When I knocked the door to Margaret Wacieni’s home in Kikuyu, Kiambu County, a small boy, no more than two years of age, pulls it wide open.
He squeals in excitement as if he has been waiting for me. His mother, Margaret, stares at him in awe before turning to usher me in.
Her deep, almost protective, love for her son is palpable and it is understandable for it took seven miscarriages before she was finally able to have a baby and watch him grow.
Margaret met the love of her life, James Wacieni Kariuki, in 2000 while they were both serving at the Bahati PCEA Church in Nairobi.
Theirs was not love at first sight, but their attraction to each other grew into love, which culminated in matrimony when they exchanged marriage vows on May 1, 2004.
Barely two months into their marriage, Margaret suffered a debilitating back pain. It was during this period that James mettle and love for his young wife was put to test.
“In our second month of marriage, I started having back pains that made it almost impossible to walk. James would pick me from the bus stop every evening. It was trying times for both us and I wondered why our marriage started on such a wrong footing. James was very caring and understanding of my situation and he didn’t hesitate to handle household chores. When I conceived, the pain went away and James was elated,” explains the 42-year-old.
The first two months of pregnancy were smooth. However, in the third month, she experienced pain in her lower abdomen and felt very fatigued. She went to the ladies and noticed she was spotting.
She abandoned whatever she was doing and rushed to see a gynaecologist. She was now bleeding and the scan results showed a blighted ovum (when the embryo fails to develop). She was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital and as she waited to be attended to, the embryo was expelled.
Together with her husband and sister who had come to give her support, they went home in the wee hours of the night dejected and traumatised.
It was difficult for the young couple to come to terms with the loss and unbeknown to them, it was only the beginning. Her husband and pillar of strength encouraged her and the pain soon faded. Six months later, she conceived. Everything went well and they watched as the pregnancy bloomed.
In the fifth month of pregnancy, she experienced pain in her lower abdomen and back while at work. She called her husband and sister who took her to a nearby hospital where they were informed that the foetus was being expelled. She was admitted. At around six the following morning, she had a miscarriage.
The couple really desired to have a child and thus did not
give up attempting to have one. “It didn’t take long before I conceived again. Around the same time, my father-in-law fell sick and he had to come stay with us. I was also experiencing difficulties at my work place and to top it up, I had gone back to school. My father-in-law unfortunately passed on and it really affected me. All these events in my life took a toll on me and two weeks after my father-in-law’s funeral, I started feeling pain in my lower abdomen. I was four months pregnant. I was alone in the house, as my husband had gone to church. Two friends who had come to visit found me writhing in pain. They took me to PCEA Kikuyu Hospital where I was admitted and placed under observation. I had a miscarriage on the fourth day of admission,” she narrates.
Tests conducted on her showed everything was fine. It puzzled her and the doctors who wondered what could possibly be going wrong every time she got pregnant to deny her the opportunity to carry her pregnancies to term. “With the fourth pregnancy, my water broke as I was boarding a matatu.
It was so embarrassing and it caused quite a scene. What made matters worse was that I was in the fifth month of pregnancy. I was taken to PCEA Kikuyu Hospital where I stayed for a month. I used to go for a weekly scans after being discharged since the foetus was still intact. The fourth scan showed the foetus had hydrocephalus and spinal bifida,” she explains.
The doctor explained what was at stake. Yes, the foetus could develop to full term but the baby may not live to see his twelfth birthday and even so, he would spend most of his days in hospital. They gave her two options: either carry the pregnancy to term and suffer the consequences, or terminate it. She was in a quandary. She could feel her baby moving in the womb and yet she was being asked to consider terminating it. She cried her heart out. In the end, they decided to terminate it. She was induced and the foetus came out.
When she became pregnant again, she started seeing a gynaecologist as soon as the pregnancy was confirmed. On the third month, her doctor recommended a McDonald stitch – used to strengthen the cervix and thereby prevent second trimester miscarriage. She was placed under strict bed rest and therefore had to resign from her job.
Given her previous experience, the doctor took all the precautions in the book and it seemed to be paying off for the pregnancy passed the fifth month. But in the six month as she was heading to the clinic, she experienced painful contractions. She was also vomiting and sweating profusely. At the hospital, she was induced and the foetus, a girl, was delivered but was dead.
By now, friends, even the closest ones, had deserted them. She became a recluse and cut out connections with everyone. Nothing made sense and she felt she had become a laughingstock.
At one time she asked her husband to look for another wife who would bear him a child but he told her he meant what he said at their wedding – ‘for better or worse, in sickness and in health’. Sometime in 2009, Margaret sat herself down for a pep talk. She decided to focus on things that were working in her life; she was alive, had a very supportive husband and a caring sister to boot. She picked up the pieces of her life and decided to ‘live’ again.
Around May 2010, she conceived and this time round with twins. She was very conscious of her body and carefully monitored the pregnancy. “I had then resumed work but I had to resign to take care of myself. The pregnancy progressed well and when we passed the fifth and sixth month, we had hopes that this time round things will turn out well.
However, after Christmas, the labour pains started. I was in the seventh month of pregnancy. I was rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital and 30 minutes after admission, the first twin was born.
The labour pains stopped almost immediately and I told the nurses there was still another baby. The first twin was placed in an incubator as I was induced for the second twin to be delivered,” Margaret says.
The second twin, a girl, was born and as Margaret turned to look at her son in the incubator. She saw him stretching before he calmed down and she instinctively knew life had gone out of him.
He was removed from the incubator and his sister placed on it but she didn’t last long for 45 minutes later, she also passed on. As other women went home with their bundles of joy, Margaret walked out of the hospital with an empty basin and a broken heart.
“I went all the way to the eighth month but I woke up one morning with a lot of pain. They were labour pains. Again, my husband rushed me to Kenyatta National Hospital and the baby was born almost immediately. We named him Victor Kariuki. He was taken to the nursery and I would go there to breastfeed him at the stipulated times. He was healthy and I knew the jinx was broken. My husband and I were so happy and we couldn’t wait to be discharged and go home. For the first time I would leave the hospital with a baby. Sadly, on the fourth day, Victor passed on. I was shattered. What could have gone wrong? My baby was perfectly fine. We left the hospital downcast,” she reminisces.
In the face of all these, her faith in God was unshaken and she had faith that she would one day carry her own child her ticking biological clock notwithstanding.
When she conceived the eighth time, she sought the services of a family friend who was a gynaecologist. She was given a McDonald stitch when she was two months pregnant and placed under a six-month hospital bed rest.
The hospital thus became her home and they were kind enough to create space for her husband in the same room. Everything went well despite a scare in the seventh month but the doctor moved swiftly to remedy the situation.
On the bright Sunday morning of December 21, 2014, her son, Sammy Ndichu, was born at 37 weeks. He was a bouncing baby boy. She had been given a crown of beauty for ashes. Sammy will be turning two this month and for the couple, he is the redemption they so much needed.
“No one should take pregnancy for granted for there are many women who suffer so much pain in their quest to have a child,” she says in conclusion. [email protected]
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