SHE waited 16 years to have her second child, but Sandra Small never got the chance to see or hold him. The baby, a boy she named Jamil, died while still in utero.
Doctors delivered him by emergency Caesarean section at Spanish Town Hospital on October 11 — one week after her October 3 due date.
The experience took such an emotional toll Small said she doesn’t know if, or when, she will get past it. She confesses to having nightmares and to crying when she is by herself. And people’s attempts at sympathy make it worse.
“People tell mi God know best, but I don’t want to hear that… I don’t want to hear ‘is God’s will’ or ‘is so it go’. Mi just want di baby,” Small said, the pain and frustration evident in her voice.
“I was so looking forward to my baby. Sixteen years. Sixteen long years, and dem tell mi say mi baby dead,” she continued, as the tears that had welled up in her eyes started streaming down her cheeks.
The 34-year-old woman, who is also the mother of a 16-year-old girl, said she kept her ante-natal appointments at the clinic on the hospital compound, and she was never told there was anything abnormal with her developing pregnancy.
When she went to the hospital on the Wednesday she was due to deliver, Small said she was told by medical staff that she was not yet in labour and should return five days later. That day, she said, was the first indication that all was not well.
“Di doctor say she cyaan find di heartbeat,” she said. Nonetheless, she was sent home.
When she returned on Monday, October 8, she was told to go home for her overnight bag as labour had started. She returned approximately 3:00 pm, was examined and sent to the delivery room, Small told the Jamaica Observer.
The following morning, October 9, her baby had still not come and she was ordered back to the ante-natal ward where she underwent multiple examinations. She said doctors told her they still couldn’t find a heartbeat.
“So mi say to har say ‘tek (deliver) di baby cause mi don’t know if something wrong’,” Small reported, adding that she did an ultrasound the same day and was told the baby was ok.
“Mi inna hospital straight down from Monday (the 8th) an ah Thursday (the 11th) dem sen mi ah theatre,” the woman continued.
“Thursday when mi tek een fi have baby (labour started) mi feel di baby come up to mi breast an stat ‘flatter’. An mi talk to him an say ‘how yuh feel so man? Go lay down, man’. Until mi say ‘mi nuh like how mi feel, mi ah go to the bathroom go bathe’ and afterward mi feel some breed ah pain. Pure pain mi did ah feel, so mi go to the nurse,” she said, explaining that she had drank some soda earlier and wondered if that was what was causing her pain.
The nurse, Small said, shrugged her off, apparently because it was time for her shift change. By the time the relief nurse came on duty, the mother said her contractions were about five minutes apart.
“Mi tell di nurse and she said ‘ok mother, I’m going to look at your docket’. When she look, she said it was an emergency and put me in wheelchair same time and carry mi to the delivery room,” said Small.
She reportedly asked for a C-section, but was told she could deliver vaginally. What came next has left the mother with more questions than answers.
“The nurse (insert her fingers). It look like ah di head water she burst, then she hold on the (umbilical) cord [but], when she realise say a di cord in har hand she tell mi to go over pon mi two knee dem.
“She say ‘change of plans, we have to send you to the theatre’, and say ‘mother, turn over’ and she call di other nurse dem and di doctor and dem carry mi in the theatre.”
This was sometime after 8:00 Thursday night, according to Small’s recollection.
“Mi nuh know nothing after that,” she said. “I don’t remember if mi sleep out di whole night or what, but is the morning a nurse come to mi an tell mi say mi baby died.
“Mi turn weh mi head fast and start cry,” the mother said. “She say ‘mother, did you know what happened downstairs?’ I say ‘yuh carry mi to theatre to tek di baby’. She say ‘yuh baby neva make it enuh’. Mi nuh see har again after dat. They say di baby lay down on the cord and kill himself,” Small recalled.
Small said her blood pressure immediately shot up, and she was put on mediation to control it. She had to be transferred to a room which she alone occupied because, psychologically, she couldn’t handle the sight of the other babies on the ward.
“I cry all the time... It affect mi sleeping and it affect mi (memory). I couldn’t remember certain things... I really wanted to have a boy,” she said, adding that her daughter sent her a text message while she was still in hospital asking how her baby brother was. She said she couldn’t answer.
After the loss, Small stayed in hospital four more days and was examined by doctors twice a day. She also had two sessions with a counsellor, for 10 minutes each time, she said.
“It didn’t help,” Small complained.
“Some of the time mi nuh hear wah she a say; it just come een like mi nuh deh deh. She was telling me that it’s not my fault and God knows best. I neva waan hear dat. Mi want to hear that is fi dem fault. Dem should at least tek di baby (perform a C-section), that I can have my baby.
At home, Small said she didn’t look at her baby’s clothes until a month later. She barely slept during that time and she never ventured outside.
“At nights when mi couldn’t sleep mi daughter say ‘Mommy, yuh can do security work man, yuh stay up all night’.
She got some closure in December when the hospital called her in to view the body before they cremated it.
“I go look on him. I felt so weak. I couldn’t look on him for long. True [because] mi neva see di body mi go to the morgue an look at him. Nice baby boy. Nice baby boy. Nice baby boy,” she repeated, shaking her head.
“The lifeless body lay down... ” Small continued, a faraway look in her eyes.
“Mi nuh know when mi going to forget this. Mi don’t know when. Mi don’t know. Mi cannot figet it... It affect me very bad... Dem say is God’s will, but I don’t think I like hearing that saying... It’s so hard,” she said, again shaking her head, “so hard.”
At times she blames herself .“One ah di time mi tink is my fault. Mi think mi could do more fi save him. Maybe if mi neva drink di juice that wouldn’t happen.
“Mi tell you, if is not for my family members and mi fren dem, I lose it, I lose it. I have to try an remember tings. Have to try very hard fi remember things. If mi neva have mi family dem — cause mi have a strong family (support) — and mi co-worker dem, a don’t know how I would survive.
“Thank God, thank God for my father’s prayers and mi strong family member dem,” she said.
“Sometime when mi sit down alone mi remember it I cry a lot, but when at work and see everybody and laughing, mi feel good,” said Small, flashing a smile, a rarity throughout the interview.
In spite of her personal tragedy, and the fear it has instilled in her, she said she does want to have another child “maybe two years from now”, but that she would not go to Spanish Town Hospital.
“It’s my daughter alone. I want her to have a brother or sister,” said Small.
Multiple attempts by the Observer seeking comments from the CEO at Spanish Town Hospital via phone and email have proved unsuccessful. The newspaper did manage to speak to him by phone on one occasion and when the subject was broached, he asked that an email outlining the questions be sent. This was done, but since then, the Sunday Observer has had no luck reestablishing contact.