Jacob Mulanda and Caroline Jewa got married in a colourful church wedding in April 2002. He was 37, she was 24. Just like any other couple, they were excited about the prospects of being first-time parents. But their dream of parenthood, days, weeks, months and years later, seemed to lie in tatters. This was a reality check for the couple that getting a baby was not going to be a walk in the park.
Nevertheless, they kept trusting in God that at His own time, He would bless them with a child. “But, the more time elapsed and that we weren’t getting pregnant, the worse our anxiety got. Everything went beyond human expectations, and we started searching for other interventions,” Mulanda says.
The couple, now desperate, consulted all the big and famous names in the gynaecology world. They trotted from one hospital to the other, tried herbal and Chinese medicines, but their efforts always proved futile. “I wouldn’t describe in a word the agony we went through trying to find the cause of our inability to conceive. The tests showed there was no problem with us. And one top gynaecologist, summarised a report about my wife, indicating that she was undergoing early menopause,” remembers the 53-year-old.
In a society that venerates motherhood and children, Mulanda and his wife were not spared by the pangs of family and friends who could not understand why after years of marriage they could not bring forth a child. “It was extremely difficult to explain to people why we had been stuck in this super-select club, and one which we did not initially choose to be members,” he narrates.
Mulanda says some even speculated that Caro knew why she would never conceive. “I remember one evening, I found my wife crying because she heard rumours about her uterus having been removed when she was younger in an attempted abortion,” he recounts.
Another incident that brought them down was when they met a former classmate with her family. They had lost touch for a long time and in the course of catching up over lunch, the friend disclosed that they were out shopping in preparation for their daughter’s wedding. She went ahead and invited him and his ‘family’ for the ceremony. Then the hour he had been dreading came. “She innocently asked me about my family, how many children I had and at what levels they were in life. The room went quiet. I had been asked such questions before, but never had it happened in the presence of children who had just been introduced to their uncle who seemed to be doing well by their standards,” he remembers. This is just, but one agonising incidents Mulanda recalls.
Then one day, after eight years of placing hope against hope, in 2010, when they had just had dinner, Mulanda’s wife, amidst tears broke the most unexpected news. “We were expecting a baby,” Mulanda says, his eyes evidently glittering. “This was the best news I had ever received in my entire life, we hugged and cried tears of joy,” he narrates.
Their joy was, however, acrimoniously cut short, when one day in her ninth month, after several episodes of false labour, Caro realised that her child was not making any movements. A scan later, their unborn baby was declared dead. “The blow was too hard to bear. Just when the stars had started shining, we were taken back to square one. The pain of losing a child was too much than the agony we had gone through trying to get one,” says Mulanda.
But in the midst of the devastation and hopelessness, one thing, Mulanda says was clear; “At least my wife was not barren neither was I impotent. In as much as we were hurt by losing our precious child, what consoled us was God had remembered us and covered our ‘shame’,” he offers.
After going through moments of loss and grief, they started the journey again. Five years later, on August 20, 2015, God worked another miracle. They got a bouncing baby girl, Zemmira, meaning joyous melody. Indeed, God had given them a new song.
As if that was not enough, there was another surprise, on January 7, 2017, they learnt that they were expecting another baby! Everything went on well until her last trimester, when she went for her routine clinic. A day before that, she had noted that the child was not making any movement in the womb. The gynaecologist immediately referred her for admission. She was treated as an emergency and booked for a Caesarian Section.
“I was beyond happy to get a baby boy, Myles Sifa,” he says. Everything was well except that Caro started complaining of a headache, which the doctor said was normal, and that with time it would subside. Two weeks after discharge, Caro’s condition continued to worsen. She then started complaining of stabbing pains in the heart. “I was shocked because I had never heard her complain about the heart ever since we got married. At around midnight, in what seemed like a nightmare, she succumbed to a heart attack aged 39. “It was difficult to comprehend. I went into denial,” says Mulanda.
One-and-a half years down the line, Mulanda is still trying to come to terms and move on with his life, while raising his two children with the help of their best couple. “The journey has not been easy. I’m in a journey I have never been before neither would I have wished to go through. Sometimes I refuse to accept the reality that I am a widower, but I am. This has given me the assurance that my wife is just asleep and in a little while I will join her,” he concludes.