Lost along the way, a Boda Boda rider offers to lead me to her home since they know her by her unique name.
Nalongo Muzaala Bana (the twin mother that produces quadruples) is what Mariam Nabatanzi Babirye goes by where she resides in Kabimbiri village, Mukono District.
An overcrowded neighborhood with children running all over welcomes me to Nabatanzi’s home.
At 37, Nabatanzi has 38 children whom she has delivered from home except for the last born who is four months old. She was delivered by cesarean section. Among her children are six sets of twins, four sets of triplets, three sets of quadruples, and single births. Ten of these are girls and the rest are boys. The oldest is 23 years old while the youngest four months.
Eager to tell her story, she takes a minute before getting into it, tilting her head lost in thoughts. She was married off at 12 years of age after surviving death; allegedly at her stepmother’s hands who apparently pounded glass and mixed it in the food, she gave Nabatanzi and her four siblings. Fortunately, she was away unlike her siblings who ate the food and died on the spot.
Nabatanzi breaks down when she recalls what she went through upon getting married. In 1993, she was married off to a 40-year-old man.
“I did not know I was being married off. People came home and brought things for my father. When the time came for them to leave, I thought I was escorting my aunt but when I got there, she gave me away to the man.”
Being only a young girl, she found marriage a difficult task in the new family. “My husband was polygamous with many children from his past relationships who I had to take care of because their mothers were scattered all over. He was also violent and would beat me at any opportunity he got even when I suggested an idea that he didn’t like,” she recounts.
Starting a family
Her father-in-law gave them a piece of land to start their family, a family for which she planned to have six children.
In 1994, when she was 13, Nabatanzi gave birth to twins. Two years later, she gave birth to triplets and a year and seven months after that added a set of quadruplets. This, she says was nothing strange to her because she had seen it before in her lineage. “My father gave birth to 45 children with different women and these all came in quintuplets, quadruples, twins and triplets,” she says.
Indeed, Dr. Charles Kiggundu, a gynecologist at Mulago Hospital and President of gynecologists and obstetricians, says it is very possible for Nabatanzi to have taken after her father. “Her case is a genetic predisposition to hyper-ovulate (releasing multiple eggs in one cycle), which significantly increases the chance of having multiples; it is always genetic,” he explains.
By her sixth delivery, Nabatanzi had had 18 children and wanted to stop, so, she went to see a doctor at Namaliili Hospital.
The doctor told Nabatanzi that she could not be stopped then because she had a high ovary count which would eventually kill her if she stopped.
“Having these unfertilized eggs accumulate poses not only a threat to destroy the reproductive system but can also make the woman lose their lives,” Dr. Ahmed Kikomeko from Kawempe General Hospital explains.
“I was advised to keep producing since putting this on hold would mean death. I tried using the Inter Uterine Device (IUD) but I got sick and vomited a lot, to the point of near-death. I went into a coma for a month,” she explains.
At the age of 23 with now 25 children, she went back to the hospital to try and stop. “I was checked in at Mulago Hospital and advised to continue producing since the ovary count was still high.”
No way to stop?
Kiggundu explains that women’s ovaries are at times suppressed and stopped from ovulating. “The suppressed eggs later pile up and are released at once and here, the higher the chances of fertilizing many eggs, the higher the chances of all of them dying, Nabatanzi was lucky,” he says. “She must have been super ovulating, releasing many eggs in a cycle.” He adds that Nabatanzi could have been helped if she had really wanted to stop producing, but some people are not well informed.
Nabatanzi has given up on the pleasures of life
Nabatanzi has given up on the pleasures of life to happily take care of her 38 children’s needs. PHOTO | COLLEB MUGUME | DAILY MONITOR
At the birth of her four-month-old child who was delivered by C-section in December last year, she says; “I asked the doctor to stop me from more births and he said he had ‘cut my uterus from inside’. This was my only Cesarean delivery because I was still weak from the sickness I suffered when I tried to use an IUD.”
Kiggundu says this was most likely tubal ligation. “With tubal ligation, the tubes are blocked, a permanent method of contraception in women, but they would continue having their menses,” explains the gynecologist.
Hurdles in marriage
Nabatanzi’s 25 years in marriage have been characterized by humiliation and torture. “I have been tortured countless times by my husband; he beats to the pulp when I try to reason with him over any issue, especially when he gets home drank. He does not provide for basic needs and welfare of the family; the children hardly know who he is since he is an absent father who gives his children names over the phone and not physically,” she says.
Charles Musisi, 23, her eldest son says their father disappeared and they have grown up only with their mother’s love.
“I can comfortably tell you that our siblings do not know what the father looks like. I last saw him when I was 13 years old and only briefly in the night because he rushed off again,” he says, adding that they do not know the happiness of living with a father and they only rely on their mother as their both mother and father.
Nabatanzi says her husband spends close to a year without coming home and when he does, he just sneaks into the house late in the night and leaves very early in the morning.
“I carry these humiliations because my aunt advised me to always endure in marriage and have my children as the center of focus. She advised me not to produce children from different men.”