Friday, February 21, 2014

Maureen Kigozi : Pregnant after 12 years

Twelve years since they got married, Mark and Maureen Kigozi had decided that maybe it was not their lot to ever have biological children. So when, Maureen, now 40, was not feeling well a few months ago, it never occurred to them that they had conceived – finally.
“I had come to that place where it was not an issue,” Pastor Mark, as he’s popularly known in Christian circles remarks, “whether it happened or not, it was not an issue.”
Even with this kind of rationale, nothing prepared them for the confounding news.
“She said she was feeling funny, had nausea, felt hot and then cold, so we thought she had malaria,” Pastor Mark relates.
He says he calculates her “days” (and sounds so proud about it). She chips in: “It’s funny, that I am the one who goes through them but I never know when I last had them so I have to ask him.”
He first thought it was the mood swings that herald a period, but the days came and went. Nevertheless, “When it has taken 12 years, pregnancy is not the first thing that comes to mind,” he admits.
A malaria test came back negative and “I thought something evil, some devil had attacked my wife. We prayed and went back to check.”
The malaria test together with several other tests – blood, urine, saliva, stool, name it, also came back negative. As is usually the case, the doctor recommended anti-malarials since these parasites are known to “hide”. The medication did not help.
“But I am not feeling well at all, I am feeling so bad,” he relays what she told him then.
They called up a doctor friend who asked them to go over for another thorough check-up. Every possible test yielded nothing. What shocked them even more was for “this very young doctor” as Maureen refers to him, to suggest a pregnancy test. They resisted, but he insisted and made it clear that all the symptoms were those for pregnancy and it wouldn’t hurt to check.
If they had been a much younger couple, it would have been obvious but it wasn’t.
Well, the doctor came back smiling and gave his good news to Maureen who was so shocked.
“He was surprised that I wasn’t jumping up and down, but I was thinking, what I am doing being pregnant at 40?” She just got up and left without saying anything.
Pastor Mark was waiting in the parking lot for his wife. Looking like she had seen an angel and was in some kind of trance, Pastor Mark says she opened the car and sat. When he asked what had happened her reply was, “Let’s go.” It was a Saturday and the couple was going shopping so he drove to the supermarket all the while thinking that a terminal illness must have been discovered.
His jaw almost dropped when she gave him the news while they were entering the supermarket.

“I said nothing. I just looked at her like this,” Pastor Mark who does most of the talking demonstrates with a dropping jaw. So she asked, “Aren’t you excited?”
After years of waiting and probably some false hope here and there, it couldn’t quite sink in very fast. And surely after one hour of shopping, he asked her, “What did you say?”
Dealing with the stigma
To borrow the popular cliché, the last 12 years haven’t been a walk in the park for the Kigozis regarding the issue of a child. Maureen was 28 when they got married since she felt she was not young, they never thought of contraception. “It is after two years that I was more aware that okay, babies are taking quite a bit,” Maureen adds.
Pastor Mark says there is a lot of social pressure to prove you are fertile and that men and women without children are stigmatised. “But for us, it was that if children came, halleluiah and if they didn’t, then we would have more time to enjoy ourselves without responsibility.”
Their families, however, were concerned. Maureen says she had to go for a medical check-up to please her mother. “I did everything my mother asked me to do, to please her. She needed some answers and I was as normal as they come.”
This meant the ball was in Pastor Mark’s court. He too now needed a check-up and in a matter-of-fact way, he admits it was an embarrassing episode, doing all those things gynaecologists ask to ascertain “his ability.” Well, he too was fine.
For them, IVF was out of the question, too expensive according to Pastor Mark. And even then, many couples try and are disappointed. But what he hates most about this method is that the fertilised eggs are sorted according to capability to survive. He demonstrates how doctors do it while holding up one hand like he’s looking at a test tube, “Ha, this looks weak, let’s get rid of it. How can you get rid of babies like that?” he questions.
Maureen, also fondly called Aunt Mo by their congregation, is in her sixth month and is feeling much better now after the tumultuous first trimester. I meet the couple at Centenary Park gardens where they have brought their eight-year-old adopted daughter, Melissa straight from school to a salon to have her hair plaited. She’s still in school uniform. Their six-year-old son Maxwell, adopted as well, is somewhere around too, bouncing at the children’s play area near where we have the interview. Maureen’s bulge has started showing through the maroon top she’s wearing over black leggings and she’s looking quite subdued.
“It is not that I am unexcited or unhappy,” she explains. “I am so overjoyed but I am also used to being practical, always on the move. And suddenly, I am sitting down and feeling different and depressed with my body unable to respond the way I want it to. But I am lighting up a bit now.”
A stickler for boiled food, she doesn’t have any specific cravings say, fries, ice cream or the “TV chicken” in Wandegeya.
Pastor Mark is now experiencing the true meaning of being the husband of a hormone-ravaged woman, something he says makes him a better person, parent and preacher. He says it’s given him a feel of what other people go through and that it takes a lot of patience. He now has to be more helpful with chores around the house especially with carrying heavy things.
“Sometimes she’s irritable and does not like the smell of that perfume, that food or even me, but I have to be understanding,” he adds.
Their families, friends and even people who just know them from afar are so excited meanwhile. “We get endless phone calls and smses of ‘Mukama yebale banange,’ which means ‘Thank you Lord’. There is a lot of noise but I am not the kind who wants people to,” she demonstrates with her hands, “swamp me and overwhelm me.”
The couple has been quite busy. In the last two or so years, they have started a church, Real Life Church, a talk show on NBS (Real Life), and a business, all of which they call babies and now, this – the long-awaited baby. Pastor Mark talks of it this way. “I have been very successful at everything I do. But I kept getting this nagging reminder in my mind about not having a biological child. I didn’t let it bother me but it was there. Then I have also been asking God to give me a sign that he’s with me. Now I know he is with me and that nudge in my soul has rested,” he contentedly chuckles.
But, unlike most couples in the same situation, they were lucky in many ways.

First, they come from strong Christian backgrounds. When asked whether any of his relatives suggested that he gets another wife, or a child somehow somewhere, he asks, “Who would dare?” His family also has a monthly prayer altar and they would always pray about it.
Secondly, Maureen describes herself as an upfront person. “People are afraid of approaching me. For me if you have something to say, you say it. Sometimes people would ask and I would reply that we are waiting on God for children but in the meantime, we are taking care of these.”
Pastor Mark detests the way people would pity them, as if offering them condolences for not having a child. One day he had to rescue his wife from a church member who had made it a habit of cornering and pitying his wife each Sunday after the church service.
He adds: “Some people don’t get kids because of too much pressure. After such an episode, she goes back home and she’s angry at the husband yet people are supposed to enjoy sex. Whether kids come out or not, people should enjoy sex.”
Adopting children
The couple had never considered the option of adopting though Maureen whose father took on so many children knew she wanted a full house. A pastor at Kampala Pentecostal Church (now Watoto Church) then, a church known for looking after orphaned and abandoned children, they thought they would probably sponsor some of those children. And when they got married, “many young people would come over to our place. All the bedrooms and the sitting room were full of people sleeping. But they would come and go, so we thought, why don’t we adopt, get children?” she remembers.
This was eight years ago. They didn’t know where to start but “took a walk that ended up at Sanyu Babies Home,” Maureen chips in. They wanted two babies at once and saw two lovely girls but one was taken. Then they saw and admired a sickly emaciated three-month old girl and got her immediately. After two years, Melissa was lonely but apparently, in her dreams, God had been showing Maureen, a bow-legged short boy wearing blue shorts and with beautiful eyes looking longingly at her. She combed all babies’ homes without finding him. She sounded crazy to the staff but she stuck with the search even up to Mukono. She refused to take any other baby. When she described the boy to an employee at Sanyu, they mentioned a boy who was always by himself and when he was brought, he was the exact one wearing the blue shorts she’d seen in the dreams.
The couple say these children too have been putting hands on their mummy’s tummy and praying that she gets a baby specifically, a girl. And what would you know, it is a girl.
The Kigozis is a story that is definitely inspiring and whether you are a believer or not, it shows miracles do happen.
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