Sadia Hussein had been in labour for three days when she felt she could take no more. She could hear her mother crying in the distance, pleading with God to save her daughter’s life.
But even though things were clearly not progressing as they should have been, the women in her small Kenyan village were resistant to the idea of sending her to hospital. Her mother told her that doctors would “tear her apart” with a pair of scissors; that, at home, they could at least use a razor. “So now, on top of the overwhelming pain of labour, there was this continuous cutting,” Hussein recalls.
Eventually, Hussein gave birth to a baby girl. When she came to, several hours later, she found her legs had been tied together, making it impossible for her to sit up, let alone hold her newborn. Her mother came into her room and brought her tea, and Hussein asked her to help her cradle the baby. “I couldn’t control my tears,” she says, now. “I was telling my daughter: ‘I love you so much. My mother failed to protect me but I will protect you.’ And that’s when I swore that this should never happen to my daughter.”
Hussein’s horrendous labour was a direct result of the female genital mutilation (FGM) she suffered at the age of 10. Like so many women, her trauma did not end there. It returned, years later, when she got married, and underwent further cutting to prepare her body for sex. And it was there once again, in labour, when she feared she would lose both her baby’s life and her own.
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