Month: December 2019

Kaari – a mother without a child

Kaari was 35 closing up on 36 when she realized that she may never have her own children. Not a single child from her body. She had never been married, not for lack of mates, rather lack of interest in the institution of marriage. There had been relationships, both long and short and she had never taken contraceptives. Still, Kaari had never been pregnant, not even by mistake. Neither had she ever had an abortion, or a miscarriage. Period had been late some months, or early other months – especially during travel or stressful periods of time.

At such times, when periods were late, her heart jumped a beat, anticipation and longing took over. However, the periods came every month without fail.

By the time Kaari turned 28 years old, the menstrual schedule had changed from the regular, well known 28 days, to 21 days. The hormones were unbalanced, she could tell by the number of times she cried that year. And the need to be alone came more often than ever before. Month after month, year after year, a silent infertility extended over time and space and no one could explain it. Kaari was more barren than most barren people, plants and animals.

Some women seemed to get pregnant and miscarry. Others had children and were infertile when they wanted a 2nd or 3rd child. Still others did not want to have children – they chose to remain childless.

For Kaari, during the younger years, friends all around got pregnant by mistake or on purpose. Many, almost all, got pregnant on the first sexual encounter. Or so they said.

“I have never done it before. It was my first time ever!”

followed by tears and anxiety.

Coming from christian surroundings, Kaari always doubted that all these girls got pregnant on the first sex encounter. Religion meant you kept lying about your sexual needs and experiences. Kaari had her 1st sexual experience soon after high school, just as she turned 18 years old. She did not use condoms or any other form of contraceptive – Karani, Kaari’s boyfriend said he pulled out before ejaculation.

They continued to have sex for over a year after that 1st encounter. No pregnancy availed itself. Not that she wanted to get pregnant at this point. But if a mistake was to happen, it should have happened during this year.

Kaari first wondered if something was wrong with her baby makers in her early twenties, maybe 24 years old. She met Kip, a former schoolmate in Nairobi streets. He was with a woman, and a baby in the woman’s arms. Kip who had now become a man of 26 looked so happy. Content. Seeing the baby made her wonder why she had never gotten pregnant, even though she had never used contraceptives.

Once, in her late 20s, Kaari and Karani agreed to live together and try to get pregnant. They had broken up many years prior as they attended different universities, but they had kept a warm friendship. They had even dated other people, until they met in a Nairobi pub and reconnected. The chemistry was still there – simmering. In the heat of the passionate night that followed, Kaari told Karani about her worry that something was wrong with her baby makers. That night, they agreed to live together for six months and focus on getting pregnant.

They both realized how much they would love having a baby together. They changed their diet, tried all the foods that enhance fertility. Health improved, sleep improved and the skin improved.

No pregnancy.

During these six months, Kaari and Karani tried all the different combinations of dates that are supposed to be fertile. And all the Kama Sutra positions – succeeding and failing in equal measure. They bought the fertility tests that were recommended by others who had walked the same road. Legs were left resting on the wall to keep the semen in and give things time to reach the Fallopian tubes, or the uterus?

No pregnancy.

Karani wanted to marry Kaari anyway. He said he could live without children if he got to spend his life with her. But did Kaari want to be married? Or did she want children more than she wanted to be married. Besides, Karani would always be there.

Kaari realized that to accept barrenness before the forties hit was an act of self-preservation. A survival instinct. The logical realization that as a woman, one of the boxes would never be ticked. One of the basic definitions would never apply to her.

There are so few who get pregnant during the forties. Those who succeed to have children are either movie stars and mega rich women who can pay for IVF or surrogate wombs. Or, they are women who already have children. For the women who already have children, it is almost a shock to get pregnant after 40.

As a woman with an African background, going by history, all generations of women before Kaari and around her were measured by their motherhood, their wifely-hood or their capacity to go through a difficult life gracefully. Persevering wives. Devoted mothers.

Like Sara in the bible, defined as Abraham’s wife and barren. The thing she was best at, was being a good wife. Letting Abraham have a child with Haggai. Later, she became a mother herself and that became definition number 3. The mother of Abraham’s son. Abraham was all else including God’s friend.

So, Kaari wondered, if she never became a mother, or a wife, what was she really? What value had she? What defined her in the big scheme of things?

Christine and Castro

I started writing this on the 18th of November. That is three weeks ago. You know how they speak about work-life balance? Well that is just hot-air because sometimes, work is the entirety of life. Additionally, life is work – the daily activity of living is hard work. So, for me, when work takes over my brain, I relax into it and enjoy the ride. I am aware it will not last forever, and that it will mean that I neglect some other stuff.

Unfortunately, this episode of “too-much-at-work” meant I neglected the blog. It also means I have some more material for this post. WIN-WIN.

Anyway, we are back!

First time for everything

There is a first time for every single thing. Some first we all expect because we know they are coming. Mostly, someone has tried to prepare us for them. Some firsts are unexpected due to our limited imagination or limiting environment.

The first time I realized love can kill you, I was 15 years old. A child, and I was not prepared. My ignorance shocks me now because I grew up with alcoholics, victims and co-dependents. Inside my childhood life, husbands beat their wives up in the night – we heard screams in the night – and we saw the black/red eyes in the mornings. Drunk spouses and relatives fought half to death. A man was murdered by the river when I was 7-8years old. Still, it didn’t click in my head that love is a killer. Nobody spoke about love in the sense that love was all consuming.

We were conditioned before we were born that marriages were practical arrangements. How else would you explain the survival of marriages even when both parties in the marriage were completely detached from each other? Most husbands and wives slept in the same bed, but mostly, they were at war with each other. Even in their silences, you could feel the detached hostility and criticism. Men disappeared every end month to wherever and came back to bitter wives and rents unpaid. What I felt for my siblings was never defined as ‘love’. It was defined as a blood-connection that made us inseparable and each other’s protectors.

Of course, some men and women were dedicated to each other. This was not called love in my childhood hoods. It was called hen-pecked or being sat on. Especially mocked was the man who was dedicated to his wife. The one who came home early, provided money for household maintenance, took her out and treated her decently – he was the weakest man in the neighborhood. Mothers hoped and prayed that their sons would never grow up to be controlled by women in this way.

Abuse, irresponsibility, addiction and general societal disorderliness was normalized and expected – we were all being conditioned to expect it as part of life.

Imagine my shock when Castro, our neighborhood hunk drunk rat poison because Christine was pregnant?! A total deviation from the norm. Young men were expected to deny the pregnancy and distance themselves from the girl who so carelessly got herself pregnant. I was used to that, and I expected that. It was the girl’s parents who chased the boy’s parents down to force them to force their son to ‘own’ the pregnancy.

All this was opposite in Christine-Castro’s case.

Castro was 18-19 years old and had been dating Christine since forever. To us other love-less mortals in the neighborhood, Christine and Castro felt like the same person. If you saw Christine, you asked her where Castro was, and later same day, when you met Castro, you asked him where Christine was. You didn’t ask them because you wanted the other person, it was just that one felt incomplete without the other. They made a beautiful couple.

Then, Christine got pregnant before she finished high school. She was 17 years old and we the neighbors didn’t know that Christine was pregnant. We only found out later when we found out that Castro had tried to kill himself. We, the neighbors, would have horror-enjoyed to hear the scandal of Christine being pregnant before she finished high school. Just the same way we horror-enjoy to watch murders on TV. And we would have been thrilled by the idea of a Christine-Castro baby.

However, to save face, Christine’s parents advised her to hide the pregnancy, have the baby and her mother would pretend to be baby’s mom. This way, Christine could finish her education without shame. The trouble is, Christine had already told Castro she was pregnant and he was the happiest man-boy in Eastlands.

Castro was named by his revolutionary father, after the revolutionary Fidel Castro. Sometimes, we called him Fidel – well, older teens called him Fidel and I hang my tongue out in longing for him. My teens were raging with haywire hormones. I was green-jealous of Christine for having Castro and I know other girls were too. My best friend Shiku once told me that she dreamed that Christine was gone, and Castro was free for her to take. When I asked her ‘gone where’? she looked at me as if I was the mother of all morons.

Gone meant gone. Didn’t matter where. She could be dead, or eaten by the dog, or over at her aunt’s forever, or married to someone else. As long as Castro was free, we shouldn’t care where Christine went.

Anyway, Castro the revolutionary loved Christine and the idea of his and Christine’s baby being hidden and then taken over by Christine’s parents made his blood boil. He tried everything to change the story, but Christine’s parents were adamant. No way was Christine being associated with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and no way was she being tied to a revolutionary such as Fidel.

Castro’s parents tried to negotiate and almost ended up at the police station accused of encouraging their son to have sexual-relations with a minor.

Castro was devastated. He wanted to die, so he mixed rat poison with alcohol and drank it, ending up at ICU for a week or so. Rat poison is treacherous. It is not always strong enough to kill revolutionaries, but it can leave them weakened.

I heard the talk of loving too much after this. It was whispered and hushed in warnings. It was meant to internalize the fear of love in us.

Loving too much can kill you.

You want to know what happened to this couple don’t you?

Have you heard Queen’s Too much Love will kill you?

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