Mariam struggles to provide for her 38 kids and other family members including daughters-in-law and grandchildren totaling to approximately 58 people
KASAWO | There’s nothing more important than family, which this Ugandan mother of 44 has certainly taken to heart. Mariam Nabatanzi gave birth to four sets of twins, five sets of triplets, and five quadruplets by the time she was 36.
Nalongo Muzaala Bana (the twin mother who produces quadruples) is what Mariam Nabatanzi Babirye goes by where she resides in Kasawo village in Mukono District of central Uganda.An overcrowded neighborhood with children running all over welcomes me to Nabatanzi’s home.At 42, Nabatanzi now has 38 children consisting of 16 girls and 22 boys whom she has delivered from home except the last born who is 6 years old.
Mariam’s husband fled in 2015 — forcing the single mother to take drastic measures raising her record number of children. This was just a great setback in a life marred by tragedy for Nabatanzi, who lives with her children in five cramped houses made of cement blocks and topped with corrugated iron in a village surrounded by coffee fields 50 km (31 miles) north of Kampala.
Nabatazni was sold into marriage at the age of twelve years old in 1993 and gave birth to her first set of twins one year later in 1994. She has had four sets of twins, five sets of triplets and five quadruplets in 15 births making her ‘the world’s most fertile woman’ at the moment and fourth most fertile in history.
Mariam told the Uganda times that her unreliable husband — who was 40 when he married her — left Nabatanzi and their 38 surviving kids seven years ago to fend for themselves, Unfortunately.
The single mother now works as a tailor and hairdresser to earn reasonable money to raise her 60 people surviving family including the 38 children, 12 grandchildren, and daughters in law.
Out of the 44 children that she produced, 38 are still alive today, most of them still living at the family home. Mariam is a single mother, and although providing for such a large family, she somehow manages to put enough food on the table for everyone. of the 38 living children. She told us that one of her daughters has already given birth to 15 children in 4 births and noted that it is genetical right from her father who gave birth to 45 children in different women giving birth to quadruplets and triplets.
Mariam said her life has neither been easy nor joyful. At age 12, she was married off to a man 28 years her senior, after surviving an assassination attempt by her stepmother whom she claims to have killed her 4 siblings when she reportedly put crushed glass in the food that they ate and passed away shortly.
She only survived because she was away at the time, but her parents still managed to get rid of her, by marrying her off to a much older man who physically abused her whenever she said or did something he didn’t like.
“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,” Mariam told Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper. “He was also violent and would beat me at any opportunity he got even when I suggested an idea that he didn’t like.”
Nalongo Marim with some of her Family members
Nabatanzi who gave birth to her first children, a set of twins, in 1994, at the young age of 13 and had her first set of triplets in 1996 following with quadruplets after one year and 7 months said she didn’t find it strange or unusual at all, because she had seen it before. Her father had 45 children with several women, and she claims that they all came in sets of quintuplets, quadruples, twins and triplets.
Mariam had always dreamed of having six children, but by her sixth pregnancy, she had already given birth to 18 babies, and she wanted to stop. She went to a hospital for help, but after running some tests, the gynecologist there told her that interfering with her fertility in any way would have put her life at risk.
“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 confirmed.
“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 ,” Mariam recalls.
By age 23, Mariam already had 25 children, so she went to the hospital again, but she was told that nothing could be done, because her egg count was still very high.
It has since been discovered that she suffers from a rare genetic condition that produces an unusually high amount of eggs. A local doctor warned her that taking birth control pills could cause serious problems for her unusually large ovaries.
Her last pregnancy in 2015, had complications. It was her sixth set of twins and one of them died in childbirth, her sixth child to die.
“I have grown up in tears, my man has passed me through a lot of suffering,” she said during an interview at her home, hands clasped as her eyes welled up. “All my time has been spent looking after my children and working to earn some money.”
Desperate for cash, Nabatanzi turns a hand to everything: hairdressing, event decorating, collecting and selling scrap metal, brewing local gin and selling herbal medicine. The money is swallowed up by food, medical care, clothing and school fees.
On a grimy wall in one room of her home hang proud portraits of some of her children graduating from school, gold tinsel around their necks.
“Mum is overwhelmed, the work is crushing her, we help where we can, like in cooking and washing, but she still carries the whole burden for the family. I feel for her,” said her eldest child Ivan Kibuka, 23, who had to drop out of secondary school when the money ran out.
Nabatanzi’s desire for a large family has its roots in disaster.
Three days after she was born, Nabatanzi’s mother abandoned the family for her father, the newborn girl and her five siblings, “She just left us,” said Nabatanzi sombrely.
After her father remarried, her stepmother poisoned the five older children with crushed glass mixed in their food. They all died. Nabatanzi escaped because she was visiting a relative, she says.
“I was seven years old then, too young to even understand what death actually meant. I was told by relatives what had happened,” she said.
She grew up wanting to have six children to rebuild her shattered family.
Mattresses in some of the bedrooms
Mariam with one her last born
Some of the leaking roofs
Drainage in the compund
Bathroom and Latrines
Providing for a home of 58 family members is a constant challenge.
Mariam’s homestead consists of 17 rooms 15 of which are bedrooms and 2 being empty dining and living rooms. According to Mariam, the homestead is not fully owned by her until she completes some balance of 5 Million Uganda shillings to the relatives of her deceased grandmother that had given them refuge prior to her death.
Eighteen of the children sleep on three wooden decker beds with thin mattresses in one small room with grime-caked walls. In the other rooms, lucky children, daughters-in-law and grandchildren pile onto shared mattresses while the others sleep on the dirt floor. Mariam herself shares her bedroom with 3 young ones including her 6 year old last born.
Most of the bedrooms have leaking roofs that heavily floods whenever it rains.
Older children help look after the young ones and everyone helps with chores like cooking. A single day can require 8 kilograms of maize flour, Nabatanzi says. Fish or meat are rare treats.
A roster on a small wooden board nailed to a wall spells out washing or cooking duties.
“On Saturday we all work together,” it reads.
Having endured such a hard childhood herself, Nabatanzi’s greatest wish now is for her children to be happy.
“I started taking on adult responsibilities at an early stage,” she said. “I have not had joy, I think, since I was born.”
Future Hopes and plans
Mariam’s hopes are that one day a good Samaritan will help her with the Ugx. 5 million for clearing the remaining balance to the relatives and peacefully get full ownership of the homestead.
She also hopes to get new iron sheets and replace the leaking roofs. She told us that 9 of the 15 bedrooms have no beds hence she hopes to acquire 25 new double decker beds and fill the empty rooms and missing space in other bedrooms with single beds. She have plans to repair 4 of the 8 existing double decker beds that are not in usable condition when she gets the required finances and once that is done, she will have a total of 33 decker beds that will be in position to accommodate 66 people each sleeping in his/her own bed.
She also erected a small structure at the front of her home which she wants to furnish with a shaving machine, mirrors and other accessories and make a barbershop for her family and save the money which she approximated to be Ugx.160,000 monthly being spent on salons and barbershops, for other family necessities.
Mariam has plans of acquiring some land and start cultivating food as well as rearing some animals using available family labor in order to safeguard permanent survival for her dependents. She also intends to start two businesses; a restaurant and a bridal salon to keep her children busy and productive.
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