Kaari was 41 closing up on 42 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 abortions, 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 became 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. 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 just to heat of the passionate night that followed, Kaari told Karani about her worry that something was wrong with her baby makers. Kaari had resolved that she wanted to be a single mother, and co-parent without having to share a home with the father of her child. Nevertheless, 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.
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 equally. 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?
Karani would have married Kaari anyway, if she had wanted. He said he could live without children if he got to spend his life with her. But Kaari did not want to be married, she wanted children more than she wanted to be married. And Karani would always be there.
Kaari realized that to accept barrenness during the early forties is 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?