Mary Wanjiru Njoroge, 42, is a woman with a passionate cry. Her desire to have a child has left her shattered and desperate. Despite loving her first husband with all her heart, she lost the marriage due to childlessness. She shares her bitter story with FAITH MATHENGE-MURIGU.
Mary Wanjiru Njoroge was born in Kanjeru, Kikuyu, in Kiambu County. Her father had two farms – one in Kikuyu and another in Nyahururu. She started school rather late, at the age of nine, at a nearby primary school, because her mother had refused to take her to school earlier. Not only was she older than her classmates, but her body was much bigger and this affected her self-esteem. However, she was determined to complete her primary school education.
Mary began her menses at the age of 14 when she was in class four. Since nobody had prepared her for this normal body change, she panicked and told her class teacher that she was bleeding but was not in pain. The teacher didn’t explain anything and only told her not to worry, as it would stop on its own. “He didn’t even suggest that I use any form of protection,” recalls Mary.
Her classmates found it amusing that the odd-looking girl with fully formed breasts was now bleeding without being cut. They mocked her and when she could not stand it any more, she left school. Her mother also didn’t give her any explanation about this strange bleeding, but instead went on to give her a thorough beating for dropping out of school. It was her elder sister who came to her rescue and explained the changes that a woman goes through.
She warned her not to ‘play’ with boys without telling her why. Because of the hostile environment at home, Mary ran away and was lucky to find a young man who, out of sympathy, took her in. Little did she know, she was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The young man demanded sex in return for hosting her.
“While I was glad to find a safe refuge, I found it difficult to cope with this man’s sexual demands. Sex was very painful initially and though I later got used to it, I still didn’t want it all the time as this man demanded. I went back home when he started mistreating me for refusing his incessant sexual demands. When I missed my period I told my sister and she asked me if I had sexual contact with a man, which I vehemently denied,” recalls Anne.
When her mother noticed she was pregnant at seven months, she and her sister were chased away from home for what she termed as ‘embarrassing her.’ The two sisters sought refuge in their father’s house, but he too didn’t care and would not even buy food for them. They resulted to stealing food from neighbours. One of the neighbours caught them red-handed; he offered to be providing them with food so that they could stop stealing.
Mary went for her first antenatal clinic two weeks before delivery when it dawned on her she would soon be a mother and had no clue of what to expect. She gave birth to a son, Kinuthia, named after her father, in August 1985 at Kenyatta National Hospital. She developed complications after delivery and her son also caught pneumonia and, sadly, died one month after birth.
Mary’s sorrow knew no bounds. She did not know how to mourn her son’s death; she was impassive probably due to the pain she was going through. She remained in hospital nursing birth complications made worse by infection with malaria and pneumonia for one year.
“I was discharged from hospital in August 1986. My father and his new second wife took me home from hospital. They were both welcoming and treated me well but in December they relocated to the Nyahururu farm. This left me no option but to return to my mother who was still very unfriendly,” narrates Mary.
MARRIAGE AND SEARCH FOR A CHILD…
“I met a man in 1987 at Gitaru in Kikuyu and we got married after a brief courtship. For 13 years we tried for a child without success. While my husband was willing to put up with me as we continued trying for a child, his parents would not hear of it. They pressured him to chase me away and marry a woman who could bear him children. It was a most difficult and trying time, as I loved my husband dearly. I had gone through various checks to find out why I was not conceiving and even had fibroids removed but my husband would not accept to go for tests. He eventually succumbed to pressure from his family and married another woman,” Mary says, sadness engulfing her.
Humiliated and dejected, Mary walked away with nothing but her clothes, but determined to start her life afresh. To fend for herself, she did odd jobs for the next three years, including weeding people’s shambas, washing their clothes and also domestic work. Her elder brothers offered to assist her get a job but her mother opposed it. “My mother didn’t care about me. It hurt that she seemed to enjoy my suffering. I even started questioning whether she was my biological mother.
The more I thought about my mother, the more desperate I felt. At some point I even became suicidal, but my faith in God helped me to turn to prayer. My major plea to God was to give me another husband so I could escape from problems at home and also have my own family,” says Mary. Mary’s prayers were answered when she got another man to marry her. They were together for seven years, but still no child was forthcoming. One time she had pneumonia and was admitted at Tigoni Hospital and upon discharge stayed with her husband for a few months. Her husband started mistreating her and she left the marriage devastated.
At around that time, her elder sister died, leaving her children under the care of Mary’s mother. Mary saw this as a good opportunity to have children to take care of, but her mother declined her offer to take care of the children. “I decided to send a village delegation to my mother to find out if she was my biological mother. My mother came to the meeting and said nothing, so nothing was resolved,” recalls Mary.
HELPLESS AND DESPERATE…
Mary’s desire to have a child knows no bounds. “I yearn to have a child through any method including in vitro fertilization (IVF) or adoption. Though IVF is expensive, I am willing to go for it, trusting God will provide funds. I am now 42 and I feel the clock is ticking and time is running out, but I’m not ready to give up,” says Mary.
She had found a man who wanted to help her go the IVF way but was discouraged by friends who told him Mary had been married many times. She regrets that her identity card still bears her first husband’s name and when she wanted to change it, he refused saying he had already paid dowry. This has made her lose many opportunities including missing out on visas to get domestic work outside the country. She is currently without a job but hopes she can get domestic work to earn a living. She is also nursing a leg problem, which requires further treatment though she does not have the money.