Sunday, 31 July 2016

Moving on

I recently spoke to a friend of mine who I had not seen in ages! She was wondering why I had not written in a while. I guess I was still thinking about what to write but also… life got so busy. I promised her that I would try to write once a month…
As I begin a new decade, I am grateful to God for bringing me this far! For taking me through the past 40 years…through the hills and valleys. About two years ago in November 2013, a Colleague of mine visited me and shared his mum’s advice for one going through adverse circumstances. He said whatever circumstance comes your way, just say to yourself, ‘It could have been worse’. This according to his Mum would make you feel better and get you out of that pitiful state. At the time I heard this, I seriously wondered what could have been worse than losing my Ann-ma! I was so focused on my circumstances that I could not even think about anything else. I now know better… I do not know whether it is the presence of social media…but the rate at which women die during child birth is so alarming!! So could the situation have been worse? Depends on how you look at it however I am indeed grateful to God that I am alive and well.
Last year in October while at my cousin’s vigil, I met a lady who has been friends with my parents from my childhood days. She had a daughter who was not only my age-mate but also shared my name. I asked after her and she told me…, ‘Oh Susan died sometime back.’ She went on to tell me how she had lost five other children…all adults! As if that was not enough, she went blind!! Hearing her 6-month experience as a blind woman completely dependent on others made me so sad. As she recounted her story….I realised how much worse my situation could have been. How could one person go through all that?! Right there and then….I made a decision to move on. Thankfully, God restored her sight in one of her eyes. While she needs help finding her way at night, at least she can take herself around during the day. Her gratitude to God for restoring her eyesight even though not wholly made me realise how much I took things for granted!
Indeed, however bad a situation is, it may not be the worst after all. Getting to that point of realisation takes time and cannot be rushed….it all happens in God’s time. I am grateful to my husband, my children, our families and friends who have been by my side and have provided immense support to help me get to my new normal! I am optimistic about this new decade! I know there are better days ahead of me! Indeed, God makes things beautiful in His time.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Going back to the basics!

During my first pregnancy, I took alot of time reading about pregnancy and what to expect. I joined an online group at babycentre where I learnt alot from the ladies. Having done all that, I had this bring it on attitude...I felt I had gathered enough information for the days ahead. Things started going off my script when I had a cesearen section delivery instead of my natural option. I felt very dissapointed considering I had walked miles in the name of exercising. It was soon time to go home, we excitedly went home with our new bundle in hand. We decided to give our Sunshine her first bath at home! I laid out everything. My dear husband held the baby while I set about washing her hair. The minute the first drop of water hit her scalp....she wailed so hard. We got scared, I quickly dried her hair, wiped the remaining soap out of it and dressed her up. That was not the only challenge...breastfeeding was a nightmare despite watching many people doing it with alot of ease. Earlier, I had told my Mum how I was not going back home...I quickly swallowed my words and went home for a month. I learnt that no amount of reading could have prepared me for the realities on the ground!

These memories came flooding back when I attended the recent Makerere University School of Public Health maternal and newborn conference at which one of the presenters urged Government through the Ministry of Education to consider revising the education curriculum to include components that prepare people for parenthood. Indeed I have watched overseas programs where mothers and a few fathers-to-be go for practical sessions in preparation for that time. They learn all those basics that are required to take care of both baby and Mum. I think that this is the way to go but whichever way it goes, it should not only be limited to the formal sector; some informal training methods need to be brought on board. Many of the speakers argued that health begins at home and well equipped parents were very vital in the fight against maternal and newborn mortality. It was interesting to note that some of the basics that we do such was maintaining high hygiene standards around the baby e.g. handwashing, breastfeeding, keeping the baby warm among many others contribute to a 25% reduction in death at birth. So many facts were given to us including the fact that the World Health Organisation does not recommend bathing babies during the first 24 hours of birth. These and many more are some of the things that will be shared with our parents to preparation for the baby's arrival.

Do you think this is a welcome move? Should there be a deliberate effort to prepare people for parenthood or should we rely on our innate abilities? At what level of education should this be introduced? How best can it be implemented? Have your say? Post your opinion and comment on our facebook page

Monday, 10 November 2014

New beginnings!

I love new beginnings with all my heart!! New beginnings mean I can start all over, I can make new plans, set new targets, have renewed energy...basically everything new. At the beginning of this year however...I did not enjoy my 'new beginning'. I had a lot of pain in my heart. My dear husband took the children and I out of home to celebrate the new year but I just did not come round to welcoming this year. To was a beginning without a part of me. Being away from home did not do much for pain was with me tagging along to all my destinations! When the clock hit midnight, I was not excited at all...the fire works and the fan fare were just a blurr. I remember insisting that we pray as a family because even in my pain; I still trusted that God knew best even when it did not make sense to me. I usually call my parents and each of my siblings to wish them a happy new year but this time round...I just could not bring myself to performing my new year ritual. I locked myself up in the bathroom and cried my eyes out!! I only managed a message to my parents! Despite not having the happy 'new beginning' at the start of the year...God has handed me a new beginning towards the end of this year! No....I am not expecting :):)!! God has given me a new beginning in a new work environment. Although it was difficult saying goodbye to a place I have gone to each day of my working life for the last ten years, I am happy and grateful for this new opportunity. I have renewed energy....I am setting new goals for both my work and personal life. I am taking time to evaluate the past ten years and looking out for the things that I could add to make this new beginning very exciting. I want to see a different 'Me' five years down the road...not only in terms of work but also in terms of my person. In the past, I have probably whizzed through life never really looking out for other opportunities but I want to do more of the things that appeal to my heart....I am not getting any younger...ha ha ha! I am so excited and embracing this change with everything in me! My prayer is that God will be with me on this new path, he will watch over me and give me wisdom beyond what I can ever ask or even imagine! One of the things I continue to tag along with, is my new found interest in new borne health. I know its going to grow and I will be sharing all the information I get with all the parents out there! Just watch the space!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

We can create the change we want to see!

About three months ago, I encouraged everyone who read my blog post to share the information therein with all the expectant Mums in their circles. I wanted as many mums as possible to get access to this information because I believe that it will contribute to the reduction of new-borne mortality rates. Shortly after 'publishing' that post, I was presented with an opportunity to practice what I was preaching. I am usually very slow at initiating any sort of conversation with a takes a while for me to open up. This time, I felt that I would be letting myself down if I did not talk to this person! After a few minutes of debating...I introduced myself and after 'breaking the ice' I shared the information and my experience with the lady. She was grateful that I had taken time to talk to her. You should have seen my smile!! I was so excited...that was only the beginning. I have since talked to so many people. When a new mum tells me about her baby crying all night because of colic...I encourage her to seek medical attention. While it is true that newborns cry because of colic sometimes it could be something else which could be fatal if unattended.I recently encountered a mum whose joy of having a new baby was prematurely cut short! Her baby was barely a month old! The baby cried all night, developed a slight temperature in the morning and died thereafter. In her case, not even a postmortem was done to ascertain the cause of the baby's death. Such cases and many more that we never get to hear about really make me think that we need a serious change in our attitudes.

In Uganda today, there are a number of organizations working towards the reduction of new borne and maternal mortality rates.I am sure they have done a lot and probably deserve credit for the change that they have contributed to. There is however still a long way to go and I think that creating a forum that gives mothers at all levels information is one strategy that can be employed. Mothers at all levels includes those in rural and urban areas, the elite and those with minimal education. Giving them information may not be enough, they need to know that it is okay to ask a medical practitioner questions.They need to be empowered and encouraged to speak out.I strongly believe that if mothers were told what to expect at each antenatal visit and what they should expect after giving birth, they will be able to question when these things are not delivered. Our society is one where we sweep things under the carpet and create excuses for those who do not play their part. We need to move towards a society that demands for their rights! We need to engage our legislators and speak about the change that we want to see. I am convinced that something can be done to make our health system better. We should stop thinking that nothing can be done!!! The quality of our services can improve and each one of us has a part to play.Whilst having a national health insurance facility is good, a number of things need to be fixed before we can go that way. We need functional health facilities to which we can run should the need arise.

We are working on developing a forum for expectant mothers one on which they can get information, share their experiences and also be able to rate our medical facilities. We believe that this will contribute to some change! Are you an expectant mum, do you have any experience you would like to share? What information would you like to have? Please drop me an e-mail at I am eagerly waiting to hear from you!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Sharing my lessons

It is nearly six months since our dear Annma left us and all I can say is that God has been good to us. I did not think that I would get where I am today but here I am. We see many happy days compared to the sad ones. My dear husband has been and still is a great support. Mark...bless him still has questions. One consistent question is...'How did God take our baby? Did He come down from the sky?' I'm still searching for an appropriate answer to that question. I have also noticed that whenever he sees other children who have a younger sibling, he tells them that we also had a baby but God took her. My prayer every opportunity prays that God gives us twins who will stay with us forever. They are both looking forward to another baby who Mark fondly calls...Tendo.
Following my last article, over lunch, I met a young lady who is also walking down this dreaded road for a second time, hers being consecutive losses. Her pain was so fresh that I initially thought we would not be able to eat our food. I admired her strength which she draws from her faith in God. Listening to her story gave me a whole new perspective. We shared so much and I felt encouraged to follow my heart…my dreams. God has a personalised plan for each one of us and we should not try to suppress what we long for just because someone else does not have it. I went back to my office feeling much happier. It was a great pleasure meeting you Dee; you are always in my thoughts. Esther, thank you for making this meeting possible…it left a great mark on my heart.
Being a member of a group of Mums, I was disturbed by the rate at which both mothers and new borne babies died last year. What greatly saddened me was that this was happening to both those who had access to some of the best facilities, or at least i thought they were, in the country and, those who did not. Many of these deaths could have been avoided! After understanding the cause of Annma's death, certain things, or rather, tell-tale signs, which we should have picked up on but didn’t, suddenly made sense. For example, on the day of her birth, Annma was very fair skinned...I remember my brother Geoffrey visiting us in hospital and commenting..."Where do you people get light skinned children from, when you are both dark?" ha ha ha! However, within a few days of getting home, Annma became dark. I expressed concern to my sister Annet about the sudden change in colour. She told me not to think much about it, saying that baby Siima, my younger sister’s daughter experienced the same change in skin colour but later regained her original complexion. Weeks after she left us, we talked about the colour change experience with my brother-in-law, Herbert...he said that was definitely a sign that her body was not getting enough oxygen, a typical indicator of a heart condition. Knowing this at the time would have caused us to immediately seek medical attention. Then there was the constant crying at night which we attributed to colic and the crying whenever I put her on my shoulder to burp.
My experience with my baby re-energises me to advocate for change in our health systems. I have worked with the Ugandan health systems for the past ten years. My journey over the years has been one of wishing that things could be a little bit different. In my dreams, I always think of the changes I'd make if I got into an influential position...ha ha ha…. say if I became the Minister of Health or Finance. Since I cannot live in my dreams and to be honest I do not even think I want to hold any of those portfolios ...I will use what I have to contribute to even the slightest amount of change.
Like many Organisations, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has got very good policies and guidelines. If you read them without going to see the reality on the ground you'd wonder why people would even complain about our Health systems. Shortly after our Annma left us, I asked my colleagues who are Medical Doctors whether there are protocols that should be followed on the arrival of a new baby. They said protocols exist but are not implemented as per the MoH guidance. I was made to understand that there are a number of medical examinations which should be carried out and that in an ideal situation, a Paediatrician should receive the baby. I wished I had known that!! Wondering why? I would have demanded those examinations for my baby. It’s definitely too late for me...but not for the expectant mums out there. In an ideal health system, the tests offered are described in the article at this link While some of them are not available in our setting; most of them are.
Knowing what you are entitled to is always the first step towards getting it. Take the initiative to find out what examinations your baby should get and discuss with your Gynaecologist the possibility of getting them at your selected health facility. Once they know that you are aware of your 'rights', they will ensure that you get them. If the facility at which you deliver does not provide medical examinations for your new borne, seek them from another facility. I believe that we have gotten to that place where we need to be proactive as patients; there is no room for passivity!
Once equipped with the information, besides using it for your benefit, you should share it with as many expectant mums as possible. During those antenatal visits, the queues are usually long...seize the opportunity and talk to as many mums as possible. Don't stop with those at the clinics, talk to all expectant mums you meet every single day. If we encourage everyone to pass on the message before we know it, there will be a great reform in most of our Health facilities driven by demand for better standards of care from patients/clients.
This strategy will however work for Mothers in urban areas but not those in rural areas who do not even have the opportunity to see a Gynaecologist or a trained Health worker from whom they can even demand for the services in question. Even if the trained Health Worker was available, the facilities are not well equipped. To help these mothers who are a large proportion of our population we need to lobby Government.
If you read this and have the listening ear of influential people including parliamentarians, policy makers in the ministries of health and Finance, please take this issue up with them. If you are a donor out there, this issue presents a great opportunity for you to contribute to the reduction of our maternal and new borne mortality rate!
Everyone, you inclusive, can contribute to the change that we want to see for mothers and babies in our Country and our communities!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

From a Mum's heart

The past four months have been an emotional roller coaster for me. I can't help thinking about what my precious Anne-Ma would be like at this point in time. I remember on one of the weekends following her birth,my sister Becky visited with her baby Siima who was four months at the time. On seeing Siima who was really cute and chubby, I quickly thought about the day when my Anne-Ma would hit the four months mark...i.e. 1st January 2014. Oh I just couldn't wait to see her that big!! Unfortunately we did not get to that date...all my dreams, hopes and plans for her were suddenly no more and I think this is what really makes the pain unbearable.
While pregnant, I bought a pretty book in which I always wrote to my unborn Baby who I fondly called Twinkle. I have not brought myself to reading through the whole book but I did read through the last message I wrote to her which read as follows;
My dearest Twinkle, I finally got to meet you. You are a beautiful girl. I fell in love with you instantly. I always felt you were a girl and I was right. Today we were discharged from the hospital. As I write, we are already at home and you are sleeping in your baby cot which was used by both Crystal and Marky. So far so good because you allow me to rest. I'm still in pain. Breast feeding seems like a whole new experience but together we are getting there slowly. As a family we are so happy to have you! I am a proud mother of three beautiful children and my angel Asiimwe. I look forward to many happy years together. I am so thankful to God Almighty for taking us through the past nine months, for taking us through surgery, for the loving family and good health workers and for all those who have been there for us during this time. I love you my dear Anne-Margaret. You are going to be a great woman of God. You will be the head and not the tail. God bless you always.Mummy.
Crystal enjoyed reading Twinkle's journal until she also joined me in writing to her sister. Her last message un-edited read as follows;
Dear Twinkle, you are a very nice girl and you are beautiful. You look very nice and you look smart. Twinkle you are very nice. I am happy to see you and I am happy that you are a girl. I want to play with you and I still love you very very much and you are the best sister I have ever seen. But sometimes when I carry you, you cry. Twinkle you are a nice and kind girl. You are a sweet little baby and I am sure you will be a nice girl and that you will be a very good girl. We all love you and you are a nice girl. I love to carry you. From your sister, Crystal
From Crystal's message you can tell how excited she was to have a sister. Those who were at home with her when the news of the baby came in told us how excited she was. I just can't even imagine what goes on in her young mind.Walking down this road has been very difficult especially because there are children involved. Sometimes I get angry at them but again its just that I do not understand their coping mechanisms. A few days after the funeral, Crystal came and sat near me with a pen and paper and announced how she was drawing a coffin. I immediately refused her to draw it and asked her to draw happier things. Each time, she asked me about Anne-Ma, lost in my own grief...I just got angry. Marky too asked me very difficult questions..."Mummy where is Twinkle?", "Why did God take our baby?" "Can I fly into the sky and get her?" "How come Aunt Beckina's baby is still here?" "Mummy why were you crying the other time when there were so many people at our home?". He does not ask these questions at once and neither do they seem to end. Out of the blue, a question pops up. If its a bad just gets worse. Crystal slowly learnt what I needed. She began writing to me encouraging messages and asking me to smile even when I couldn't bring myself to smile. Following all this however, Crystal went into a 'terrified mode.' She got a series of stomach bugs and thought she was going to die. They feared their room because I guess they remembered their little sister being there most of the time. The children shifted into our room and refused to sleep in their beds.
Watching my Crystal terrified made me realise that I had not done much in helping them through their grief. I started specifically praying to God asking Him to heal them as I believe He is the best Counsellor. Slowly, they have started sleeping in their beds again and Crystal is no longer terrified. One thing though is that she really wants a baby and is always asking to visit homes where there is a baby. She spends a lot of time writing to Aviela and Abigail, her little cousins. This however does not only apply to Crystal, it applies to me as well. I know that my precious girl will never be replaced in my life but my heart yearns for another baby and so does my dear Husband. The joy that a new borne comes along with is one of the greatest feelings I have had all my life.

Throughout this time, I have read God's word and I am hanging onto His promises although sometimes I am left with tonnes of questions but deep down in my heart, I believe that God knows best. I have come a long way...I am definitely much better than I was yesterday. I am back to work and there are some really bad days when I encounter people I worked with last year who innocently ask about the baby who is not here anymore. I can't lie and I also feel sorry for them when I see how bad they feel having asked the question. I am not where I want to be yet but I am trusting that God will get me there and he will restore what I have lost.

Even as I grieve, I think about all the ladies out there who do not have children, those who lost all their children and those who have been through more difficult situations than us. I look at what I have and thank God for blessing me. He alone will carry us through this valley and continue strengthening us as we make an effort to live with our loss.

To all our family and friends, we thank you so much....we wouldn't have made it this far without you. Words alone cannot describe how grateful we are to each one of you for being there for us. May God bless you abundantly.

To all the pregnant ladies out there, please ensure that you do at least one 3D scan whether prescribed or not by your Doctor. Make sure you ask as many questions as you want and get your baby checked out at birth. Don't be afraid to seek more than one have a right to understand whatever you want to. Its your primary duty to take care of your health and that of your baby. May God grant you all a healthy pregnancy, a safe delivery and a healthy baby.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Gone too will always be in our hearts.

The first of October 2013 was a very happy day for my family!!! God blessed us with a beautiful baby girl who we called Anne-Margaret Barbara Agasha. Family and friends celebrated with us. Crystal and Marky were excited at the new addition to the family. We were soon discharged from hospital and went home to add onto our family memories.

I stayed home with Ann-Ma while Daddy, Crystal & Mark went to work and school respectively each day. They always looked forward to coming home to see the baby. Crystal loved carrying her, something I initially was not thrilled about however, I eventually allowed her to carry her and I must say that was always the highlight of her day. Our sleep schedule changed but we accepted it knowing that this was our last baby and therefore it was important to enjoy each moment rather than complain about it. Daddy would walk Ann-Ma around between 4:00am and 5:00am each day before preparing to go to work.

Our dreams for a bigger family were however shattered on the 17th of November 2013 when we suddenly lost Ann-Ma. Our beautiful girl breathed her last in my hands as we struggled to take her to hospital after she developed seizures shortly after waking up . Reaching the hospital, she was confirmed dead!! We were very devastated particularly because there was no phyiscal sign of illness. The only time we thought she was unwell was the night of Thursday 14th November 2013 when she developed seizures and we were able to get to the clinic where she was examined and we were assured that she was well.

We resolved to do a post mortem to understand the cause of her death. Preliminary results from the post mortem indicated that she had a big hole in her heart, one of her valves was not well developed and the artery responsible for pumping blood to her body was constricted! We felt let down by our health system particularly because we were told that this was a treatable condition.

This condition could have been detected during pregnancy but also at the time of her birth, at her six weeks' immunisation check or on Thursday when we took her in to see the doctor but it was never detected!!! We believe that God took her for a reason and we choose to look to him for strength as we go through this very trying time.

We will use our experience to encourage all pregnant women out there to be more vigilant and demand for services that will ensure that both mother and child are healthy or at least get the required medical attention before they are released from hospital.