Nomsa's Story

February 2006

I was asked by the doctor to post-test counsel Nomsa; a 26 year old slightly built, gentle faced young woman. She sat in a chair next to the cot, rocking her tiny baby in her arms, looking at my face with hope and fear at the same time. She received the news stoically. What was she going to do, she asked me. Was her baby going to die? She had known during her pregnancy that she was HIV positive but had been too afraid to tell anyone, most of all her husband, as she feared that he would reject her. Besides she lived with his family and they had never accepted her. Her mother, the only person she trusted lived in the Eastern Cape, she didn't want to tell her over the phone. As well, she certainly did not want to burden her mother as she had recently suffered a mild stroke. For the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time with Nomsa, helping her to accept the baby's diagnosis, introduced her to the mother's support group, the Positive Beadwork Project and watched her grow from someone quite timid, to a woman with power. She made friends, she seemed to have hope and she disclosed to staff and friends in the ward. I finally persuaded her to disclose to her husband whose test was negative and although he said that nothing had changed, began to withdraw, refusing to speak to her about the diagnosis and visiting her and the baby in the hospital less and less. The paternal grandmother visited regularly. She loves her grandchild and wanted to know why the baby wasn't really improving. Weren't the doctors doing their job properly? We couldn't tell her. We promised Nomsa confidentiality. After 4 months Nomsa and her baby were discharged. She was excited to go home but afraid too as G25 had become a safe haven for her. Now she had to face the outside world - a husband who had turned cold, a family that didn't know their secret. She was given a follow-up appointment at the HIV outpatient clinic; 2 weeks later she arrived in the ward, carrying a limp baby in her arms - dead on arrival. She was devastated. Had she killed her baby? The baby had been doing well, yet when she'd gone to the cot that morning her baby was just lying there not moving. There was no explanation for her death, it had just happened. Nomsa blamed herself for the death for a long time but finally came to terms with the loss. I managed to get a small sum of money for her from the Kidzpositive Family Fund and she started her own little business. This helped distract her from her grief, helped to make her financially independent from her husband and gave her back her confidence. She has left her husband and his family; she lives on her own now. Nomsa feels proud of her achievements and although she will always carry the pain of loss in her heart, she can move on and live positively....

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