Overwhelming

Single mother with 38 children says she hasn’t felt joy ‘since I was born’

Mariam Nabatanzi, 39, (red hair) a mother of 38 children, takes a family portrait with some of her children at their home in Kasawo village, east of Kampala, Uganda. March 8, 2019. (REUTERS/James Akena)

A Uganda woman has unexpectedly become the mother to 38 children after giving birth to six sets of twins, four sets of triplets, and five sets of quadruplets since she was forced to marry at 12 years old.

Mariam Nabatanzi, 39, says she had always wanted a large family, but that she never expected to become mother to a whole village worth of people. Doctors, she explained, told her that her unusually large ovaries made options such as birth control pills dangerous. Feeding, clothing and schooling her 38 children, she says, is effectively impossible — especially since her husband abruptly abandoned her and her children three years ago.

“I have grown up in tears, my man has passed me through a lot of suffering,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “All my time has been spent looking after my children and working to earn some money.”

The youngest of six children herself, Nabatanzi says her mother abandoned their family just three days after Nabatanzi was born. Then her father remarried a woman who killed Nabatanzi’s five older siblings by mixing glass into their food. Nabatanzi, then seven years old, survived only because she had been visiting with relatives when it happened. Since then, she said, she had always wanted a large family.

But 38 children, she admits, is more than she bargained for — especially since she now has to raise them herself. To make ends meet, Nabatanzi says she works as a hairdresser, a decorator, collects and sells scrap metal, brews gin, and barters herbal medicine. Her only goal, she says, is to try to enable her children to live happy lives of their own.

“I started taking on adult responsibilities at an early stage,” said Nabatanzi. “I have not had joy, I think, since I was born.”

Read the full story at the Sydney Morning Herald.

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