Every young girl walking down the aisle to meet her soon-to-be husband dreams of a happy ever after.
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To top it up will be a memorable honeymoon in an exotic island, breakfast in bed and a bouncing baby nine months down the line.
And so, when Cecilia Wairimu married the man of her dreams in 2001 in church and in front of family and friends, she was on cloud nine.
She had it all laid out - to conceive almost immediately.
But when the first and second years zoomed past with no signs of morning sickness, Cecilia (and her husband) went into panic mode.
“We wanted kids fine, but society expected children instantly; and the sooner they come the safer you are from the prying eyes of relatives, especially in-laws,” she says. She adds that, “I dreaded meeting people along the streets because for fear they would say something related to babies. People would ask very hurtful questions.”
But when there was still no baby three years later, she explains that, “I visited a hospital to find out if there was a problem. I was given a clean bill of health but put on Clomid, medication used to treat infertility in women who do not ovulate,” she told The Nairobian.
But Cecilia couldn’t get pregnant two years on. In her fourth year of marriage, after requests from the doctor, Cecilia’s husband agreed to be tested as well.
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Test results showed that he had low sperm count but “he refused to take his medication,” Cecilia says.
Meanwhile, Cecilia claims that her husband had started being abusive from year two of their marriage.
“He accused me of demeaning him for not giving him a child and told everybody that I was the problem, denying blatantly his low sperm count,” Cecilia says.
When things got out of hand, Cecilia faked a pregnancy – to appease the man’s family – and as nine months closed in, she ‘had a miscarriage’.
By year six, Cecilia’s cherished marriage had fallen apart: charred by the heat of childlessness.
But Cecilia needed to prove that she was not the problem. So, she got into a second marriage, with a man she hoped had higher sperm count.
A year later and with no signs of pregnancy, “I went back to the hospital. Unlike the first time, a pelvic scan showed that I had fibroids and blocked tubes. I needed Sh200,000 to undergo laparoscopic surgery. My new husband promised to look for the money but that never happened.”
Cecilia would later find out that her new catch had been forewarned about her barrenness which allegedly ended her first marriage.
The new man, Cecilia learned, had moved on because of that.
“He accused me of lying to him. Then one day, I came home from work and he had left with everything in the house and moved in with a new wife.”
Cecilia went into depression: feeling unable to prove to society that she could bear children.
Two lonely years followed – during which she decided to abstain from sex to avoid further disappointments.She also saved Sh200,000 to undergo the surgery.
“The surgery was done. I spent six months healing. And then afterwards, got into a relationship with only one aim: to get pregnant. I just wanted a sperm donor, nothing else. I didn’t want any relationship with the man,” Cecilia says.
Ten months after the surgery Cecilia tested positive for pregnancy.The now wary hopeful mother had bought a box of pregnancy test kits to keep testing every month.And one day, the results were positive!Cecilia kept the pregnancy a secret, lest it turned out to be a ‘false pregnancy.’
It is when she was seven months pregnant, and couldn’t hide her distended belly, that she called her boyfriend and broke the news to him.
However, her intention was just to inform him and not get him attached.
But he did. The man proposed to Cecilia and the couple got married after the baby was born.
“I cried when I held my baby!”
Cecilia’s first child, a boy, was born in 2011. Cecilia got two more children: another boy in 2012 and a girl in 2016.
In 2014, Cecilia founded Fertility Kenya, a non-governmental organisation with the objective of helping childless couples to conceive.
“I know what being childless is like. I started Fertility Kenya to help people like me. I told myself, if I could help people going through what I went through that my experience wouldn’t be in vain,” Cecilia says.
While Cecilia is celebrating her bundles of joy, John Munyua and Philomena Wairimu, 47 and 46, from Banana in Kiambu, are still waiting.
Three years after getting married, but with no baby in sight, Wairimu’s mother and father-in-law began complaining about her barrenness.
“They wanted my husband to kick me out and get another wife. Even my sisters-in-law would visit my place of work and abuse me to the point that I lost the job. The pressure was too much,” Wairimu says.
Tormented, she walked out and went back to her parents, and urged her husband to move on with his life and find another woman.
“When I committed to my wife in marriage I promised to love her in good and bad times. I refused to leave her like my parents had wanted,” Munyua says.
The couple persisted with seeking medical help even as relatives rained terror on Wairimu for not being able to bear a child.
Wairimu had been diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes while Munyua was given a clean bill of health.
Munyua refused to let go of his wife and at some point, the couple were pushed out of their homestead by their parents.
“It was no longer tenable to continue living with my parents. That is when we moved in with a grandmother who was willing to accommodate us and it’s where we still live to date,” says.
In 2010, 14 years since marriage, the Munyuas decided to adopt a baby.
“God answered our prayer,” the couple, devout Catholics, say.
“When we adopted our first -born – a girl – we were so happy. Everything about the adoption felt – and still feels – right,” Wairimu says.
They would adopt a second child, another girl, in 2013.
The Munyuas say they had spent over Sh5 million on hospital check-ups, surgeries (six surgeries to be precise) and fertility medication by the time they decided to stop seeking further intervention.
“From those early years of our marriage, we spent every dime we made on fertility related treatment. We tried conventional medicine and herbal medicine. At every point, there was always someone reaping from us – a gynaecologist, a herbalist, or just someone,” Munyua narrates.
Twenty one years have passed since their marriage and the Munyuas are happy with their two adopted children; whom they say feel like their own flesh and blood.
“I haven’t talked to my parents since leaving them. But I don’t think their attitude towards my marriage (and now my family) has changed a bit,” Munyua says.
In his plans, Munyua had hoped to sire two girls and two boys with his wife; “to be named after my parents and my wife’s parents.”
His mother refused to have Munyua’s first daughter to be named after her, according to Kikuyu customs, saying that the girl was not a real granddaughter.
But Munyua’s mother-in-law was fine with the second girl being named after her.