No husbands, just pass me your sperm
By Ted Malanda
He was a civil servant in a rural outpost. Being a Saturday, he was loafing around the house when he heard a knock on the door. He had no idea that the knock would change his life forever.
When he flung the door open, there stood Elizabeth, his sister’s best friend, grinning like a Cheshire cat. He had known her for years; In fact, she had been a year behind him at the university. "What a surprise — please do come in!" he screamed, hugging her with blissful joy and leading her to a seat.
"I was visiting a friend in Kericho. Then I remembered you work here and said why not pay you a visit and see how you are doing? It’s been long!" she said as she sat down on the sofa, looking equally thrilled.
It never occurred to him that it was midday and rather early to have travelled from Kakamega, visited a friend in Kericho and caught a dilapidated matatu to the village outpost where he worked.
A strange visit
Six hours, lunch and four O’clock tea later, she didn’t seem in a hurry to leave. So he strolled out and asked a neighbour if he would be kind to allow him to sleep over at his place since he had a female guest and his house was a modest one bed-roomed affair.
"Are you crazy? That’s manna from a heaven, bwana. A woman doesn’t just visit you like that!" the friend roared.
She took a bath. They had dinner, which she prepared. When he suggested they go to bed, she seemed pretty comfortable with the arrangement. One thing led to another, of course.
She left the next day and promised to return, which she did in a fortnight. By this time, our man was already ensnared by her charms. He was 30, his parents clearly anxious about his marital status and here was a godsend — well educated and groomed, beautiful and an old family friend with a solid family background to boot.
"I’m going to marry her," he announced to friends.
But when she left the second time, she never returned. His letters went unanswered. Nine months later, however, a tersely-worded telegram arrived: "CONGRATULATIONS YOU ARE FATHER OF BOUNCING BABY BOY YOU CAN BE INVOLVED IN HIS LIFE OR IGNORE"
That’s when it dawned on him that he had, in female parlance, been used and dumped; that his sister’s best friend waited for Mr Right to pop along and when he didn’t, she selected him — a solid man whose family and academic background she knew well, whose intellect, looks and genetic makeup she could vouch for — to be a sperm donor and the father of her child.
Far away in Geneva, a Kenyan female intellectual helplessly watched the years crawl by. She had done well, traversing major capital cities of the world as a global civil servant, piling up professional accolades and loads of money in the bank.
A lucky break
She had had a Kenyan boyfriend but her nature of work and constant travels made it virtually impossible to settle down. She could have opted for a Caucasian boyfriend, and certainly, many of her male co-workers had shown interest, but she had promised herself not to have a mixed-race child.
When she visited Nairobi on her annual holiday, an old friend and college mate took her out to dinner. Later, drowsy with wine, she suddenly felt melancholic and tearfully began lamenting about the loneliness that plagued her soul, her desire for a husband and to be a mother. He reached out, held her and comforted her.
What began as an innocent hug from an old, married friend resulted in a missed period a month later and the birth of a daughter that she describes as the best thing in her life.
"My mother was so excited when I announced I was pregnant. At 44, they had practically given up on me. In fact, no one, not even my father, has bothered to ask who the father of my child is," she says.
This is modern Kenya where educated and sophisticated women no longer place a premium on husbands and marriage, opting instead to raise a happy family as single parents on their own terms.
Says Emily, a banker: "My female friends — those who aren’t divorced yet — constantly whine about what a pain marriage is, how stifling it is, how their husbands cheat on them, how they could opt out if it wasn’t for the children.
"Of course in public, they pretend to be one happy family when in reality, their unions are cold and loveless. Some confess they sleep in separate bedrooms and have not made love with their husbands for months. It’s just a silly fuss that most people, especially women, get into to please their parents and society."
A holder of two postgraduate degrees, Emily owns her own home in Nairobi and is a senior manager with a leading financial institution. For her, the notion that a man should provide for her is fallacy. In fact, she would hardly meet single men within her age bracket who bring home half of what she earns.
"I initially made a beeline for the sperm bank at Kenyatta National Hospital in 2003 but then realised that most of the donors were just riffraff or broke students out to make a quick buck. No lawyers, doctors or engineers. Who wants a dunderhead for a kid?
"So I turned to my circle of friends and acquaintances and selected those with good looks and brains — naturally married because that is an indication that they are responsible and could take care of my child if something went wrong. Not surprisingly, all of them were dying to be of assistance," she says with laughter.
Incidentally, she encountered another group that she describes as "serial donors". These are men who not only made overtures before she even asked but also openly bragged about being fathers to a string of children with different women. "They gave me the creeps. In fact I wondered whether they had some dirty disease that they were spreading around."
Florence, a senior journalist, is even more forthright: "A woman in her mid 30s has to make tough decisions because she’s on the wrong side of history.
If you meet a man at a supermarket and he uses roll on, has tolerable breath, clean socks and sounds like he has a brain, drag him to a VCT centre and wait for the results. If he is clean, close your eyes and have sex (good sex if you are extremely lucky) and get healthy sperm. If he hangs around after that, well and good. If not, tough luck…"
Not all women share her view, though. Gladys Anyango, a high school teacher and single mother says the novelty quickly wears off once one encounters the emotional, financial and social challenges of raising a child on their own. "There is nothing as difficult as dealing with a child’s sickness or discipline problems single-handedly or when he or she looks at you one day and says, ‘Why don’t I have a daddy like my friends?’"
But would men, especially those married with children, knowingly donate sperm for an aging damsel in distress? "Why not?" poses Cliff, a lawyer. "Marriages are very fickle these days. You need to be strategic so that should your wife bail out on you, you have a plan B. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have a little ‘secret’ somewhere so long as the mother is brainy and responsible. You never know what they could become…"
John, a father of three dismisses that as a big joke. " Jumping around like a bull can really complicate your life.
The woman will pretend she is not interested in your money but will start making demands a year down the line. Or should you die, she will come with court injunctions and cause a big mess as she fights with your wife over the estate. Besides, what if this child you donate bumps into your legitimate son or daughter somewhere and unknowingly starts an incestuous relationship?"
Strangely, there are also men who use women as ovum donors. Anita, an insurance saleswoman says in the past year, she has signed up three single men who live with their children without any intention of bringing a woman into the house. "One dude was barely 35 but has four children by different mothers and he lives with them."
He belongs to a cynical generation, both male and female, that wants children, peace and happiness without the loss of personal freedom, incessant supremacy and financial fights and the petty squabbles and emotional upheavals that have become synonymous with the institution of marriage.
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