She is called the most fertile woman in Uganda. And there does not seem to be a word of it: Mariam Nabatanzi gave birth to no fewer than 44 children. Three times she gave birth to a quad, four times to triplets and six times to twins.
Unfortunately, six little ones died, so now she still has 38 sons and daughters in her care. Three years ago her aggressive husband definitively abandoned her, in other words, the upbringing is completely on her shoulders. Mariam Nabatanzi was married off to a forty-year-old man when she was barely twelve. The following year she gave birth to twins. Even before her eighteenth birthday, the first three and four were already a fact.
For the woman, such a huge baby boom did not immediately come as a surprise. After all, her father had conceived 45 children from different women, there were always multiple births. “She has a genetic predisposition for hyperovulation (whereby several eggs are released per cycle; ed). This increases the chance of multiple births considerably,” says gynecologist Charles Kiggundu.
After her sixth birth – good for eighteen children – Nabatanzi thought it was enough. She went to a hospital but was advised there to let nature take its course. “She had a huge number of ova. If they kept piling up, she would risk her own life,” explains Dr. Ahmed Kikomeko.
“So I had to keep growing, otherwise I would die,” Mariam Nabatanzi says. “I tried a spiral, but I got so sick that I ended up in a coma for a month.” At the age of 23, the counter was already at 25 children. In December 2016 the woman gave birth to very last time, again with twins. However, one of those children would not survive. “The doctor then said that he had cut off my womb inside. He probably meant that my fallopian tubes are now tied off.”
The life of Mariam reads like a sad tragedy. She could never count on her adulterous husband. If he comes home, it happened overnight. He didn’t have to face his children like that. “I was thirteen years old the last time I caught a glimpse of him,” explains the eldest son Charles.
“He wasn’t even there to name his own offspring. That happened by telephone,” Mariam Nabatanzi mourns. “He also beat me up countless times, especially when he was drunk. I swallowed all those humiliations because my aunt insisted that our marriage should last. The children had to get all my attention, I was not allowed to have babies from other men. I have grown up in tears, my husband has caused me a lot of misery.”
Her childhood had also left a deep trauma. Her mother walked away three days after her birth. Her father remarried, but the stepmother had worse intentions. She poisoned her five brothers and sisters, with fatal consequences. Nabatanzi only survived because she was with a family member at that time. “I was seven years old then, I didn’t understand what death meant.”
The whole family now lives in four small houses between the coffee fields, the roofs consist solely of corrugated iron. Twelve children sleep in metal bunk beds, the rest have to make do with thin mattresses or, even worse, the dirty floor. It is quite a task for Mariam Nabatanzi to raise her offspring. She does everything to bring in some money. She has already been a hairdresser, gave style advice to brides and sold Gin and medicinal herbs. She could also be hired for decoration tips.
“Every day I have to buy ten kilos of corn flour, four kilos of sugar and three bars of soap. Fish and meat are rare here. Fortunately, my children have never had to live without food, for which I am grateful to God. My biggest wish is that they can become happy later. I have had to bear a huge responsibility at a very young age. I have never known joy since I was born.”
The official world record is in the name of a certain Valentina Vassilyev. This Russian woman from the eighteenth century would have given birth to 69 babies, although that figure is taken with the necessary grain of salt.