IHF – Melody

“My life has been woven with tragedies and grief. In my early 20s, I had a pre-term baby and she died after seven days. My husband and I were devastated because that was my 4th pregnancy and first baby. It was a very difficult time. One thing I was always sure about since I was a child was that I wanted to be a mum. I was crying for days. I felt so hopeless that I said to my husband that he should go and look for another wife because I didn’t want to ruin his life too. He looked at me and said: I don’t want any children that are not yours. If we are not going to have kids, that’s fine, but I won’t leave you. We had been dating since I was 19 and got married when I was 25. My husband was an IT person. One of the first cohorts of students to study computer science in Zimbabwe. We were a great couple, but also best friends. In Zimbabwe, not being able to have children was very controversial and his family already began to talk. Right after my first miscarriage, they began questioning if I was capable of being a mother and all the blame was on me. After losing my daughter, they actually sent me back to my parents because they didn’t want to deal with my grief. They never really liked me anyway, because I was coming from a different part of the country and, in Zimbabwe, tribalism still holds a big significance in the culture.”

“I remember so clearly laying on the bed, holding hands with my husband and both of us crying. I said to him that I can’t keep trying. I am completely drained, physically and emotionally. I can’t lose another baby because I will lose myself too. He said that’s fine, but we can’t stay here. We needed to leave… I remember him saying: I wish we could go somewhere far-far away… Then the next day he posted something weird on the internet, something like: Is anyone looking for a student to do a PhD in whatever area he was studying at that time; he already had a master’s in computer science. The next day, he had 20 responses. One of them was from Dublin. This was in June 1999 and by October, we were here. He got a full scholarship. I was 25 and so ready for change. When we arrived here, I thought this was going to be an adventure. We were going to live in Europe, study and have a beautiful life together. I didn’t have to think about this baby thing anymore and I actually convinced myself that I was never going to be a mum. But then, only three weeks later, I discovered that I was pregnant. I cried. I cried for days. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy either. I was bleeding all the time. My membrane raptured at 18 weeks… They sent me home from the hospital with permanent bed rest. I could only move to go to the toilet. We lived in this awfully dark apartment, because that was all we could find at the time. Nobody wanted to give black students a place to live. Remember, we arrived here in 1999. It was a very different Ireland back then. I was always surrounded by friends and family back in Zimbabwe, so this was the first time that I felt truly alone. I only had my husband and he was busy with his studies. I didn’t have any money to buy books and I couldn’t go anywhere. I began falling into a dark depression. It was very tough. My husband would come home tired and cook for us, but I had no appetite so I would live on cornflakes and bananas. That was all I could eat.“

“While I was in the hospital, I met a wonderful doctor. I actually observed him while he was doing his rounds. When he got to me, I asked him to wait for my husband and if we could go to his office. I told him that I couldn’t afford to lose this baby, so he had to do whatever he could to save her. He said: We have about a 33% chance of this baby surviving, but I will help to make sure this happens. You have to stay in bed and only move when you need to go to the bathroom. You come in once a week, we do a scan and we assess. And that’s what I did from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. Every time I went to this scan, he was there. He would come personally to look at my results. On the day of the 26th week, I started to bleed and I had my baby. She was born weighing 700 grams. I didn’t even want to name her. I was so scared of losing her. But then, she lived. She stayed in the hospital for four months. My husband finally named her. Siobhan is 22 now. She is in college and she is doing really well… After she came home, our lives could start again. We tried to get back into a rhythm or create a new rhythm, but we couldn’t. We just couldn’t connect anymore. Something was lost – of course, we were traumatised. At some point, I was even contemplating divorce. There was no support and we were too broken to lean on each other. Siobhan was so sensitive to our relationship. She would jump every time we argued. I was like, we can’t do this! We have to find a way to fix this or this was all for nothing. He said, yeah, we have to stop fighting, so we did. Well, we stopped fighting, but then didn’t even talk to each other for months. Looking back now, I can see that he was also going through depression, while doing a PhD, cleaning tables at a restaurant, with a new-born baby and a wife with postpartum depression. I can’t blame him. We were two broken souls, barely hanging on. We tried to be what we used to be. Trying to get back to something we weren’t anymore. He was so angry all the time. He wouldn’t talk to me, but I could sense his frustrated energy around me. I completely gave up on us and decided to focus on myself and do whatever I could do to become better myself.”

“I started to read again. I got a job in DCU library. I went back to the gym and I also made some friends. I gave him more space with Siobhan, and life slowly became a little easier. I realised that I stopped reacting to him negatively and I stopped expecting things from him. He was a scientist and he could sense the change. He started testing me. I knew what he was doing so I took it up as a challenge of not reacting. All of a sudden, he started to come to me. He would tell me things and we would end up chatting all evening. Then, slowly, we became a couple again. Life still wasn’t easy, but we managed to make it work. We developed this mentality that every day we choose to be together. It became this awesome relationship that I couldn’t even imagine was possible. We had six more wonderful years together, but then, he got cancer and died within a few months. It’s been over 14 years now. Such a long time ago, but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. When I tell my story, many times people say: oh, you are so strong… Well, I really wasn’t. After my husband died, I really couldn’t function for a long time and I was contemplating suicide daily. I remember Siobhan was eight when she told me that if I continue this way, I would die too and she would be alone. When she said that, something snapped in my head. She’s been through so much to be here. She is a gift and I need to be the mother she deserves. I decided to pick myself up once again. Went to therapy and I read self-help books like a mad woman. I did a lot to get myself here. I wanted to prove that sometimes life sucks and you get kicked when you are down but you can still get back up. I think I did. She says I did! It’s great to have her feedback. After my husband died, I participated in IHF’s Compassionate Culture Network, and when I told them my story, they felt that it was necessary to talk to you. So here I am, and this is my story… One thing I can tell you is that whatever you are going through, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

This post was highlighted by @IrishHospiceFoundation . Find out more in the comments section.

Melody participated in IHF’s Compassionate Culture Network. This network across Ireland comprised 7 artist facilitators and support people working in 7 venues, inviting local communities to explore loss and how creativity can help us talk openly about loss.  hospicefoundation.ie/ccntallaght