By Wanjiru Kihusa
We are in October. October! Just the other day we were saying “Happy New Year”, followed by a myriad of complaints about how hot January was and how broke we were. It feels like I lay my head down to sleep and 5 minutes later the alarm starts blaring. *Sigh*. If I go on and on about how fast the year has moved and how I feel like I have not done as much as I wanted to, I will spend the entire post whining. And we don’t want that. So, yes it’s October again.
When I think of October, I think cancer awareness. I think breast cancer exams and pap smears. I remember the doctor who had cold hands when I had my last breast exam. When I think of October, I see pink ribbons. It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when October meant nothing. It passed without so much as a how-do-you-do. We moved from September into November without much fuss. Then something changed, and things have never been the same. I can’t remember exactly when we began associating October with breast cancer awareness. Yet now it is in our system. I have already seen hospitals offering subsidized rates for cancer checkups.
I don’t know exactly who started this awareness about cancer and how an entire month was allocated to it. The one thing I do know is how they felt. Someone they loved was sick. It could have been a mother, father, daughter or son. The doctors told them it was cancer, breast cancer. Soon after, a neighbor was diagnosed with lung cancer. And that was the tipping point. Desperate for information and finding none, this person started to make others aware of this thing that had turned their lives upside now. And now we even have a World Cancer Day, because someone turned a personal story into a global message.
In November 2013, I had my first miscarriage. In March 2014 I had a second one. In a way to deal with my grief, I wrote a post on my blog. And so began my interesting journey. I met women; beautiful, smart women. Broken and desperate because they had lost a baby. They needed someone to tell, someone who would understand. Someone just like them. And that is how Still A Mum was born. Still A Mum is an organization that seeks to empower and celebrate women who have gone through miscarriages and neontal loss, reminding them that they are still a mother despite the loss they are facing. We believe that:
1. Children are a gift from God, they are not an entitlement. So, whether God gives you 7 weeks or 50 years with your child, you are still a mother, and
2. It does not matter the method you use to get a baby (provided its legal), you are still a mum. We therefore demystify adoption as a solution to families going through loss.
What does this have to do with October? Well, it turns out a couple of charities run baby loss awareness week from October 9th-15th. October 15th is actually Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. We will be commemorating this incredible day in Nairobi, Kenya for the first time ever. 2015 is indeed a great year. We hope to have this day commemorated all over Africa soon. This is not a day to be sad, no. This is a day of hope and encouragement. A day that reminds us not to take the pregnancy journey for granted, and instead value life. This day is not just for women and families who are trying to have a baby. It is a day for everyone. To learn to take charge of our reproductive health and go get checked. Many forms of reproductive diseases and illness can be cured if detected early. This is the day to learn to support women amongst us who have lost a baby. To stop nudging married couples; asking them why they don’t have a child.
And because we know that we may not reach everyone in Africa this year we ask you that wherever you are, whichever country you are in, take note of this day. Do something different – go get checked, visit a family that has loss a child, offer support.