza kimaisha.

It’s 8pm and after the 9 month journey with all its ups and downs have come to this. No more cravings, mood swings and the pains and checkups will soon be over! My wife is scheduled for induction because her blood pressure has been acting up so her doctor feels it is better not to wait until full term. I am nervous and don’t know what to expect because of all the stories I have heard about what induction does to a lady during labour. So after some tests, she changes into one of those not so pretty hospital dresses (Do they have to be this ugly?) The doctor then initiates the induction around 10pm. I wish her well and head home. Little did I know that this was going to be one of the longest nights of my life. I have never been this anxious! At some point I even wished I remained in hospital with my wife even though the doctor had guaranteed that “active labour” would begin in the morning.

By 7am the following morning I was back to the hospital to see if the baby had come already  (Movies have made us believe that labour takes 30 minutes and the baby is out) I get to hospital and my wife is doing well and labour pains are progressing well. She hands me a note book and pen and my role for the day is defined; recording how long the labour pains are and how far apart the contractions are coming, while still rubbing her lower back. Whoever said men can’t multitask!IMG-20140810-WA0040One hour turned into two, three, four and on and on. I don’t think I had been adequately prepared for this because as hours passed, I started feeling so drained and overwhelmed emotionally. Men are wired to always be in charge and offer solutions but at the labour ward all you can do is watch your loved one in pain and hope that rubbing her back will suffice. These moments however allowed me to appreciate my wife and all women just by seeing what they go through to bring new life to this world. I gave myself courage and soldiered on. It was particularly very uncomfortable for me to see how the doctor checks for dialation. Wah!! After what i had seen the first time, I walked out of the labour ward for the rest of the checkups and believe you me, they were a couple. Am still wondering if there is another way they can do that.IMG-20140810-WA0037Five hours later, it’s 7pm and my wife has only dilated 4cm!  (For those that don’t understand why this is a big deal, for a baby to be born, a woman’s pelvic bones need to open up at least 10cm and that is what they call dilation) which meant that even after 12hours of labour, we still had a long way to go. I was emotionally drained, tired and hungry and just wished all this would come to an end. I was in unfamiliar territory and all I wanted was a break. God answered my prayer and at some point, our friend and midwife, Lucy Muchiri came to our rescue. At least this gave me a break to go get something to eat and breathe some fresh air. There was nothing that was as difficult as seeing my wife suffering and knowing there is nothing I could do to stop the suffering. Even my presence there did not feel enough.IMG-20140810-WA0027After what seemed to be years of labour and emotional turmoil for me, the doctor finally advised that it was time for us to consider Caesarian section which would mean that now my wife would be taken to the theatre. The doctor’s thoughts were that since we had tried all we could to deliver the baby normally and it was not working, it seemed that something was not right and we didn’t have time to find out what it was.  His thoughts were that since at that point my wife and the baby’s heart beats were strong and consistent, if we waited longer, one of the two could get tired and hence lead to even more complications.  I was confused and my mind had too many questions running through it. I wondered why the doctors had not anticipated the complications and why we had to wait 12 hours for them to come to this resolve. I felt wasted and depressed but I knew that everyone including the doctor had my wife’s interests at heart.  IMG-20140810-WA0025My wife got prepared for theater and after 45 minutes under the knife, our daughter Eliana Wairimu Kamau weighing 2.4Kgs was born. I wept. I didn’t care what the world thought, I just let it all out. This moment, is a moment I will forever treasure. Seeing Eliana for the first time and seeing her mum finally at rest meant the world to me. Even though Eliana looked like an alien from outer space at first, I had seen many birth videos to know that’s just how they all come out “wrapped”.  IMG-20140810-WA0031.jpg 2

In retrospect, I picked out a few lessons for both myself and fellow men who find themselves in this situation (trust me, its sooner than you think);

  1. Men are wired to be or at least want to be in charge of any situation they go through. I submit to you men that this is one situation you cannot do anything about. You will just be a spectator for most of the time. You will eventually feel very incapacitated.
  2. The labour experience is different for everyone. Be prepared for anything. It could take one hour or 12 hours.
  3. It may not seem like much but being there, rubbing her back and holding her hand is more than enough.
  4. If you don’t feel like you are psychologically prepared to go into the delivery room, please don’t go. You can thank me later. (I know many women will disagree with me on this point but I feel like this may end up having negative effects on a man who does not want to be in the room for whatever reason. Don’t force him.)
  5. Read as much as you can about pregnancy, labour and child birth. This will prepare you psychologically for what you will experience that day. Remember the experience is different for everyone.
  6. Depending on which hospital you go to, carry something that will help your mind to relax. It can be a game on your tablet or phone or a game of cards that you can play between contractions. (If both of you will be in the mood).
  7. Pray! Pray! Pray! During pregnancy, during labour and during delivery. Pray when you hold that baby in your hands and pray for your wife. It’s the only thing you will want to do anyway so do it.
  8. Never swear you will not go back there again. A lot can happen in the next nine months

    Children are a gift from God and the process of conception all the way to delivery is nothing short of a miracle. Let us all appreciate life. Soon I will indulge more on the life after delivery.