Womanhood is a challenge in its own way. It never comes with a manual of how to maneuver. Worse still is when womanhood encounters a disability. I believe the strongest of us all are women who have their lives up the sleeves amidst challenges of whatever form of disability. We will be marking the international women’s day in a couple of days. This year’s theme being bold for change; we celebrate women who have boldly stood amidst adversities and shone hope and resilience, even when their circumstances have dictated otherwise. Meet Mercy Kinoti aka Mama Jennie, a teacher by profession. Mercy was born with a condition called Spina Bifida -and this is her story:
I’m told when I was born the doctor suggested I undergo a corrective surgery, that would have corrected the issue, but my grandmother was hesitant. She believed that correcting what God intended would have resulted into other sort of punishment. Therefore, I have lived with the condition that has progressively advanced with age,
I went to a regular school but it amidst tons of challenges. I did not enjoy much of my childhood due to stigma from other children who made fun of me. I could not run around as they did. Neither could I play with them. However, I thank God for my family who gave me all the support. My mom made sure I was comfortable.
My sexuality never came up in any discussion with my family. It was a taboo and my mother made it clear that I should keep off from boys.
In high school and college I did not socialize much with the opposite sex because I really wanted to focus on my education and career. I always feared someone would take advantage of me.
After completing school I had my own uncertainties about relationships.
[Having a physical disability meant I had to have calipers and a clutch as a walking aid.} I was on and off relationships. I remember once I got this nice boyfriend who thought my condition was temporal and I think he was looking forward when I could heal and leave behind the clutches. When we began he didn’t ask why I was using a clutch, he assumed I had an accident because during our conversation I had mentioned I had an appointment at KNH, after several months of coffee dates he finally asked when I would leave the clutches behind and why it was taking so long to recover. I explained the nature of my disability and why I used the clutches, that evening he did not call to confirm if I arrived safely as usual and that was the end of our relationship.
This among other failed relationships made me suffer low self-esteem. I started doubting my womanhood and beauty. At times it hurt because I compared myself with other girls who wore heels and miniskirts and this made me feel unattractive.
I recall once I passed by some guys behind me commented “huyo dame nimrembo, lakini” ako na disability. After all the struggles I finally accepted to date a close friend who I thought had always known me for some time. However, our relationship didn’t end well since he thought that due to the nature of my disability I could not perform some of the duties as a wife including giving birth. He believed that I could not have children and if I did, probably they could inherit my disability.
He always reminded me that he loved me but he had to get another woman to marry for the sake of getting children, these were the lowest moment of my life, because every time he reminded me of my inabilities, my heart would bleed with pain yet I had to always hide my tears.
Fork on the Road
I decided I had enough of pity partying and so we broke up. I made up my mind to live a single life. However, I felt there was emptiness in me and I so much desired to have a baby of my own. I had obsession for babies and I silently asked God to help me get out.
Finally, in 2015 I got pregnant, although this came with mixed reactions. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect and I felt I was not so ready for it. The imagination of all the tormenting comments of my ex-boyfriend was traumatizing and very alive in my mind. I was scared of so many things. What would I tell my parents? Would they be mad at me? Would they understand? I got stressed because I feared what the outcome would be. How would I cope?
I was in denial and kept it a secret from my family and also my closest friends. I didn’t know what to do. Being a first time mother was scaring. No one had prepared me for this. The first trimester was hell. Struggling nausea and morning sickness and trying to hide my pregnancy from my colleagues and friends. You can’t hide pregnancy forever. After much struggle I opened up to my best friend who encouraged me to attend antenatal clinic. She walked with me each step of the way.
Thanks to Dr. Walfa who became not only a doctor but also a friend. I already had a job so I had to organize my finances to ensure the new baby was given the best.
I walked in one hospital after another struggling to find answers about the effects of spinal bifida. One doctor clearly stated that he had never dealt with a similar case but my condition was delicate and pregnancy would put me at a risk of me being paralyzed due to excessive pressure.
I got more scared as I wasn’t sure whether I was really ready for the outcome. The pressure was too much and I had to go for counseling. This really changed my perception as my therapist helped me appreciate the gift of my womb and she assured me that things would be well. My neurosurgeon Dr. Fazal together with Dr. Warfa worked tirelessly to ensure that was well monitored and everything worked out well. After 38 weeks I was scheduled for a cesarean procedure because with the weak lower limps I couldn’t push the baby and the positioning would be a challenge, within few hours I held the first fruit of my womb.
Over to you
Having a disability doesn’t mean that you can’t have children and a family. It’s essential for parents to assure their children that they too can and give them moral support.