One woman’s struggle to keep ‘unwanted’ child

Jackline Nzisa @jackie_nzisa

The joy that comes with receiving a baby after nine months of pregnancy, the cravings and the mood swings is overwhelming.

But for Rehema Changawa,  a 25-year-old mother of six in Kaya Fungo Village in Kiembeni area of Mombasa, the birth of her sixth born Fatma Bakari came with shock and tears. Baby Fatma was born on June 2 without lower limbs and only three fingers on her incomplete hands.

According to Rehema, Fatima’s birth was a shock to her and her family considering there is no history of disability in the family.

Rehema says that despite the physical disability, baby Fatma was healthy at birth. “I was worried that she would have other complications which is why I took her to the Coast provincial General Hospital for a check-up,” said Rehema. Tests confirmed that the baby had no other complications and recommended that she be taken back home.

“She had no complications and I was happy. The doctors advised me to love and take care of her like  my other children,” Rehema said.

However, her struggles to keep the baby alive started immediately she left the hospital. She returned to a hostile home where she was told to kill or throw away the baby. “Even a nurse at the hospital had asked me why I did not throw away the baby,” she recalls.

“One of my neighbours told me to abandon the baby because I already have five children, that I’m jobless and poor and living with an abusive husband. She asked me to leave the baby somewhere where someone would find it,” she said.

But she has refused to succumb to the pressure to throw away her baby. Rehema, who lives in mud house with a leaking roof, is the sole breadwinner of the family and does laundry work for other people in the estates around Kiembeni.

“I don’t have a job. I wash clothes for my neighbours in order to put food on the table,” said Rehema. She says that since the birth of Rehema, her husband has become abusive and has even threatened to kill the baby “because she is a bad omen” to the family.

“He has refused to leave my daughter to live her own life. He burned the baby’s clothes and gifts from friends. He has also been threatening to harm the family,” says Rehema. Recently, Baby Fatma developed breathing difficulties which has seen her in and out of the hospital.

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