For 22 years, Florence Makena, 48, and her husband John Gitobu, 59, endured the anguish, shame and ridicule of a childless marriage, but not for lack of trying.
There is nowhere Makena’s yearning for motherhood did not take her: from gynaecologists to pastors and even traditional herbalists; from Meru to Ukambani and Nairobi.
“There is nothing I didn’t do. I think all the pastors in Nairobi have prayed for me. I have been to both public hospitals and private gynaecologists,” Makena tells The Standard at her home in Githurai, Nairobi.
Makena and Gitobu married in 1998, not knowing that it was the beginning of a companionship that would be characterised by both bliss and despair.
Since 1998, the closest Makena ever got to being a mother was an ectopic pregnancy in 2001. Only two months into the pregnancy, she had a miscarriage that dashed her hopes for motherhood.
Every month, she prayed and hoped she would get pregnant, but her undying wish for a child remained elusive.
While some gynaecologists told Makena that she was fine and would give birth eventually, the shared consensus among the professionals she visited was that her uterine tubes were blocked.
She even underwent surgery to correct her uterine tubes in 2006 at St Mary’s Hospital in Langata, Nairobi, but this did not yield her a child.
When the doctors failed her, Makena turned to herbalists, but their concoctions did not work either.
The elders, on the other hand, thought the couple needed to be cleansed of a ‘curse’ that was preventing them from having children. It did not work.
With all hope lost and no one else to help her, Makena turned to the church.
“I moved from pastor to pastor to receive prayers, but still I did not get a baby. I used to cry so much. It was very painful, but I never lost hope,” she says.
At some point, Makena admits that she thought of walking out of the marriage to escape the pressure to bear a child. Her husband encouraged her to stay.
“John told me he married me because of love, not so I can give him children. He told me to stop listening to negative voices,” she says.
When she turned 45, Makena began to fear that her body clock was slowing down.
Her dream of becoming a mother was fading fast, but her hope stubbornly persisted, partly because she was still menstruating and also because her intuition told her that God would not let her die without experiencing the joy of motherhood.
“I used to tell God: I want you to bless me like you blessed Sarah,” she recounts, drawing reference to the Biblical tale of Abraham and Sarah, who had a child in old age.
Faith bound the couple together.
“I had this strange assurance that we would eventually get a child,” says Gitobu, Makena’s husband who sells curios for a living.
In October 2019, Makena missed her period. She had just hit 48 years and thought: This is it. I have finally reached menopause.
To be sure, she decided to seek a medical opinion from a local clinic. After a series of tests, the doctor dropped the bombshell: Makena was pregnant.
“I started crying. My mind could not process it. I just could not believe it,” recounts Makena.
Back home, Makena broke the news to her husband. Gitobu took it calmly. But he, too, could not hide his surprise.
“I was very surprised. It was unbelievable. But I told her to wait until she delivered so that we could know for sure,” says Gitobu.
The couple decided to seek a second opinion, and the gynaecologist confirmed that Makena was indeed pregnant.
A few weeks later, Makena went back to the clinic for check-up. She was in for another shock: She was not carrying one, but three babies!
“I could not believe it,” she says. “I only believed it when I finally held them.”
And hold them she did.
On April 13, 2020 at around 3am, Makena safely delivered three healthy boys through cesarean section at a hospital in Nairobi.
The couple named their sons Miracle, Emmanuel, and Junior, names they say reflect their arduous journey to parenthood.
It’s now three months since the couple’s quest for a child was achieved so dramatically. Makena says motherhood has been blissful and that for the first time in her marriage, she feels a sense of acceptance within the greater family.
As for Gitobu, although he is out of work - he cannot distribute curios anymore due to Covid-19, he says he is a happy man.
“I may not be working right now, but God has compensated us for the children we never had before,” he says.