my husband died of AIDS when I was one month pregnant

my best friend died of lymphatic filariasis when I was 3 months pregnant

my mother died of typhoid when I was 6 months pregnant

my sister died of malaria when I was 8 months pregnant

my midwife couldn’t get to our village

because rebels had blown up the bridges

my baby wouldn’t turn, my only living child

– my 6-year-old son who is sick with diarrhoea –

could see her feet

I couldn’t get to the hospital because of the monsoon rains

the nearest doctor was in the city, 150 miles away


my son pulls my baby’s feet out, I bite down on the stick

my baby is blue, and I bleed and bleed

she will not suckle, but I have no milk anyway

because the harvest has failed for the last 3 years

because, thousands of miles away, rich people

have changed the climate with their cars and factories


my baby dies when she is two days old

I die of septicemia the day before her

my 6-year-old son has no family left

and he is very sick.




© Char March




About Char March

Char March is a multi-award-winning poet, playwright and short fiction writer. Her credits include:  five poetry collections, six BBC Radio 4 plays, seven stage plays and numerous short stories in anthologies and literary magazines. She has featured on BBC TV and radio. She’s been Writer-in-R…Read more

Website: http://www.charmarch.co.uk

More posts by Char March

One Response to “My whole birth plan was ruined (the sub-Saharan Africa version)”

  1. Helen Sargeant

    This poem reminded me of how privileged my position as a mother living in the UK is. It is easy to forget how lucky I am to have given birth to two healthy children under the care of the excellent NHS. I am humbled by your thoughtful and provocative words, your kindness, consideration of mothers in Africa. Thank you Char.


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