This story was recorded as part of a focus group, transcribed, and translated in 2021
I had a difficult delivery with my fourth born and needed a c-section. After I returned home my stomach began to swell. One day I returned to the doctor and told him that I was experiencing chest pain. He said not to worry, he would prescribe some medication and that I would feel better. But, I knew I was very sick, so I refused. I said, “Doctor, I live very far away. Please help me while I am here. It will be difficult for me to find money to come again.” He said ok and ordered an x-ray. He told me they saw something in my uterus and that I should pay K15,000 ($20) to get my uterus cleaned. I said I did not have that kind of money. If it meant dying, I should just die. He said, “You will not die, we will call for an ambulance to take you to the Regional Hospital.” I arrived at the Hospital and was there three days before they took me for surgery. My stomach was so swollen. They did not suture the wound and I did not eat for a whole month. I stayed in the hospital for two months. They would just clean the wound. My baby was also in the hospital on a different ward, he was receiving formula but was malnourished. At one point while I was there, a nurse from Joyful Motherhood [AMHI’s sister org] gave me a card and told me to call once I was discharged. Finally, after the two months, I returned to the smaller hospital near my home where they partially sutured the wound and then discharged me.
When I returned home to my elderly grandma, I told her, “I am not producing milk, I am eating but there is no milk.” We did not know what to do. I said, “If you have K100 ($0.12) please, let’s call the one on this card and maybe they can help.” My grandma did not have K100. I had no money and my husband had sold all the maize [the staple food in Malawi] we had in the home to cover the costs of our hospitalization. In those days, my baby cried a lot, I had no breast milk and so I was just giving him porridge. He was three months old and very malnourished. One day my neighbor heard the baby crying and came by and asked me what we should do, I told her about the card and she told me to call the number using her phone. I talked to them and they said, “We have heard you. Please do not give water or porridge to the child, your child will live.” I wondered if the child would really live, the way he was crying, but they assured me that they would come. They came the next morning. At that time, both my baby and I were sickly and malnourished. People in my area thought we had been discharged home to die. The Joyful Motherhood nurses gave us a thermos, 7 tins of formula, they also gave me a pack of soy flour to use to make porridge. I started eating that porridge the same day. After that, people started saying that I was looking like myself again. Life was returning to me. The next month when they came and weighed the baby, they noted that the weight had improved. I kept giving the baby the milk and the health improved, I also received soy flour and I was better.
Joyful Motherhood has helped me a lot in my household. When they discharged me from their program, they gave me K10,000 ($12) and said I should start a business. My neighbor kept the money for me initially and I found odd jobs – like washing laundry – to earn a little more. Then I rented a small a garden and cultivated it. I harvested ten 50kg bags of maize. There is no hunger in my home now. Joyful Motherhood nurses helped to improve my home, they taught me how to care for my children, they encouraged me, they taught me many things. I thought we would die; there was no food in my home, Joyful Motherhood restored hope in my home. My home is no longer the same. I am thankful to Joyful Motherhood. Please continue this work.