Kadi Kanatu Masaray, 20
Rokupa Wharf, Freetown

I got pregnant in August 2006. I realised I was pregnant when I was about three months gone. I wasn’t married – I am not married now either – and never really knew about family planning so I never used any birth control of any kind. When I found out about it, I told my boyfriend. He wasn’t too pleased. He’s only 20 years old as well.

I thought it’d be better for me in the city, so I came here, to Rokupa, to be with my sister. I was about six months pregnant when I got here. My sister facilitated my going to see a nurse who normally works at PCMP. The nurse used a stethoscope and other means to “sound” the pregnancy – and said the baby was very big in my stomach. She told me to stop eating fou-fou (a starch dietary staple roughly equivalent to potatoes) to try and stop the baby from growing much bigger. We had to pay her 20,000 Leones (about £4). The money is a lot to us. 

Then, things got worse. I must have been nearly the full nine months when I started feeling terrible pains. By this time, I was so huge I couldn’t climb up the steep hill between my sister’s house and the main road above. My sister sent for the nurse I had been seeing, asking for her to come straightaway. However she wasn’t around and as my condition was very bad – I was in terrible pain and couldn’t move – an alternative had to be found. So my sister found a woman who had previously worked with the nurse I had been seeing – and then got some people together to carry me to her house. After two days, she said it was too much for her to handle and she advised that I be taken to the PCMH. The nurses at the hospital demanded 85,000 leones before they would even see me. We didn’t have that money, so my sister just “turned her purse over” and borrowed and somehow came up with the money.

After we had paid, they took me to the labour room in the hospital and said that I’d give birth in 14 hours. I’d already been in labour for nearly three full days – and 14 hours later, I still hadn’t given birth. I was in absolutely crying in pain. At this point, the nurses from that shift left and new ones came. When they saw me in such pain, they said there was a doctor they could call but to do that, I had to provide money to buy the SIM card to call him with. My sister borrowed more money. Eventually the doctor came who does c-sections.

I was alone with him and the nurse when he told me the baby had died. It was dead. He said that they needed to do a c-section to remove the baby and it would cost 850,000 leones. We were all crying and crying – we just didn’t have the money. The nurses finally got impatient with us and drove us out of the hospital and into the streets. By now, it was midnight.

We went to see a traditional doctor from Guinea and after days of seeing him and a nurse he gave me some liquid medicines to rub into my stomach and legs and said that if I do that and then wait for some time, I will deliver the baby with no problem. By now, I had been in this condition for over a week – carrying a dead baby. I was very poorly. Everyone had given me up for dead. I had too. I thought I would die. My sister rubbed the liquid in, exactly as the man from Guinea had said and after a while, we went back to the nurse. And it happened exactly as the man from Guinea said it would.

We all saw the baby. It was a little girl. She looked perfect and beautiful, but she was dead and she was in a bowl, where the nurse had placed her. The nurse then asked for 10,000 leones and said she’d take care of the body. There was no burial. I don’t know where she took her or what she did with her.