The Eighth Child Lived

Hadija has been a woman of many sorrows. When she first got married, she gave birth, but she lost the baby. Because of it, her husband chased her away from their home. That was just the beginning.

She married again to a man named Mwambu who seemed to have undying love for her. She conceived, and the couple was so excited. When Hadija went into labour, Mwambu’s mother took her to the traditional birth attendant over the mountains where all the women in the village gave birth. Unlike the rest, Hadija did not come back a happy woman. Her child was dead.

In Uganda, many families consider it a disgrace to lose a child. Hadija’s mother-in-law despised her. But Hadija’s sorrows weren’t over yet.

She conceived a third time, and she delivered a dead child. The birth attendant told the mother-in-law that Hadija was too lazy to push the babies and she was killing them. The mother-in-law and the rest of the family insulted and hated her. They told Mwambu to leave her, but he wouldn’t listen.

Hadija conceived again, and this time it was twins. She knew that no one really cared about her, so she determined to give birth alone. However, when she went into labour, someone called the birth attendant whom she dreaded. Hadija gave birth to twins. She held them in her arms. It was beautiful.

Her mother-in-law hesitated to visit her, and when she did, she arrived like a prophet of doom.

“When she came, she cursed my babies. She clapped her hands in rhythm and screamed over my head, ‘How can this woman give birth to twins?’ My babies were breastfeeding, but the moment she spoke, they stopped breastfeeding. She then told my husband and I not to buy milk for them because it was against the culture for such young babies to drink cow’s milk. I was helpless and had nothing to feed my twins, so I fed them water every day. Shortly after, one of them died and the other followed,” Hadija said with streams of tears falling from her eyes.

Hadija conceived for a fifth time, and yet again the baby was born dead.

In Uganda, many families consider it a disgrace to lose a child.

The sixth time Hadija conceived a child, the Bufumbo Child Survival Program was searching for helpless mothers to register in the program. She and Mwambu were living in a leaky house with hardly any food to eat. They lived in a Muslim community, but hadn’t received comfort from either family or community. So the Child Survival Program registered Hadija because of her great need.

She went for health screening and also received proper antenatal care. The program took care of all the expenses. The staff was kind to her and visited her often.

But Hadija was still haunted by her past. The program staff didn’t know her history, and she did not tell it. Those days, she seldom saw her mother-in-law. One fateful evening, Hadija met her in the market and passed her without saying a word. Later that evening, she started bleeding. Immediately she feared that she was losing her child and blamed it on her mother-in-law. She called her aunt and the Child Survival Program staff for help. Hadija was rushed to the health centre on a motorcycle on a rugged road as no car was available. By the time they got to the health centre, she was unconscious.

Hadija lost the baby, and her seventh child was buried while she was still unconscious. The medical attendant explained to them that Hadija lost the child because she had a small pelvis and was not able to deliver normally.

The family did not believe the medical attendant. They abandoned Hadija. Even her husband left.

The Child Survival Program staff looked after her until she regained consciousness. After hearing what had happened, Hadija plotted to leave her marital home for good. That evening, she escaped from the health centre and went to her father’s home. Her husband later followed and pleaded with her to go home, but she refused. He threatened to take poison, so out of fear, she went back.

“When I went back, my in-laws beat up my husband. They asked him why he had brought me back. They said I was cursed and barren. It was so painful to hear them say those things, so I ran back to my father’s home never to go back,” sobbed Hadija.

At this time, Hadija was still recovering from losing her child. The Child Survival Program staff took her to a gynaecologist in town for proper treatment. And she finally told them her full story of how she had lost seven babies. They counselled her and resolved to meet with the clan members so they would let her go back to her husband.

At the clan meeting, Hadija’s mother-in-law vowed to kill herself if Hadija returned. But eventually the clan heads resolved that Mwambu should decide whether he wanted his wife despite all that had happened. Mwambu chose to stay with Hadija. Immediately, his mother cursed and chased them from her home. So Mwambu built a small mud house and roofed it with dry banana fibres. They struggled but had more peace.

And once again, Hadija conceived a child for the eighth time.

Hadija continued to go to a gynaecologist in town who checked her periodically to make sure everything was okay. At 8 months, she went into labour, and the program staff rushed her to the hospital where she had a c-section and gave birth to a little baby boy.

Even though she was Muslim, because of the love she had received from them, Hadija asked the program staff to name her child. They named him Moses.

Moses survived death. Hadija had never held any of her children for more than one week, but now Moses is a healthy 4-month-old. The Child Survival Program staff is determined to make sure Moses survives. They have taught Hadija how to look after him and support her whenever she needs help. She has learnt about the importance of breastfeeding and has received food supplements for the baby.

Today Hadija is so happy, she cannot contain it. Every time she looks at her baby she bursts out in joy. She has now committed her life to Christ and is trusting God to keep her baby alive. Mwambu says it is not yet time for him, but that one day he will also give his life to Christ. Hadija and Mwambu hope to have four children.

Through the help of the Child Survival Program, this woman of so many sorrows now knows the joy of a mother and the love of Christ.

By Caroline Atuhwere, Compassion Uganda

Written by: Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld is the Managing Editor of Compassion International's blog.