LILLIANE NAKAYIMA meets the mother who has lost 7 children
To most parents, when a child is born it’s very pleasant and counted as one of God’s blessings. In the case of giving birth to twins, they are greeted as bundles of joy and pride.
For Philomena Mukakigeri it was not quite as simple.
She considers the three times she has given birth a curse. “I wish I had given birth normally; maybe all my children would be alive and with me,” says Mukakigeri.
She is not sure whether her nine month old triplets will live long. She is pessimistic; history has not been kind.
Abnormally slim and tall, Mukakigeri looks tormented or sick. She is pale beneath her red hair.
Her first birth went bad. When Mukakigeri was 30, she was blessed with four babies but they died after eleven months. She conceived again after some months and gave birth to triplets. All three babies died before reaching the age of one.
“It has been hell on earth. Why, I always ask myself. Why does it have to be me,” Mukakigeri says in a dry tone.
“What I have gone through as a parent is far different from what people expect. Imagine suffering nine months and toiling to care for the kids to lose them in the end,” she said.
Last year Mukakigeri again gave birth to triplets.
In Nyakigezi, Kibuye where she currently resides, Mukakigeri finds casual labour to earn enough to help her children. She has tended people’s gardens, worked as a porter in the market and cleaned houses. Currently she is working alongside men on a house construction project.
“Though I am weak, this happens to be the only way for my triplets to survive,” she says.
Mukakigeri’s babies are pale and skinny with yellow hair. Recently during immunisation, medical attendants warned that the three would die soon unless they received basic food supplements.
“In case she got basic care for her children before, the seven wouldn’t have died,” was the doctor’s comment. The doctor used Mukakigeri as an example of poor family planning but Mukakigeri calls it an abnormality.
“I always sulk to God asking him why he created me this way yet I have no help at all,” she said. Mukakigeri has no husband her family was killed during the 1994 Genocide.
Right now she is scared that she will see her three kids, her “everything”, dead as well. She has resorted to begging on the Kibuye streets after her work every evening so as to sustain her family.
“Imagine baring ten children, in a period of five years and the seven die and you remain with only three and they are on the verge of death,” she told me.
Looking at happy families with husbands and healthy children makes Mukakigeri jealous. When she sits alone, she imagines life had her children survived.
“Ubu barikuba banvomera,” she sobs, crying that they would be fetching water for her and helping her with house work.
“We think this time she will have to die before her kids die,” said Theo Nsengiyumva, a neighbour who believes Mukakigeri is very sick.
“Even HIV positive people are far better than me, because they have their kids with them,” Mukakigeri says.
Mukakigeri believes her loss is partially due to a family curse.
Even her elder sister had given birth to triplets thrice, the first set died at birth, the second died when they were four months old and the last died at the age of two.
As she solicits for help from any willing person, Mukakigeri is certain that her last children will die.
“I will commit suicide once they die,” she says.