There is a Balm in Gilead

Jeremiah laments a lot for the daughters of Judah. He is the one who speaks of Rachel weeping for her children. This prophecy was fulfilled when Herod went on his murderous spree to remove all trace of the Messiah. His lament is almost 600 years earlier, but the words hang over Judea like a wet blanket. Mothers wailing for their sons, no home left untouched.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

I had always thought this balm was a figure of speech but it is a real thing. There is actually a balm, similar to our shea butter, ghee, Avocado oil, tea tree oil. It has amazing healing properties for the body. You get the drift. Though I shall stick with my figure of speech, thank you very much.

Every mum has that quick fix or go to balm for aches, pains and colds. For most mums, it was Vicks. That is until Dragon balm came. My mum used it as the cure of all things! Ha ha! You have a cold? Dragon balm. You have a headache? Dragon Balm. You are just out of sorts. Dragon Balm. It had such a strong scent, you went around smelling like a peppermint tree. And guess what? It worked.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people?

Jeremiah 8:22 NKJV

Is there no balm in Gilead? Will I never have relief from this cold? Will this headache never end? Will I never wake up without pain all over? Is there no balm in Gilead?

Dr. Luke does not record her name, clearly client confidentiality did not start recently. This woman has been bleeding for twelve years. She had gone through all of Judea looking for the balm in Gilead. With every visit to the doctors, her hopes were raised and with every visit her hopes were dashed. Because even though she had spent all the money as required and done all she needed to do, the bleeding did not stop. She did not have a regular cycle. She did not have children. She only had those bloody menstrual clothes to look at each day. Those bloody menstrual cloths to smell each day. Those bloody menstrual clothes to wash each day. Those bloody menstrual cloths to ask her every day, is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no balm in Gilead? Your situation remains unchanged, despite doing all you can. Your health deteriorates, there is no relief from pain. You feel drained and tired, there is no comfort.

Jesus is on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter. She has heard about Him, the Great Teacher. Some say He is the Messiah. The Messiah whom Herod did not kill. If He is indeed the Messiah, she thinks, I shall be healed. There is no more thought about protocols and cleansing laws. The opportunity is now.

She crawls into the crowd.

And touches the Hem of Jesus’ garment. Immediately, the blood stops flowing. Is this true? She can feel it, but she has to get away to check and confirm. Then Jesus stops and asks that question, ‘Who touched Me?’

The woman with the issue of blood. Photo credit: Pinterest

Oohhh, the dread. I am fine now, can we all just get along with our lives? You know it’s me, Jesus. I know it’s you, let’s just move on. Jesus stops and is almost dismissive of Peter’s questions.

She stands up and walks to Him. There must have been a hush falling on the crowd as they recognized her. Jesus speaks to her. The unclean one. The one who had spent most of her life in isolation. He exhorts her to be of good cheer! Stand up, Rise up, your faith has made you well.

It’s over. She can go home and have dinner with her family. She can smile again. She can laugh again. There is a balm in Gilead. His name is Jesus, He heals and makes you whole. He is the Balm that keeps on healing. Laughter is good medicine. The Balm of Gilead not only soothes, He brings recovery.

Be of good cheer and come to Jesus. He will heal your sin-sick soul. He will heal your ailing body. He will make you laugh.

A celebration of my midwife: Sorry, I didn’t get your name

My gynaecologist, Dr Biryabarema had given instructions that I should check in on 7th November, whether or not I was in labour. Both my sons, as described by my brother, seemed to enjoy 1st class facilities in my womb and they never arrived on their due dates. This was the case that morning.

We arrived to a very quiet Ward 5&6, at Mulago Hospital. This was rare but there we were. I plonked myself on the bench and waited for the doctor. She came sweeping in a few minutes later, she never walks, she kind of glides through that hospital. She saw me, paused, greeted us mid-glide and off she went to begin admissions.

The ward was full so I was taken directly into the labour room as we waited for a bed or room. My things would have to remain in the car, I had my little (light enough to fit in aircraft hand luggage) emergency bag, so I had all I needed until the baby arrived. Triage. Bed next to window. No more eating. Only black tea. You know the drill. Aye, aye, Captain.

The midwife, burst in and started to check on the patients. I could not see her but I could hear her frenzied movements. One of the ladies was having a difficult labour, she needed to be prepped for theatre. The one next to me was progressing well. Nothing was happening on my side, so I was to be induced, no use being in the labour ward doing nothing. This is not a resort. With such swift efficiency, she had identified the vein (usually takes about 20 minutes for any vein to show up on my arm) and connected it to the line. Off she went.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When she returned, a few minutes later with a colleague from another ward. She gave her instructions on what to do while she prepped herself for theatre. Apparently, the other nurses and midwives had not shown up for duty and she was on duty alone. I was not a risk, she was to keep checking on how the contractions were progressing. She was to monitor the lady next to me keenly to ensure that nothing went wrong. Right? Right? Scrubs on. She moved to surgery with the lady opposite me.

My faithful labour ward companion showed up and the stories started. Laughter and jokes. Catching up on the news. She remembered she had an Auntie who was a nurse. She left to go check on her. On their return, they found the fill in nurse and both agreed I was still far from active labour. I should take it easy, drink more black tea and rest if I felt tired. It was starting to sound like a resort after all.

The mid wife came back, this time she is on phone checking on how far her child is in the queue to see the doctor. She had left her baby with the maid in a queue in the Paediatric clinic. Her maid also needed to go queue up in the eye clinic before it closed. She ceased to be the midwife and became a mother, a wife, a woman to me. Well, she didn’t have time for that, my neighbor had to be rushed for an emergency C-section. Back to theatre.

My mum came in, and another round of stories started and more jokes. I had some slight pain but not discomforting and neither was it electrifying. Our auntie Sister passes by and finds me laughing with everyone, ‘you are still laughing, you are not about!’ She smiles and leaves.

‘Madam, you were not feeling the baby’s head?’, the midwife asked after taking a peak in between my legs. Is that what it was? I thought to myself. ‘Eh, your baby is ready to come out, prepare to bear down,’ she exclaims as she snaps on a fresh pair of gloves. ‘What does bear down mean again? I wonder. ‘Wama, mummy ono jangu omuyambe aterere, tugenda kuzala kati, omutwe gwa baby guguno’. My mum, woke up as if from slumber, gave quick instructions and at once l was ready. Did I mention my mother gave birth to my baby brother at home by herself? So there we are, from smiling to active labour. My husband and faithful companion had gone to bring up the luggage, we had found a room. Boy, were they in for the shock of their lives.

‘Ok, on the count of three, push’. I pushed. ‘Ok hold it, there is something obstructing the baby:. I thank God that at this time, the nerves go on some vacation and it’s only the contractions that I could feel. Her hands go in and out comes my baby.

The cord had been wrapped round his neck, she had unwound it. I pushed and out he came with such force and a loud cry. She quickly rushed him off. Following closely at her heels, was my mother aka Kaaka to my son, Baby Joe. She run the APGAR assessment and he scored highly. Ever the calm baby, he cried a bit and slept off.

She returned for what we describe as the second labour. The delivery of the placenta. The placenta had been severed from my baby but not from me. Now it had to be torn from my womb. With a few twists and turns, it started to severe and finally it was out. She put it away and cleaned up all the blood. Within micro seconds, the room was back to normal. No bloody mess, just one exhausted mum. My faithful companion walks in to let me know that the room had been allocated and was ready. She inquired, ‘how far?’ lol. I asked her whether she hadn’t seen my mum with a baby. :Eeehhh’, she exclaimed!

I don’t remember the name of my midwife. I will remember the waiter with the tag. I will remember the boda boda guy who told me his name. But I will not remember the name of the lady who saved me and my baby. Maybe I should have been more conscious of others than I was of my pain. For all the what ifs, I still did not get her name and for that I am sorry.

Thank you dear midwives for your care and love.

Fully known

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Psalms 139:13‭-‬15 NKJV

I made up my mind, that I was in a waiting space and when the time was right, like Elizabeth, my sons would come. Of course, everyone is asking how do you know they will be boys? Or inviting me to more prayers for the barren. I simply told them, I am not barren. This was the promise God made to those who obeyed Him, there shall be none barren among you.( Exodus 23:26) Loads of eyes rolling and angst because these conversations tired me. For crying out loud, I had done it all. Alllll! I even had notes.

I got into a space where random people would walk up to me and tell me how they dreamt that I was pregnant. Or they would see me holding a baby. I had been there, done that so I didn’t find it as fascinating as I should have. I would get into prayer meetings and they would pray for me. I would visit someone and it would end up being a prayer meeting. I was like Jacob, the Lord was in this place and I knew it not. God has jokes.

One Friday, I purposed to go to Rubaga Miracle Centre for the overnight. I had spent many overnights there while still a university student. I missed the fire and the noise and just being in a space where believers expected miracles. So I went. It was awesome, never to disappoint. The prayer time. The praise and worship, wooow. The testimonies. Pastor Robert Kayanja came on started ministering to several categories of people, and he called up women who had been told by doctors that they would not give birth. He went on to affirm that as Christians, we are not barren because the Bible says they shall be none barren among you. I knew this was the mother of all setups, so I walked to the front. I just need you to know that if for any reason he had said those words in a different way, I was not leaving my seat. He was not in a hurry, for some reason that overnight was live streaming so we were on cameras. He tells us to imagine we are holding our babies in our hands and rock them to sleep, sing to them. This was like for eternity. He invited the rest of the church not to spectate but to pray. So there we are with our arms cradling babies, we have called forth. Then he says, you have received your expectation, you may go. And back we went to our seats. Only we were received like conquering heroes, there was a loud cheer. A friend of mine, I didn’t know was at the overnight, came running to hug me. Wooowww!

Photo Credit: Pintrest

I took to spending Saturday mornings or afternoons with my mother in town. There were always errands to run in Kampala and home was a convenient stop over. My mother loved my company and I hers, so it worked for both of us. This one Saturday, I decided to head to Nakasero market first, because it could get really crowded. However, I could not get in at my usual 5am because I needed to get Mpafu, a type of fig, from the lower market which did not open till later. By the time, I got there it was crowded. Oh well. Off to see mummy. I spent a whole day there, hoping the traffic will ease so I get in at about 5 pm. My mum asks me what it is I must buy from the market that I could not get in another market. I tell her mpafu, she laughed and told me how I was becoming like her. When she was expecting me, she used to go to that same lady, early in the morning to get mpafu. Hahaha.

I went to the market, picked my mpafu and debated whether to take a pregnancy test. I decided, if not, why not? Headed to SAS clinic and did the test. The waiting was of, real butterflies, my hands were shaking literally. I started shivering but I was determined to maintain composure. Thankfully, the clinic traffic was low. I was the only client in the lab. It was a short wait. The test was positive.

I can’t hear youuuu, louder doctor. Did you say positive? Whenever I receive news that I didn’t anticipate, my ears get a humming sound and all sound is like an echo or buzzing. I was going through that.

I could see the doctor smiling and going on about something. It’s positive. All my years of waiting had ended. Just like that. The doctor recommended a scan to confirm and I am like, sure. Scans are good things. I was at peace with the world. All things were good. I have no problem.

Elated. Out onto the street. Excited. Up the stairs. Exhilarating. Onto the bed. Cold gel. Experience loading.

There he was. My baby. Just a bleep. Such a beautiful, black and white bleep. 7 weeks. God bless the creator of scans.

In part

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
Psalms 116:1‭-‬2 NLT

I met another guy, cool as can be. Very accepting and confident about the situation. Well, let’s see how long he lasts. He married me.

And started what I now call my fertility journey. This story is intertwined with another story, there was a long standing custody battle for my step daughter going on. The issue of stress and it’s effects on your cycle is the fodder of medical journals. This is not my story, my story is one of overcoming even in the midst of such a strained, stressed and distressed environment.

I had determined, NEVER to go through hormonal therapy again. I was adamant about it. My husband was not there while I was going through it and I could not explain it in enough vivid detail. It was a sore point for some time, but I didn’t see any value addition in taking the medical journey. Yes, I met so many ladies for whom this had worked but it was too painful to go through Godzilla again. Especially as a young, blushing bride.

This was ok for the first year, a few nudges, side eyes at events to check for bulges but well, we were in a new millennium. Who rushes into child birth anymore, right? Laughter and onto more pressing matters.

The second year, pressure started mounting. What are you people up to? One person walked into the office, we had an open office and loudly announced, you girl, if you cannot give birth, you return our contributions to the wedding. Wow! It is a custom to fundraise for a wedding and up till that point, I always thought people did it because they were happy to see you wed. Clearly, naive. There are vested interests. There was a hush in the office, till one of the supervisors checked him for his remark. Later, a few work mates walked over to just encourage me and tell me so many stories about ladies who had gone through years and conceived, some we worked with and others remained stories. Two ladies took me under their wings, and prayed with me every day and encouraged me. One passed on but I shall never forget her kindness and compassion.

Photo credit: Pintrest

My MIL never took life sitting down. She has always been a fighter. She determined that this situation needed a fighter. She told me if you are not going to the doctors, we are going to pray. And so we started the rounds of looking for pastors all over the town. Any pastor she heard who healed, we were there. Sowing seeds. Praying. Counselling. Eventually, her home became a church. She hosted prayer meetings everyday. She lived 20kms away from our home at the time, we were there till late. Praying. It started to take a toll on me, I wasn’t sleeping well and eating well. One night, we had a near kidnap incident while waiting for Traffic lights to change. I opted out of this.

A friend of mine landed on Kenneth Copeland and his teachings on faith. While watching TBN, Kenneth Copeland was never one I would watch. I was watching TD Jakes, Juanita Bynum, Rod Parsley….fire in my bones. Well, here was this calm, Kenneth with his beloved Gloria and their southern drawls teaching on faith. The seed was sown. Every day we discussed the podcasts and faith began to grow. We prayed together daily.

A young, fiery, prophet Kakuru joined as an intern in our unit. As it is with prophets, the first encounters are dramatic. When he saw us across the room, he walked to us and told us he was going to sit next to us for his entire internship. Wow! We didn’t know him from Adam. He came back later, and started to teach us about prayer. Everything he said would tally with what Kenneth Copeland had taught.

Another young, quiet man with a pastoral heart joined our team after Kakuru left, he introduced us to e- sword. It was a downloadable Bible. I started to study the Word of God. I do not take it for granted that in this time, all these resources were available to me. I know God was at work, preparing me and teaching me about Himself so I could be like the tree in Psalm 1.

Still, I did not conceive. The frustration of doing all you know to do and still have negative pregnancy results started to set in. It seeped in like a cancer, slowly and started to settle. My days darkened and I began to feel worthless and useless. I was depressed but I didn’t know it.

God will not let you go. He will come to you. He came to me. Despite, the frustration, the only hope I had was in God. I took leave and decided to have a retreat with God. My maid had headaches that would keep her down for an entire day. I knew God to be the healer. James says if anyone is sick, let him call the elders. I called my pastor to pray for her. He decided to pray with me as well. Some thing lifted off me, I could see clearly.

First things first, faith without works is dead. I decided to go shopping for my baby. I knew it would be a boy so everything was blue. I found a lovely yellow outfit, my mother loved yellow, I got it for him. It was the only non-blue outfit. I researched about pregnancy, what to eat, what to wear, how to manage on a budget, the trending gyns, the hospitals. I attended baby showers, birthday parties and took notes about everything and I mean everything- maids, daycare, schools, curriculums, language, prayer-What I would do and what not to do.

During a visit to my SIL, I learnt that even with children,the romance is not over. A mother was still a wife and a companion.

A vivid conversation, I recall was that babies are also spirit beings so they know God. Hoooo…baby Bibles, baby gospel music. I started speaking to the eggs and hormones to hear the Word of God. I was high on the Most High.

At this point, I was doing pregnancy tests almost every week. They were negative, sometimes it felt there were two Doras. One willing to go and the other questioning her logic. If you keep doing the same thing you have always done, with the same results, why keep on doing it? Well, if it ain’t broke, you can fix it! Then I had it, the very last test, I wrote all the promises of God all over it. I spoke back to that report and told it to keep quiet. And I kept quiet.

Through a glass darkly

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV

This week, we celebrate National Fertility Awareness Week. My story has been long in coming, here we are.

Photocredit: Pintrest

Where does one start this story, I guess from the onset of my menses. I was 12 years old, on my way to cookery classes, it was raining. I thought this is really an odd place for rain to drip through. When I got to my cousin’s apartment, right next to the cookery school, I rushed to the bathroom, checked and there was the dreaded red stain. The stain that made girls wear sweaters around their waists all through class. The stain that caused giggles among boys and attracted stares during lunchtime.

I thanked God, there were no stares. Only the privacy of my cousin’s bathroom. I cleaned up and used a makeshift pad from toilet paper. I was not sure how to tell my cousin, we had never talked about these things. Strange now that I think about it. I just needed to get through the day and tell mummy. And so it was, mummy was so excited. I, on the other hand, I am perplexed about what she is going on all about. My parents took us out for Chinese lunch, we did this every Saturday, this time though it was a celebration of my becoming a woman. There I am marveling, wow, who knew this came through that stain. I should be shouting it on the rooftops, like some sort of trophy.

They set me on the coolest path. I decided this would be the heritage for my daughters. No fear. No shame. Just a celebration of womanhood.

Celebrate it was until I got into an all-girls boarding school and the drudgery began. We had pit latrines but because pads do not decompose, the pits would fill up. It was expensive and dangerous to empty them frequently. So it was decided that we get pad bins, and use the incinerators to burn them up. Walking with a smelly, bloody pad from the latrine to the bin. The smell when they burnt…..not cool. Not cool at all. My mum totally unfazed, did not blink as I lamented and suggested tampons. And it was bliss once again. I still had to live with the smell of burning pads but c’est la vie!

Most of my peers had very predictable patterns, they knew when their menses started and ended. They also knew when they were ovulating. It was fascinating to watch them, like little examples in textbooks.

I, on the other hand, never to be bothered. When they came, we called her, Auntie Flow. When auntie Flow visited, she was well received. If she did not visit, there were all manner of reasons; stress, anxiety, diet, too much exercise, not enough exercise…or just phew…I had run out of tampons anyway. This went on till I met a guy.

He came from a family with so many girls, so many aunts, so many female cousins. He was all too familiar with the cycles. He thought it was not normal. I was like, tell me something, I don’t know. He says, gynecologists, fix this. The last time I had visited a gyn, had been about hemorrhoids and he had done a great job relieving my pain and I didn’t have them anymore.

Let’s. I said and off we went to visit a young but very good gyn. Dr. Pius Okongo. He had an awesome bed side manner. It was like this could be resolved by drinking water. Such a great person to meet. He asks me to chart my cycle, apparently it was something I should have done. Who knew. I take the chart home and start. Hahaha. I don’t know what that was, over six months, nothing looked like the other. I thought, well he is the expert, he will make sense of it.

You are laying eggs, was the easiest way he could explain what was going on. In his estimation, it was a miracle, I even had menses because not only did the eggs have a mind of their own. The two hormones were not talking to each other. I wish I had paid more attention in Biology. Maybe studied medicine. This would be so easy to understand. The good news was there were options to try to correct all his. He says all these things like he is telling you to go get water from the dispenser. How I wish.

Hormonal therapy is a nightmare. I got all the symptoms, I was a walking diary of a mad black woman, Godzilla, and sullen Sally. I gained weight and proceeded to shed it all off, I went from a size 16 to a size 8. My skin broke out and I darkened. As you can imagine, the jury was out. What is happening to you? Are you well? Urm, yes, just hormonal. Eventually, the guy could not take it, I think and out he walked. At this point, I am on some injection that is imported specifically for me. I get a prescription from Dr. Pius and head off to National Medical Stores, buy it and go back to the clinic to be injected. I had crazy hot flushes for over two years, after stopping the injection. I had to change my diet, I became allergic to chocolate. Dairy caused bloating. I love dairy, it makes me so happy to stuff myself with all manner of cheese. I could only look at it wistfully. No more chocolate, no more cake, no more ice cream.

What is life to me without thee?

Dr Pius, asked me, whether we were trying for a baby? I am looking at him like, we who is we? I am here to correct a cycle. He advised that I did not need to have a text book cycle but rather regular pattern. And it changes all the time, so the best time to come would be when trying for a baby. I thank God for Dr. Pius. I walked out a liberated woman. There would be no more hormone therapy for me.