Palesa Makua is the founder of HER SKIN SPEAKS. Through HER SKIN SPEAKS, Makua has addressed body shamming in an exhibition titled All bodies are perfect. In this heartfelt piece, Makua details her ordeal of losing her son through stillbirth in 2017. She’s currently documenting women with similar stories of losing their children which will be premiered in August. Through her work, Makua has proven to be an epitome of “Mosadi o tshwara thipa ka bogaleng” a force to be reckoned with.
FINDING OUT I’M GONNA BE A MOMMA…
In April I found out that I was pregnant. Hahahaha, yup!! I am going to be a mother. Feeling sick and being agitated all the time and my boobs being excruciatingly painful; fighting with my lover over nothing, crying and then apologize to him; not once did it occur to me that these were possible signs of pregnancy.
I think I had long believed that maybe I am barren because I’ve had unprotected sex here and there and I have never even had a pregnancy scare, so when I asked a roommate to buy me a pregnancy test while in was chin deep in bed;I found that I’m actually pregnant and was instantly happy. Then the thought of telling my family crept in. I decided to keep it myself for a while because I had an Idea of how my family is going to react and I wanted to bask in the happiness that had just leaped into my hands, I didn’t want them to rain on my parade.
I sent a friend a text message telling her the news and her response was just pure heartfelt laughter, I reckon it was because I had been stalling to see her. I had always been scared of pregnant women; I had not seen her throughout her pregnancy. I later paid her a visit, I was really happy to see her and excited to meet her son.
Her mom was really not pleased that we “decided” to have children at 25 years old, only because she expected more from us and not because she was disappointed per se. She expressed how we need to do better now that we are parents, basically told me things I knew but wasn’t really shaken a lot and I realized that damn, shit is about to get real. What killed me most was after that, she gave me a hug and asked if I needed a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I was glad that happened because it prepared me for telling my family.
My lover was the easiest person to tell because well, it’s his seed growing inside of me. I told him the same day I found out, he was shocked as expected…him and I have not been dating for that long and now we’re expecting a baby. I think we were both worried about what our families would say regarding our dating track record. Eventually I got settled with the idea,but a bit worried as to where his train of thought was at. I mean the last thing I needed was for him to be unsure and nowhere in my plans do I raise a baby alone.
I love him and think I always confessed with my mouth that I want to have his children and that I’d make a good and cool mother, so now he gets to see me through all this and remind me when I feel I’m not doing my best. I’ve always known that he is a good person and I couldn’t have chosen a better partner to have see forever with (Yes, I made a conscious decision). I say forever because I honestly do not see myself with anyone else but him.
I told my mother that I am pregnant around May/June and she thought I was joking. She asked if I had been drinking alcohol while she was away and I told her no, she then asked why and I just told her that I’m with child. I expected her to kill me but nope, she was happy…absolutely happy. She had been really supportive throughout, I asked her to tell the rest of my family as I was still scared of breaking the news and when she did.
Surprisingly, everyone was happy and excited. I don’t really have a relationship with my dad, I told him via text that I was pregnant and he too has been really supportive and extremely kind. He drove me to my doctor appointments, picked me up in the morning, wait for me outside the hospital then takes me to lunch and drives me back home. He has always been supportive in his own way despite how he left.
One of the most heartbreaking experiences is trying to find your place in womanhood. Women go through the most to find space, to hold space for other women. This constant stretching and shedding and accommodating is heavy but vital, it somehow builds your character among other things
HER SKIN SPEAKS has done some amazing work on the ground with women and has given me a platform to dance better with my demons. While most believe in therapy, I have always turned to using my pain to fuel my art. The best therapy for me has always been talking about my scars to strangers and friends, while most feel sorry for me I am slowly healing in ways they can never imagine.
LOSING MY SON…
August 30th 2017
I woke up and decided to do my laundry. By mid-afternoon I had these annoying cramps that came and went every second. They didn’t bother me much because I just thought it was my uterus stretching and making space for my baby (at least that’s what abadala said every time I asked why I had cramps in my abdominal area). I took naps throughout the day, but the cramps were persistent. Around 5pm I went to bed and as the night progressed, the pain got worse, my mom kept waking up to rub my belly and my waist and to check if I was fine and ask how and where exactly the pain is.
AUGUST 31ST 2017
It’s 4am and her last resort was getting warm water and a towel to put on my lower belly. She asked to put my feet in that tub of warm water and I did, while we were talking I felt a sensation as though water was about to come out my vagina and when I pulled down my underwear, a huge clot of blood fell in the tub, at that very second I knew that there was something wrong with me. My mother called my brother who he drove like a mad man straight to Steve Biko Hospital where I got examined. The doctor told me the baby is fine but I am actually going into labor.
I couldn’t understand why now because I was only five months pregnant. They took me to the labor room and that’s when I gave birth to the tiniest person I have ever seen, my son who was the size of my palm.
The nurse took him and placed him on my chest and said “look, it’s a boy. Unfortunately as small as he is, he will not live long.”
Hella confused and not present I laid there and held my baby in my hands until he was taken away and then back. They placed him under a warmer no oxygen machine…nothing, he kept breathing on his own for a few minutes.
The nurse called in my mother to come see him before his little lungs couldn’t keep him alive any longer. They asked us if we wanted to take him home and have a burial for him or leave him at the hospital to be cremated, we called my grandmother and she said we must leave him because he is too small (I honestly didn’t understand what that meant but I did as instructed), I also consulted my lover’s family to see what they think and they too agreed to what uMma (Grandmother) said.
I called my lover to tell him the news and he rushed to the hospital, he got there and he looked as though he was still dreaming, that this was some sick joke, it was just so hard to look at his peaceful nature tackling this much tragedy. He spoke of many things, but the actual thing he was there for and I understood why, we don’t deal with loss the same way. I just worry that him not talking about it might kill him inside. I hope he doesn’t blame me and then resent me for this, I do take full responsibility for this as it was my body’s fault that couldn’t carry his son till full term.
OCTOBER 4TH 2017
Some mornings are heavier than others. I could have sworn I felt my baby kick; since I lost my son I have not been able to breathe, I am struggling to make peace with the month of August. I’ve sat up many nights and asked myself what the point is when women get pregnant but cannot see it through? Why are women given the opportunity to incubate a human being inside of them and feel the little person kick and move around but never take the baby home?
I have marks that validate that even for a few minutes, I was a mother. I don’t know where to get up from now. I do know that things don’t happen and then disappear. Once they happen, they still are there. And we can move on and forget them but they still exist elsewhere…we give what we have lost names so that they continue to live.
Zewande Bhengu says “The spirit of a miscarried child never leaves the womb” I have found so much comfort in these words and have been breathing easier each day.