Pregnancy, Motherhood & Accepting the Limits of Sickle Cell
Last updated: July 2022
Pregnancy for me was an exciting time. It did not start with the usual morning sickness and discomfort that most people complain about. In fact, I did not even know I was pregnant until my 13th week.
I was partying, working jobs, and just living my life when a major crisis hit me after a terrible breakup. The doctors began to run out of options, so they opted for a full-body scan.
The result was shocking to me. 13 weeks pregnant? Like now? I’m pregnant now? The shock was because I tried for 2 years to have a child, and nothing happened. Just when I started putting my life back together, exactly 1 month after the relationship ended, here is the baby I was so desperately looking for.
Sharing the joyful news
I needed to start adjusting to make room for my little bundle of joy. Even though I was thrilled with joy, my concerns would steal my joy from time to time. I later mastered the courage to tell my parents and the man involved. My dad wasn’t so happy, but he understood why. My ex decided he didn’t want to be a part of our life, and we didn’t push it.
The next thing that started bothering me was my condition as an SCD patient.
Would I be ok? What is the next thing to do? Baby shopping? Where can I find a sickle cell specialist in Ghana? I called all the doctors I knew to hear and compare solutions to see which one is best. And, of course, I couldn’t resist the baby fever.
Joys and worries
Amazingly, my pregnancy journey was very smooth in the beginning: no morning sicknesses or funny habits. I ate really well, and I was enjoying being pregnant.
Even though I did my best to live in the moment and not worry, I couldn’t help it. I tried focusing on other things like the baby, maternity shoot, and beyond just to take my mind off my negative vibes. The moment my baby bump showed at 7 months, I decided to have my maternity shoot.
For some reason, my instincts kept telling me to be quick with my plans. I could feel that something was about to happen, and no matter what I did, the feeling would not go away.
I was right.
Exactly 2 weeks after my photoshoot, I started having complications. My lower abdomen was so weighed, I started feeling pains. What started as a minor hitch turned into a crisis. Before I knew it, I went into a coma.
I spent 9 days in a coma, and just when I was slipping out, the crises came back. Out of fear that both my baby and I may lose our lives, an emergency C-section was ordered.
My little princess
My little Princess was taken out premature and had to be at NICU for a few days. She lay there so tiny and tired already. Tears filled my eyes without effort. Amazingly, she got into shape quickly, and we went home.
By the time I was ready to go home, the bill was huge and heavy.
Managing my sickle cell
Even though I was better and discharged, the pain was not entirely gone. I tried breastfeeding while taking my medications. I would skip strong pains medications even though I needed them. Eventually, My doctor advised that I stop breastfeeding so I can take my medications. The drugs were too strong and not safe for my baby, so we had to turn to baby food. This, by the way, is very expensive.
I love being a mother. In fact, it's one of the things that keeps me going. Unfortunately, sickle cell will not give me the space to give my best as a mother.
Eventually, my parents and I decided that she should stay with them in the north so I can get back to my life in Accra, especially because she's not breastfeeding.
The societal implications
People called me names, saying I'm a bad mother for sending my daughter far away. Others made their own conclusions, and a few people still don’t talk to me. The reason I am not bothered is, as a mother, there is also the need to be strong enough to make the hard decisions not caring about people’s opinions. I know that is the best option for my child, and I’ve made peace with that.
Adjusting and accepting my disability
As I write this, her second birthday is in two days. I’m down with a crisis and can barely walk. As a mother with SCD, I always have to adjust to things like this and learn to be ok with the fact that I can’t give a 100% to my child because of my disability.
Until I came to accept the fact that I’m not a regular mother, the thought that I couldn’t be there all the time for my child haunted me day and night. Now that I’ve accepted it, I still want to try against all odds.
Motherhood is a handful on its own. How much more being a mother with an invisible illness like SCD? As unbelievable as it may sound, it is totally possible, and I am a living testimony to that. No need to sugarcoat things - it won’t be easy. But if I can do it, so can you.
Let go of the guilt that you can't be at 100% because of the challenges of SCD. You are not at 100%, so there is no way you can give what you don't have. Give what you can, and applaud yourself for it. No matter how insignificant you think it is.
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