One week before
The 6 year old looked on, excitedly watching as her mother hung out the washing; onesies, nappies and blankets. Mum was preparing for the birth of Baby Brother who was to arrive any day now. The 6 year old pranced around asking questions, when would he arrive? How long would it take? Can she come to the hospital too? “No”. Mama said. “you’ll stay with your aunty and uncle while I’m at the hospital just for a few days and then you can come home and meet Baby Brother”.
Some time later
At Aunty’s house, a few days turned into weeks and then weeks turned into months. And while her 4 year old sister was content to play the days away, the 6 year old became restless. She noticed the hushed tones whenever her mother’s name was mentioned. The pitying glances thrown her way, and the unanswered questions. The many unanswered questions, especially when she asked about Baby Brother.
Many months after
Then one day uncle said it was time to go see mama. The 6 year old was beside herself with excitement. “I get to meet Baby Brother!” “Hush” auntie responded. “We are going to see mama but don’t say anything about Baby Brother”. Later watching her mum lying in bed weak and very ill, beside an empty crib the 6 year old whispered “where is Baby Brother?” to which after a long pause her mother replied with tears in her eyes “Baby Brother is in heaven”
That 6 year old was me. Many years ago my mother almost lost her life giving birth to Baby Brother, my younger brother. The medical personnel managed to save her life, barely, but my brother was stillborn. Recovery for mum took months, and seemed hopeless as she had been in a long coma. My six year old brain did not fully understand everything that was happening at that time. I just remember very vividly the air of sadness that lingered in our home for many months after. My dad’s deep sighs while staring into nothing. The revolving door of relatives that came in care for us. The incapacitation of my able mother; Mum had to learn to walk again after her recovery. It was that bad.
As I reflect over that time I think of the impact that incident had on me as little girl. What if mum had not made it? What would have happened to my sister and I? Our lives would have been dramatically different forever missing the anchor in our lives that was mum. It was bad, and it could have been a lot worse.
Mum made it as she had the care of good medical personnel. Some would say we were fortunate. I wish I could say the same for the many little boys and girls out there in Sierra Leone who have lost their mothers, their baby brothers and baby sisters. Losing your mum at any age is hard. When you’re a child it is devastating.
Thats why I do what I do, so that the devastation stops.