16 January 2013

Uganda: After 20 Years of Trying, the Kibiriges Finally Have a Child

Dorcas and her husband, Timothy Kibirige, had been trying to have a child for 20 years, but it was not until last year that their prayers were answered. Bob Kisiki brings you the couple's story of endurance

You know cantankerous people, who would blurt out the first thing that comes to their lips, even against God, don't you?

Pressure does that to people. Not so for Dorcas Kibirige, who had waited for about 20 years in a childless marriage. Yes, for someone who got married the weekend after she turned 22 in December 1992, she only conceived early last year and never in all that time did she curse God.

When Dorcas met Timothy Kibirige, she never thought they would face the nightmare of childlessness for all that time.

They had dated for seven years, besides having worked together in the same band. Tim joined the band in 1985 and she joined in 1989. All her mind was on building a ministry as well as a family with him.

At this point, Dorcas' baby wakes up and interrupts the interview. Although she manages to act in control, you can see she has fled into her new world - the world of the latest 42-year-old first-time mother. She, however, lets Saison, her little sister, handle the baby.

Dorcas wears an undying smile. This boy, who has been given a paragraph of names, is part of Timothy and Dorcas' dream family of three children. Of these three, they have so far got Matthew Isaac Muwendo Kalungi Kibirige Ssebayigga Kkubo Mugabi Tumwebaze.

"We always talked about the flipside of everything," she says ponderously, "so we had discussed the event of not having a child. Tim told me 'I have not married you to become a baby factory.' He even showed me a verse that says children are (only) a gift from God," she adds.

But Dorcas did not ignore her barrenness. Besides thinking 24/7 about it, she and her husband prayed and fasted. "Friends also prayed for us."

All this time, their families said nothing. In their second year of marriage, Dorcas' mother gave her a kitenge to make a maternity dress. She would also sometimes ask pointed questions.

"By that second year, she was expressing discomfort," Dorcas says, adding that her paternal aunt (ssenga) suggested that the couple sees a doctor.

After three years in marriage, a cousin took Dorcas and her husband to see a doctor. They saw many doctors to no avail. One declared that they must have gonorrhoea, although tests done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute turned out negative. The couple tried herbs, saw pastor after pastor and did several medical tests.

The situation went out of hand when in 1993, 1994 and 2002 Dorcas suffered miscarriages. Although you would have expected that she would go into depression, Dorcas lifted her head high.

"My personality is such that I cannot bury my head in the sand. Life must go on... It is then that I learnt the meaning of the verse in Nehemiah 8:10, which says the joy of the Lord is my strength and the one in Jeremiah which says the mercies of God are new every morning."

Dorcas was, of all things, involved in children's ministry. However, she did not allow self-pity to influence the way she ministered to these children.

"Tim loved children, but he did not put me under pressure to have a child," she says. Although friends only skirted around the issue, some people came on a tad hard on her. 'Some would say things like "leker'awo okwesiba otuzaalire ku baana" (stop using contraceptives and get us some children).

Once, on a holiday in Jinja, the couple visited a children's home, considered adoption and even chose a child, but when they returned, the baby had been taken.

They then gave up on having children. And in 2007, a doctor advised the couple to stop wasting money on trying to get a child. In 2011, they twice tried intra-venous fertilisation (IVF), but it did not work.

That is when she told God: 'We are heading into our 20th year of marriage; we will not ask you for a child again." She talked to Tim and he said: "I was waiting for you to come to this conclusion." That way, she knew they were on the same page.

Last year, the couple planned a holiday to Mombasa and South Africa. Then she started feeling ill... "I went to the doctor complaining of ulcers in February 2012. After several tests, the doctor broke the news that Dorcas was not sick, she was pregnant.

"My gynaecologist got excited about the news. However, I was too scared of the unknown."

Dorcas had been praying with a group called Virtuous Women. Since 2002, they had made the Kibiriges' a monthly prayer item.

During these prayers, three names came to Dorcas' mind: Muwendo (value), Mukulu (He's great) and Muganzi (He has favour), but when the IVF failed, she had thought, what are the names for? So when on February 7, 2012 she saw her doctor with the 'ulcers' case, he told her, 'All signs point to pregnancy.'

The couple never told anyone else until they were sure the pregnancy would last. At 16 weeks, they told close friends, colleagues at work and family.

"My family was supportive. I could sense apprehension throughout the pregnancy as each pondered what the outcome would be. My parents-in-law prayed for us every day. "

When other people later got to know, they would break down right before Dorcas and cry for joy. Some would fall down on the ground and worship God.

So did they go through with the travel plans?

"Those plans fell through as all their savings went into medical bills to ensure that the pregnancy stayed in the womb.

Everything came to a standstill until we were sure we had overcome the big hurdle. Every week of that pregnancy was a miracle as I had never carried one beyond seven weeks.

On the day of birth, I was so anxious that I never wanted to talk about it..."

Dorcas says when Muwendo cries, 'it is music to my ears!'

At 41... only weeks to her 42nd birthday, on Thursday, September 2012, she had her first born by elective caesarean-section. Tim was there in the theatre.

After 47 years, Tim was getting his first child. Dorcas says: "He was at first intimidated by the tininess, but he braved through it. Matthew is his dad's image as well as his joy and pride. He loves the baby to smithereens."

As for Dorcas, life did not remain the same after Muwendo's arrival. "My world has changed. My life now rotates around the baby. As I prepare to go to work, I have to think about his wellbeing.

I have to adjust some of my work habits to suit Muwendo."

Such excitement usually begets more excitement, so it is only natural to wonder if Matthew has excited his parents enough for them to go right away after another baby.

"Since Matthew was a surprise to us, we would not mind having another surprise, but for now, we are contended just loving and adjusting to having Matthew with us."

Dorcas cannot express her gratitude to God and her husband for the fact that Tim did not yield to veiled suggestions that he tries for a child elsewhere.

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