When You Are Trying To Have A Baby


By Sophie Gitonga “Mama Pendo”

When you are trying to have a baby, it consumes your every waking moment. You imagine looks of solidarity, scorn or sympathy from every face you encounter. As if they already know that your womb is like a hollowed out gourd, dry and devoid of life.

Sex becomes less about making love with your mate and more about making a baby. It’s become a science. It’s about frequency, basal temperatures, cervical mucus, ovulation, sperm counts, hormone levels, stress levels, right amounts of lubrication, no lubrication, and the appropriate length of time to keep your legs raised at the right angle before you can get up.

When you are trying to have a baby, you find God at the peak of your ovulation. You make him promises, some you intend to keep. You devote your first child to him; if he just lets you have it. You give up smoking, drinking and gossiping. Because you believe quite strongly that sin is the reason your womb is silent. You make peace with your enemies and increase your tithe. And when your period shows up, like clockwork, with its unmistaken bright red flow, you lose God. You push him out your door like a guest who has overstayed his welcome. You say unkind things to him, that he is cruel and unfair. “Why me?” you ask him. But all you get is silence, the same silence that’s coming from your womb. And you ask him to leave you and to take your womb with him because it is of no use to you.

You begin to notice the women with protruding bellies they are everywhere, looking smug about their pregnancies. They are on the streets, in the bus, in the queue behind you at the supermarket, who makes you feel obliged to let her go in front of you because she looks so tired and worn out. You say congratulations to her half smiling, while you try to swallow the lump that’s now growing in your throat. You want to be as tired as she is from growing a human. You want it all, you convince yourself, the nausea, the swollen feet and even the puffed up nose. Why do the noses of pregnant women become so large by the way?

There’s another kid having a tantrum because his mother won’t buy him candy. He’s splaying himself on the floor now, whirling like a dervish. His mother gives him that look that says, ‘wait till we get home’. You want to give that look to your child. Every woman has that look, it’s like a factory setting that is downloaded the instant you become a mum. You see another mother using her saliva to wipe off something from her baby’s face. You wonder if you’ll ever get to experience the magical stain removing qualities of a mother’s saliva. But your baby remains elusive.

Your younger brother is sending you pictures of his daughter. She’s smiling in one of them, her big gummy smile. You gotta love how babies smile; the smile comes all the way up to their eyes. They have not yet learnt cynicism and disappointment and so when they smile it’s a genuine whole face smile. These pictures only serve to increase your longing. You reply with ‘how adorable’ and heart shaped emojis as the lump persistently bobs in your throat.

Ten, fifteen years ago, your priorities and desires were a lot different. Motherhood was not in your radar. You were busy with other things you told yourself. You needed to go to college and get into a career before being saddled with babies. You were looking for Mr Right but before he showed up, you were happy with Mr Right Now. You used contraceptives to make sure that Mr Right Now did not disorganise you. You waltzed through life unencumbered. You had time you said, besides your biological clock wasn’t ticking, you said. Then, Mr Right walked in and suddenly your loins were electrified like they had
never been before. He said he saw you as the mother of his children and your ovaries were jolted from their dormancy. You married each other and you debated how soon the babies should arrive, in what order and number. You fought over names, yes; you had already named your non-existent babies. You got the implant pulled out of your arm. Then you heard it, faint at first and then a crescendo. It was your biological clock, ticking so loudly you were sure the people around you could hear it. Yet the baby still didn’t come.

You scour the internet for answers and type the words “causes of infertility”. And you can scarcely believe it, that you are
typing those words. Because it’s an admission you see, that you are damaged. If you were an animal you would be sold off for your meat, that’s what you would be good for. Top of the list of causes of infertility is Satan – well not really but it seems right to place that at his hoofed feet. You read something about advanced maternal age and the declining quality of eggs and you realize you are past your ‘sell by date’. Shit, you were busy taking your eggs to university and getting them all educated when they should have been making a baby.

Your co-worker falls pregnant. ‘Falls’ here is the appropriate word because it was an accident, an unplanned pregnancy. You ask her how these accidents happen because you’d like to be a victim. She was drunk she says, a one-off event with a guy she had known for a while but wasn’t really into. You mull over the idea of trying this out with the husband. Maybe all the mechanical sex you’ve been having has gotten you too strung up to get pregnant. So you get high on a great bottle of wine and you make love that night the way you used to and you convince yourselves that this just might be it. You are pacing around the bathroom a few weeks later. Your period is late! Could it be? You pee on the pregnancy stick then you wait. The longest five minutes of your entire life. And when you walk up to it, silently so as not to surprise it and somehow mess up its chemistry, you notice the pregnancy line is blank…fucking blank. You’ve never been a thrower of things but today you go ape shit on everything in your line of sight. You don’t know who you are mad at but you are mad. That lump in your throat finally explodes and all its contents come through your eyes. The dam that has been holding back the tears finally breaks. And you cry.

You talk to your husband about adoption, “we should try it tomorrow” you say “let’s go to a children’s home and find our baby” you plead. But he’s not ready for that. He’s holding onto hope and his hope, to you, beggar’s belief. You consider In Vitro Fertilization but you’d have to sell your plot in Githurai to be able to afford it because your insurance doesn’t cover it. Maybe it’s time to see a doctor. The doctor, when you see him, is efficient and gets to the point quickly. He’s just come into his office having delivered a baby; the miracle of birth is routine for him. He asks about your last period and how long you’ve been trying. He orders tests, blood work for you and sperm analysis for him. In the waiting room, are other couples, men with little containers in their hands, waiting their turn to go into the sperm collection room. They should call this room something else, like masturbatorium, huh, because everyone knows that’s what’s happening in there. His results come back and he’s passed, he’s doing better than great. You are relieved on the one hand because he’s ok. It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a man to grapple with the possibility of his infertility. Traditionally, conception has been viewed as a woman’s responsibility and women have therefore had a lot of practise in coping with the failure to conceive. And so you are happy that he doesn’t have to shoulder the shame that comes with sterility.

If it’s not him then it must be you, and oh sweetheart it is you. Your hormones, the doctor reveals, are imbalanced as a result of a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome. Syndromes are not usually good, and this one is quite diabolical. There’s no quick fix for it, only management of symptoms. He prescribes something to regulate the hormones and to shrink the huge cyst that has been camping out in your ovaries. “Come back in a few weeks for review”, he says. That’s a lifetime away. You feel defeated as you ride silently in the car. You’ve been reading Chimamanda’s book ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’, where there’s a character in it just like you, a barren woman whose mother in law decides to intervene by getting her son so inebriated that he sleeps with the maid whom he instantly impregnates. She wants a grandchild you see, and will use any means to achieve that. Like what unholy hell is this?! You look over at your husband as he drives and wonder if he would dare. Nah! Your house help is older and not very attractive you console yourself.

The few weeks pass, you go back for your review. Finally some good news, the cyst is gone it’s time to start you on the next course of drugs. Something to jumpstart your ovulation and maximise your chances of conception. It’s a pill to be taken for five days at the same time every day if possible. He seems optimistic, your doc, he’s confident that your particular predicament is a run of the mill type of thing, totally fixable. As you walk out you notice his poster board filled with pictures of babies he’s delivered and you are hopeful for the first time in a long time.

It’s time to pee on the stick again. Your heart is about to leap out of your chest as you countdown with your timer. And when it goes off you dare not look but you do and there it is. You are pregnant! You want to call him right away and tell him the good news. You plan a surprise instead, while he’s in the shower that night, you tape the pregnancy test to the mirror and you go to bed feigning sleep. You hear him, he’s high-fiving himself, and he’s doing a victory dance. He’s beyond elated. That night you sleep arm in arm, both your hands on your belly and you know your lives will never be the same again. You apologise to God, for ending things the way you did.

Parenthood here you come…

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    1. Hee mee too. I am glad there was a happy ending. Loved the words in this piece. This is very relatable with most women. Those getting unplanned pregnancies, those after their careers, those with Mr. Right now and those with Mr. Right but and trying to conceive. Good piece

  1. Where is the rest of the story Biko? I feel like i just read a passage between pages of a novel. A book called ‘The Travails of a Nairobi Woman’. And this would be perhaps after the chapter on ‘Building life after honeymoon’ and just before the chapter ‘Kids are nuts’. Good read though..

    1. I felt it was too short.. Summarized. Left me wondering was it a quick attempt at fiction or an overly subtle factual story of the struggle to be parents.

    2. Hehehee. I think we read the rest on the other Sophia stories. Like the one where her mother in law thinks her and the husband hold hands in bed at night and that is how they made the baby

  2. The things as a young lady I take for granted.. I pray to never know the pain of trying to have a baby . I pray it just happens.
    Ion Biko, is this fact or fiction??

  3. Very tempted to say, ‘first one here’
    I shan’t stoop that low though, all is well.
    seeing as I am already here I might as well say something worthwhile.
    I was honestly left wanting much more from the story. Give us more Biko, please and thank you.

  4. I know a couple who have been trying to get a baby for over 10 years now. It is emotionally draining to say the least. I hope they get one soon.

    The puns in this piece Hehe. At least it had a happy ending.

  5. Fast paced but I doubt the ending…too perfect beyond expectation! Kudos for the nerve to write about this emotionally draining topic…As for the “masturbatorium” …who is your father?

  6. Quite a subtle approach for a remedy. The irrational ones would go bonkers after their incessant pleasurable maneuvers to craft a baby are thwarted. It gets worse for the man when it dawns on him the his hot beef injection doesn’t excite sperms into an ovulation marathon.

  7. Thoroughly enjoyable read.

    “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a man to grapple with the possibility of his infertility.” 🙂

  8. J Biko there should be a sequel. For the ones where the doc doesn’t care that you are not married yet and insists that you remove your uterus but good old mama knows a medicine woman or 2 and voila you are cured of all those medical terms because you go back to the same doc to deliver your baby. The one who said let’s get rid of your womb because it is too diseased to work.

  9. I wish the crazy women in Nairobi who are using Crystal Meth (to tighten the ‘nini’) and strepsils (i don’t know if they seeking menthol/herbal sex), could read this. A good read as always

  10. Lovely read..must have been heart-rending going through the trying, the hoping, the praying and the waiting. I know a friend who was in a similar predicament.
    At the time, I ‘fell pregnant’ she thought it was because I normally take copious amounts of bitter lemon and fermented/sour uji..and shortly after, I observed her trying to force lemon drinks and sour porridge down her throat, to no avail.
    I wish Africans would be ‘more Western’ when it comes to this issue…if pregnancy is elusive don’t be afraid to a) adopt a little one wanting to have a loving home b) use a surrogate if the womb is damaged or has issues holding a baby to full term c) go to a sperm bank if hubby’s sperm count is too low d) go to an ovary bank if the other way round..etc.
    Everyone has a right to be happy and sometimes it’s necessary to view these issues with a critical mind and a little pragmatism..#mytwopence

    1. Very true but as the saying goes you can take a villager from the village but not the village from the villager, it will take forever trying to change people’s thinking

  11. Beautiful read. Can totally relate with the part where ‘you are busy taking your eggs to university and getting them all educated when they should have been making a baby’. It’s a tough life…wah!.

    1. Boring article? Nyiet! I guess it may be boring coz you couldn’t even see who authored it. Pray, what do you read? This is excellent writing. I mean you missed all those puns and nail biting moments? Ama your comment was to elicit a hug or furore of comments to counter yours?

    2. SOME women are special, here is a an article about whats probably going on with the women next door who is trying to have a baby, another woman here is rolling her eyes…what did you want to read about dear?..sex and orgies?

  12. just after i did a research for class project on infertility in women…i jUst hope i am fertile coz i still take my ovaries to school to get a degree.

  13. U never cease to amaze me Biko it’s so real and so true most women are going through hell trying to conceive…am still teary.May God bless our wombs

    1. Why unwise…..that’s her belief….if you believe it’s science then that’s fine….no need to change her reality and experience to suit your thoughts….only the wearer knows where the show pinches….

  14. I don’t know why you dropped the househelp story here.I feel like she has a bigger role that you are yet to introduce us to.

  15. Now I’m here googling PCOS and symptoms so that I don’t end up in that predicament without being prepared for it. I have planned my life exactly like that lady, education, career then kids and all i can do is pray that these plans are in line with God’s will coz what else can you do?

  16. I stopped reading when you mentioned Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) because I just found out I have it but the ending gave me hope.When my turn comes to have children I pray for an easy time.

  17. getting pregnant is one thing, going through pregnancy to the end of nine months is another….there’s quite some story in between

  18. It’s hard, one must admit. Waiting drains life and hope out of you. You begin to doubt God. You begin to doubt yourself. I know a couple that has been waiting for more than ten years now. No matter how much they wear the mask of happiness, their sorrow is always obvious. Waiting is hard. Nice piece.

    Latest post on my blog:https://mikeinioluwa.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/waves/

  19. So true! Infertility is such a stigma in our culture with so much blame cast especially on the woman it is sad……..

  20. Interesting how we go through our teenage lives being told not to get pregnant. That if u even touch a boy, boom! U pregnant. Then when u want it, it’s oh so elusive. Happy ending though 🙂

  21. Loved this piece mama Pendo. Yaani I am not a parent yet but i can just visualize the drama of trying to get a baby through your words. Sometimes I envy my friends who got children in their twenties, then I remind myself we are all on different journeys. Kila mtu na Lane yake.

  22. As strange as it may sound,this has been the story of my life. Relieving my life word for word….Interesting, very interesting.

  23. I can relate to this 100%. Tried everything from the natural way to IUI to IVF. I don’t regret going to school till the level I am at but one thing I wish I did was to freeze my eggs at the time when I thought about it. Also the ladies who are still building their career, be proactive and ask about your AMH test from your Gyna. It will help you make informed decisions.

    1. Before reading the comments I didn’t know such a test exists. I have learnt something important. Important because I have put off having kids to go back to school. Thank you for commenting. I will go for my AMH test.

  24. In Coast they say;°Uchungu wa mwanawe aijuaye mama°…As a son,i truly feel lucky to be in this world and will forever be greatful to my parents not knowing what they have been upto to get me in this wolrd…Mama Pendo…big ups…we love ur works.

  25. I went through this and my happy ending is an adopted daughter now going to fourth form.
    She is the most awesome gift in my life, no regrets.
    Oh, and hubby went off making babies with his first cousin!

  26. Polycystic ovarian syndrome….. tell me about it! It was a nightmare for me too, but thanks to Dr. Ng’ayu I now have 3 kids 🙂

  27. I saw the photo and with the anticipation to just read i did not spot the author until i read these ” You give up smoking, drinking and gossiping. Because you believe quite strongly that sin is the reason your womb is silent. You make peace with your enemies and increase your tithe. And when your period shows up, like clockwork, with its unmistaken bright red flow, you lose God.” i scrolled back to check the author as i wondered if Biko evolved and started getting menses! lol

  28. Wish it was that simple. This PCOS. Much to my relief, my sham of a marriage ended and I’m now toying with the idea of not having children at all, notwithstanding the fact that my cycle is back to normal after the stress of a failing marriage was lifted off of me. I liked the happy ending. Mine was too, but in a different way altogether.

  29. Such a beautiful ending. I was diagnosed with PCOS last year after a couple of miscarriages.
    I am not on medication and I am glad one can have a great ending with treatment. Thanks Biko. Quite encouraged.

    1. I’m sorry Sandra, but it shall come true. God is the giver and knows the right time.
      You shall have the happy ending too.

  30. Great read Sophie. Nothing annoys me more than people who mock others because of their inability to have children. If it is easy for you, thank God coz God can cause infertility in a different area of your life. I am 33, yet to get babies, but I trust God all will be well. Nilipeleka mayai University, lol.

  31. Mama Pendo, did you visit Dr S. M.? Coz the poster board with pics of his “achievements” gives me hope. And your above described situation is my current reality. Including the diagnosis of PCOS & the 5 day pill. Waiting & praying for a Christmas miracle

  32. Thanks Mama Pendo for the great piece.
    From experience, a baby fills a place in your heart that you never knew was empty.

  33. The things we do take for granted.been whining how much I hate being pregnant and wldnt do it again.BT after reading this am like..errr maybe I shld be effing greatful that I can be….I LOVE the happy ending.I also really LOVe your pieces Sophie.slowly loving them more than Biko’s(hides)

  34. …oh men, what a relief, i was hoping for the best in the end… but i am compelled to state that no woman out there, baren…. should ever consider themselves ”damaged”…

  35. I can relate.It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a man to grapple with the possibility of his infertility.

  36. I can relate with this, especially that despairing moment with God.
    Anyway the ending made me smile so ‘loudly’ i felt like an idiot. Great read mama pendo and congrats to the parents

  37. N then there is this part where the doc tells you because of your polycystic condition you need to get pregnant ASAP n then you left wondering are you going to do some sort of self implantation or wat…… Ill

  38. happy ending gives me the appetite of wanting to read more but it’s over.
    Very attractive but too short, like one paragraph. Need the rest of the story Biko.

    It sounds true story, maybe you experienced? Haha!!!….

  39. Wow Biko that was awesome.At first I was getting worried wondering how someone experiencing/who has experienced this would feel reading the article but thank God you finished with a bang.

    masturbatorium on the other hand got me cracking

  40. The appropriate length of time to keep your legs raised at the right angle before you can get up,,, hoping all aspiring moms are relating to this

  41. well i had one unexpected pregnancy, except i knew about it the day i was scheduled for surgery because it was ectopic!
    Its one thing to be fertile and another to actually carry a pregnancy to term.

  42. This is the best story ive read here all year and there have been many but this stands out coz it brought tears to my eyes cause i can relate.

  43. Amazing read. I got my first at 24 and it was an oohps. So now I’m at that point where I worry that my eggs are almost expired and there is no man in site so I’ve been negotiating with Jesus to bring me a husband so that we can salvage what’s left of my aging eggs. And if he won’t atleast perform the Sarah and Abraham miracle just one more time.

  44. I probably am the only one who was kind of secretly thinking it would have a different ending (jealously) coz my story is still being written and I am waiting and hoping for that happy ending… Not everyone gets it though, the happy ending. Some separate (painfully) when the babies do not come, and the ex goes ahead and gets a baby with his new wifey/gf immediately after and posts the pics on his profile page for all to see. Then your former friends have to call you to ask if you’ve seen, and you can hear and see their silent confirmations that they didn’t think it was you with the problem all along… and….

  45. It must be a heart-wrenching experience to be able to conceive when one wants to. But after all the hallowing experiences, the couple in our story has conceived! Eventually!
    (And who said Satan has hoofed legs? I’ve always thought him to have sharp claws.)

  46. Hoping for a happy ending too. The emotional roller coasters are draining, one minute you are mad at God the next you are apologetic and meek.