Talk about record breaking! Nalongo Muzaala Bana an Ugandan woman is just 37 but guess what? She already has 38 kids! How unbelievable right? But this is reality.
Her journey to motherhood started at the tender age of 13. known as Nalongo Muzaala Bana (the twin mother that produces quadruples) Mariam Nabatanzi Babirye who resides in Kabimbiri village, Mukono District surprisingly delivered 37 out of her 38 children naturally, the last – four months old was through cesarean section. But it doesn’t end there, the doctor also said she might die if she attempted to stop having kids.
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.
Narrating her story, Mariam disclosed 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 were not so lucky and ate the food then 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 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 gynaecologists and obstetricians, says it is very possible for Nabatanzi to have taken after her father. “Her case is 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 unfertilised 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 hospital to try and stop. “I was checked in at Mulago Hospital and advised to continue producing since the ovary count was still high.”
Hurdles in marriage
Nabatanzi’s 25 years in marriage have been characterised by humiliation and torture. Her husband is barely around, never provides for the welfare of the family and beats her regularly
“Everything is solely from my pocket; I buy 10kg of maize flour a day, four kilogrammes of sugar a day and three bars of soap. I need to have Shs100, 000 at the least on a daily basis to have the family catered for. God has been good to me for they have never gone a day without a meal,” she says. Nabatanzi is in the process of gathering money to connect piped water she can sell since water is a big problem in the area, with a jerry can costing Shs800.
To meet her expenses, Nabatanzi administers local herbs for various illnesses – which she says she has done since she was a young girl- and doing casual work such as plaiting hair, decorating at events, and styling brides.
“I do not despise any job as long as it brings in some money. Feeling sorry for myself is something I dropped because I know these children are a gift from God that I have to treasure, so I try my level best to fend for them.”