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If only my daughter had legs…

Five times, Rehema Changawa had given birth to healthy babies. So, when she got pregnant for the sixth time she had no doubt that her baby would turn out fine. However, her daughter, Fatuma Changawa, was born without lower limbs

Sandra Wekesa @andayisandra

Three-month-old Fatuma Changawa lies on her bed waiting for her mother, Rehema Changawa, to attend to her. She flashes a bright smile. She plays with her three tiny fingers as she puts them in her mouth one by one. She is vibrant and jolly. The only thing that she lacks is a set of limbs as well as two fingers on both hands.

When Rehema was expectant, she was the happiest mum-to-be. Having delivered five children before, she believed that everything would turn out fine for her. In fact, she had nothing to worry about.

She couldn’t wait to meet her baby. And she went shopping for all forms of clothes; trousers, dresses, socks and even tiny shoes. Unknowingly, her baby wouldn’t need some of the items on her list.

This time, unlike her previous pregnancies, she made sure she was careful. She ate healthy. In as much as she didn’t have enough money to attend prenatal care, she would at least try and visit the clinic once in a while.

“I wouldn’t say I attended prenatal care regularly. I would use my traditional ways to check on my baby. I actually used to feel her, but wasn’t sure if she was doing well in there,” says Rehema.

Heartbreaking

Fatuma Changawa, was born without lower limbs.

Rehema says time flew so fast and before she knew it, she was close to the finish line.

On the scheduled day of delivery, she braced herself well enough to receive her baby, but, she didn’t go in labour on that day.

She actually took the sign positively because the doctors said it was normal. 

And on June 10, this year, she went into labour and delivered her baby normally. The wait had been long enough and it was time she met her baby. “I couldn’t wait to be with her, while pushing the baby out I was really nervous, the atmosphere in the room was abit tensed. At that time the main aim of the midwives was to make sure I delivered safely.

But after the baby was born, I could hear them whisper to each other. I wondered what exactly was going on, but I ignored them since my objective was to see my baby,” she recalls.

The moment she asked for her baby, the nurses began to engage her on how to raise an amputated baby. She had no idea what exactly was going on. She innocently listened hoping nothing bad had happened to her child. Her baby, she was told, weighed two kilogrammes and seven grammes. Not bad, she thought.

However, the moment her baby was placed on her arms, she couldn’t feel her legs. Her baby had congenital amputation— the absence of a limb or part of a limb at birth. Rehema says this was the most heartbreaking news she had received in a long time.

She wept. It wasn’t because of regret, but the pain of having a baby with congenital amputation. Many questions went through her mind. How was she going to raise her child? How will her child’s life be? What about the family and society’s expectations?

Rehema claims her husband of nine years deserted her during her hour of need, without offering any explanation. “It wasn’t my fault that Fatuma was born that way. But I hoped people understood how hard it was also for me,” she says.

With no steady income, and nobody to turn to, Rehema has to do casual jobs to fed for her family. She hopes that one day she would get prosthetic legs to enable her daughter to walk, ran and play when she grows old.

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