In my typical terrible fashion, I completely forgot to announce to our friends and followers on this site that Ayanna Marie Wasike is here. She’s actually been here for over a month (smh)… six weeks, to be exact. She was born at 11:30 pm on December 27, 2017 at 3.5 kg and 51 cm.
When I last shared about my experience with being pregnant in Kenya, Ray and I had a tentative plan for where our daughter would be born, who would help us bring her into the world, and a general idea of what would go down throughout the process. Pretty much none of that happened. Actually, none of it happened. Ayanna’s arrival was incredibly different than anything Ray or I could have anticipated.
A little backstory
Let’s start with the previous plan, for those of you that don’t remember or didn’t read the last post. We live in a small town called Kitale. The next biggest city, Eldoret, is about an hour and a half from where we live. Throughout the pregnancy we were driving to Eldoret on a monthly basis to see my OB, one who had come highly recommended by other missionaries and Kenyan friends.
The idea was that we would go to Eldoret about a week before Aya’s EDD and stay there until she decided to make an appearance. That plan was initially foiled when I asked my doctor at my 8 month checkup the likelihood that she would be the one to deliver my baby. She told me it wasn’t likely since she would be on vacation the month I was due. I wish I had known that sooner!
Rolling with the punches
At our 9 month visit we returned to Eldoret and met with another doctor, one I knew nothing about. It was at that appointment that we discovered that Ayanna was still breech — something we had known since I was 31 weeks — so we were instructed to make plans for a C-section. This particular doctor approached the situation by urging us to schedule for that same week (I was 38 weeks at the time). Completely rattled by the speed at which everything was moving, we asked for alternative options that didn’t require immediate surgery. She told us there were none, but we pushed to wait until I was at least 39 weeks and scheduled the cesarean for December 19th.
Now, two years ago, when I had to go back to the States to see doctors about some health problems, I met two OB/GYNs that have been lifesavers throughout this pregnancy. I believe they were divine connections. Dr. Amy Hogan was there for me when we first found out we were pregnant. I emailed her right away, and because she had previously tested me and discovered a hormonal imbalance, she knew exactly what supplements I needed. Thankfully, my OB in Eldoret took Dr. Hogan’s notes and wrote me the prescription that I needed. Dr. Molly Carroll, the one who had performed my laparoscopy and hysteroscopy, also gave me great advice regarding Aya’s delivery. When I reached out to her via email, she immediately responded and advised us to wait until I was at least full-term, among other things. So we cancelled the appointment.
More divine connections
Knowing we didn’t have much time left before Aya would be here, we started looking for other options. We were referred to a midwife here in Kitale whom we instantly liked. She examined me, explained the type of breech Aya was to us, and gave me a bunch of exercises to do to try and coax our baby girl to turn, though by that time there really wasn’t much we could do. If Aya had turned, we would have had the midwife deliver her, but Ayanna stayed where she was, so we had to find someone to perform the surgery.
Initially, we had no intention whatsoever of going to a hospital in Kitale. We hadn’t heard many pleasant things about hospitals here, and we didn’t want to risk any complications with Aya’s delivery. But on the recommendation of our midwife and a trusted friend, we met Dr. Kasembeli. Aya was due on Christmas but still hadn’t shown up, so the following day we decided to get a sonogram to see if she had turned at all. The place we normally frequented for ultrasounds was closed, so we decided to try Dr. Kasembeli’s hospital and see if they were open. By the miraculous grace of God Dr. Kasembeli was in his office only because some plans had fallen through (he was also supposed to be out of town on vacation). He did the ultrasound and sat down with us and discussed our options. We really liked him and immediately trusted him, so we scheduled surgery with him for the 28th.
Thinking we had a day to prepare before we met our little girl, we took it easy the next day. When I had gotten up that morning I noticed that Ayanna had finally lightened or dropped into my pelvis, but that can happen weeks before delivery, so I wasn’t alarmed and spent most of the day in bed watching movies and napping. Throughout the day I kept experiencing cramping, but I assumed it was Braxton Hicks. I was expecting the actual labor pains to hurt a lot more.
By late evening I noticed that the contractions were happening more frequently and my whole stomach would tighten with each one, so we decided to time them. To our surprise they were 3 minutes apart. Five minutes is when you’re supposed to report to the hospital with a normal pregnancy… so yeah. It was bad. Can you imagine how bad it would have been if we had still planned on going to Eldoret? I don’t even like to think about it.
We called the doctor and he told us to come in immediately. Within the hour I had been prepped and was on the operating table for an emergency C-section. As much as Ray and I had tried to psych ourselves up on the drive to the hospital and in the waiting room, I wasn’t ready. I knew generally what was supposed to happen during the surgery, but that still didn’t make me ready. I was mostly scared.
As the nurses tried to help me prep for surgery, they mostly spoke to me in Swahili. I can understand the language for the most part, but my mind was racing so much that I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around what they were saying. Once they realized I wasn’t Kenyan, some of them spoke to me in English, but others continued speaking in Swahili. With the whole delivery process being rushed already, it was hard not understanding what my part was in it all. Instead of me delivering this child on my own and letting my body call the shots, other people were telling me what to do, yet I had no idea what they were saying or how to help the process along.
Once the surgery had begun, I began to feel claustrophobic. Not being able to feel my legs or get off the table made me want to scream. I felt trapped and nauseous to the point of dry heaving, so I tried to focus on breathing. Though I had managed to keep myself from freaking out, something else was happening inside me. I was becoming detached from the whole situation. By the time the doctor pulled Ayanna out and lifted her to show me the cord that was wrapped around her neck so he could explain how dangerous the situation could have been had we not come in, I felt completely detached. I saw her and felt nothing. I just wanted the whole thing to be over, so I laid there and felt blank.
Disillusionment sets in
Ayanna was taken into a room next door where Ray was waiting. I could hear her crying and the nurses conversing with Ray, but everything was just a blur. They wheeled me out of the operating room into that room and showed me my daughter again, but I didn’t care. I was shaking uncontrollably and in and out of dozing off. Once I got into my private room I continued shaking for an hour or two. Every once in a while I would open my eyes to see Ray holding Ayanna. He looked so happy. She looked so content.
It took 12 hours before the feeling came back in my legs and I could at least sit up in bed and hold my daughter. Ray had taken care of our daughter that entire time. It helped that she slept a lot and didn’t need to eat for at least 24 hours. Still, once I had her in my arms I felt nothing. I searched her face and smelled her and tried to find at least an ounce of maternal connection to the child in my arms, but it just wasn’t coming. Throughout the rest of our stay in the hospital, I did everything I was supposed to do… breastfed her, held her when she cried, and so on, but I did not feel like a mother.
It wasn’t until the ride home from the hospital three days later that I looked down at my daughter and truly felt even an inkling of a connection to her. I saw her beauty in the sunlight as she slept in my arms, and the further we got from the hospital, where everyone had been telling me what to do and how to do it, I finally felt like this child was mine. It wasn’t this big moment or anything like that, but it was an organic start to a process that is still continuing to this day. I still find myself on a daily basis trying to wrap my head around the reality that Ayanna is my daughter.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that giving birth to a child doesn’t make you a mother. Even though I technically earned the term mother by growing a child in my uterus and bringing her into the world, that was the extent to which my relationship with my daughter went. To mother, in the verb sense of the word, is to bring up a child with care and affection. During that time nothing in me wanted to care for her; there was no affection in my heart towards her. Ray was more of a mother to her than I was, honestly. To be a mother is a choice. To love a child in spite of yourself is a choice. It’s a choice I have to make on a daily basis. Some days making that choice is harder than others.
Bringing baby home
As I mentioned in my last post, it is a cultural custom to have family members stay with you after a baby is born. They not only help around the house, but they also teach you how to care for your child. Ray and I came to a compromise that allowed us to be alone with the baby for a few days before his mom came for about half a week. She was amazing about allowing me to have my space and time with the baby so I could figure things out on my own. Having her in the house was a huge help, especially to Ray. It was very important to him to have his mother in our home during that time, so it made me happy to see him enjoying fatherhood with his mother around.
After she left we had one of Ray’s cousins come and stay a week. That was also very helpful. I’m typically the kind of person that doesn’t like to ask for help even if I really need it, so as much as I had once raged against this aspect of Kenyan culture, I’m really happy that we have a village of people to help us when we need it. If I would have allowed it, Ray’s whole family would have been at our home in a heartbeat!
Standing in the need of prayer
Since then it’s been a continual journey of learning how to love my daughter and my husband through my service to them while trying to figure out how to heal from the emotional trauma of the C-section. To some it may not seem like a very traumatic experience… I mean, the doctor did everything perfectly and our overall experience at the hospital was great, but as time goes on I’m realizing just how much the process affected me.
Just the other day we were on a domestic flight to Nairobi, and I had a panic attack. I’ve flown dozens of times, sometimes 15 hours at once, and that has never happened to me. Something residual from my surgery has been hanging onto me and causing fear. I felt the same way on the plane that I had felt when lying on the operating table. I can’t explain it, but I knew there was an obvious connection between to the two incidents.
That is definitely something I would love prayer for and something I plan to seek counseling for. We are praying for God to make a way for us to be able to travel to the States this summer so our friends and family stateside can meet Ayanna, and if I’m behaving this way on a 45 minute flight, I don’t know how I’m going to do 15 hours! If anyone knows of anyone that specializes in what I believe to be a form of PTSD post-surgery, I’d love referrals.
I thank God every day for the gift He has given us in Ayanna. I also thank Him for the husband He has given me who provides so much support for me. Motherhood is nothing like I expected, but I’m learning to embrace it all one day at a time.