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Mum at 52: How a lifetime of sacrifice delayed motherhood

 Jemimah holding her twin daughters (Photo: Courtesy)

Having a child to some is normal, but to me- Jemimah Okutu a 52-year-old secretary- it was a miracle. I gave birth recently and the twins are now four months old.

But when I turned 47, getting a child had become difficult. At 48, menopause kicked in and I couldn’t get my periods. I didn’t give up. I started visiting doctors and one told me, with technology, I could get pregnant. I was 51. I told him I have reached menopause, and he said that was not an issue.

 I did some tests and was told to return after two weeks when I found a packed lobby; people struggling to get babies like me. Young women, couples, even women older than me. This gave me hope. I was not alone in this journey.

The doctor gave me more medications to last until my second round of periods. I kept going for check-ups, the doctor monitoring my eggs if they were ready for fertilization. 

The doctor asked if I had a man. Or a donor.  I said no. I picked a donor from the hospital and whom the doctor called to inform his sperms were being used. My eggs were fertilised from outside and the embryo preserved until my uterus was ready.

After two weeks I went for a check-up, blood samples were taken. It was a Monday and I returned, but shortly the doctor called: “Jemimah how are you? Congratulations! your results are positive. It’s a double blessing!”

My place of work is crowded. I moved to the lobby and asked him to repeat what he had just said.

I wanted to scream, cry but had to contain myself. I can’t express the joy I felt. I hanged up and went to the washrooms. I didn’t mind how dirty they were. I just knelt and prayed. The whole day I was thinking about baby stuff.

I went home early but couldn’t sleep. I was just shopping in my mind. When I started getting heavy the doctor told my boss to give me lighter duties and allow me to work from home, occasionally. My sisters and brothers couldn’t believe I was pregnant. Everyone kept asking how that got possible.

 (The Standard Checkpoint)


The pregnancy had its complications, pain, fatigue and sickness but I didn’t mind. One day I went for a check-up but my blood pressure was so high the doctor warned it will affect the babies. So, they have to be removed before time.

I was not to return home, but Nairobi Hospital where the doctor had scheduled the surgery as it was near his clinic. I thought the nurses were rushing to pick someone else with an emergency, but it was me. My body had swollen; skin had turned black. They rushed me to the emergency room where my pressure levels were maintained.

I was hospitalized but didn’t even call anyone. When my pressure came down I was scheduled for a Caesarian-Section at the theatre where I was put on anesthesia, the curtains drawn to my face. I could feel the doctors doing something then I heard a cry. They showed me a baby. The last one took a bit of time but I heard the second cry.

After being sutured I was wheeled to the ward, the infants to the nursery where I went to see them the next morning. I marveled at God’s creation. They looked so beautiful. Though I was in pain, I was filled with joy. 

 Jemimah wanted children so she could not feel so alone (Photo: Courtesy)

God remembered me

Looking back, I don’t regret not giving birth early, looking at how occupied I am right now I don’t regret the missed opportunity. God had eventually remembered me.

I am the fourth born in a family of eight. Poverty engulfed my parents and educating us was an uphill task for my mother, a small-scale trader and my father, a manual labourer.  

I was educated in a day school and was lucky to join the National Youth Service (NYS) for secretarial training and later posted to the Ministry of Finance in 1991.

The salary was little. I had just worked for five months when my parents passed on. I had to take in my siblings of whom four were jobless and the others were struggling with their marriages. I was the only one working.

I took my siblings to school and most times begged school principals that I was an orphan but would slowly clear the fees-no matter how cash-strapped I was.

We lived in those small houses in Muthurwa and could squeeze ourselves in provided we had eaten. It was also cost-effective. I didn’t incur any transport charges as my siblings walked to colleges in town. I am glad they all got an education and some, jobs.

Marriage did not cross my mind. I had seen my elder sister’s marriages not working, so I promised to stay single. I often wondered if I got married would the man would accept me with this luggage? Would he help me pay school fees? I loved my siblings such that I couldn’t eat and let them sleep hungry.

At this point I was not even dating, I hated it. I feared it. My friend’s marriages were also not lasting and after a short stint most were back to the streets looking old and miserable.

That men act friendly when wooing you but end up mistreating you in marriage did not sit well with me. I was frank with those who approached me that I had siblings and they would have to help out. That was my condition. Most disappeared. Several others came, but the condition was the same.

Even after my sibling left, I housed other relatives. I am that person who gets touched when I see people suffering.  I continued with this life until my 40s when dating meant meeting in hotels, but with my conditions, most men still disappeared.

Pressure from relatives kicked in. One aunt invited me to her place only to find a house full of men. I saw how they were served food and treated and knew there was a mischievous plan here. I finished my food, stepped out and disappeared. That was the end of visiting my aunt.

Between 41 to 43 years, having a boyfriend crossed my mind, but most were married. Others asked whether I could be their second or third wives- which was not an option.

By 45, the space of a man was dwindling in my mind. I decided to get a baby. I was fearing for my future. It looked bleak. No child. No husband. Just loneliness.

The only thing I was proud of was an education despite my poor background: A Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees paid from my small salary.

I wanted a child so as not to feel alone. I was figuring I might one day die alone without a child to even notify the neighbours.

I had thought it automatic when done with my siblings I would get married, have a wedding.

But my family occupied me so much I couldn’t even think of myself, didn’t get time to be myself or even have a holiday. 

I will advise women to put themselves out there, treat themselves, socialize. If I had socialized enough then I could have met somebody who could accept my conditions, but for now, being called Mama Gloria and Angela is enough.

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