Lesley Grobler

Mom to Emma Hayley “Emma Kalema” 

June 10, 2014 – June 12, 2014

Triangle, Zimbabwe, Africa

When I found out I was pregnant with our first child in January, I was already 14 weeks along. I didn’t know because when I first went for a pregnancy test, they found nothing, however they did see that I had some fibroids, one of which was as large as a woman who is 4 months pregnant. I was so happy as my older sister was also pregnant, and we were both due within a couple of weeks of each other. We were even more excited when we found out that my sister was having a boy and I was having a girl.


In February, my husband was away, and I started bleeding. After a visit to the doctor, all was well–I was just put on bed rest for a few days and was told to start slowing down. Apart from that our baby was doing well. My doctor (and friend) did warn me that because of the size of my fibroids, my baby would be small, and might even have some defects, and he even spoke of sudden fetal death. I was going for 2D ultrasounds on a monthly basis. Every time, everything was normal. I was only a ‘high risk’ pregnancy because of the big fibroids I had. Besides those, my whole pregnancy was largely uneventful.  On May 20, my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and named him Gordon. After spending time with him, my husband and I couldn’t wait for our baby to arrive. Our turn came just 3 weeks later. I was due for a C-Section at week 38.  

When Emma was born (my husband Chris filmed it all), it took nurses and doctors a while before she gave her first cries. But straight from there, she was put on oxygen to help her breathe. I wasn’t allowed to see her on day 1, as she was still too weak to be moved off oxygen and had to stay in the NICU. I was also recovering from the C-section. That night, my husband stayed beside Emma, just to make sure she was okay. The next day, I was anxious to see her, but she was getting blue everytime they tried to remove the oxygen. Eventually, they wanted to rule out cyanosis, so asked me to breastfeed her. Emma didn’t take to my breast, which is when the doctors did an X-ray. 

Emma’s heart was on the right side of her body and her one lung hadn’t developed. The doctors called us in to the NICU, where someone was already manually pumping oxygen to her. I think I was dazed, because I didn’t react at all. In fact i asked to be wheeled back to my room. When the doctor told us she had a 50/50 chance and that we should call our family, again, I didn’t react. I was completely numb. My mum arrived, with my sister-in-law, and I sat in the room waiting for a good sign. My husband was called out, and when he came back a few minutes later, he was sobbing uncontrollably. That’s when I knew Emma was gone. Although I am relieved that her dad was there when she left the world, I feel guilty that I wasn’t there for her. I still couldn’t bring myself to see her..  

The next day my sisters came to see me and it was hard for my sister who also had a newborn to come and see me. Can you imagine how that must’ve felt?  Immediately we were asked if we wanted to cremate or bury Emma. We chose cremation. My husband and sisters went off to organize all this while I had to stay at the hospital still healing and while my dead baby was in the morgue. I didn’t cry for 2 days–still so numb and probably in shock. I remember every visitor and every feeling. When I did eventually go and see my baby with my immediate family (before she was taken away to be cremated), that’s when I broke down. I had let her down, and my body had let her down. She died on June 12, 2014. On June 15, 2014 (just 3 days later), it was Father’s Day, as well as our wedding anniversary.  Instead of celebrating, we had a memorial for Emma.

Our lives have changed and will never be the same ever again. We will continue to try to have children, after my fibroids are removed next week [at time of writing]. I have turned to my faith, because strangely, when I felt I wanted to die too, I could feel God’s presence, asking me to hang in there.

You can e-mail Lesley at

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