Life Served Me a Lemon

Updated: Jul 13, 2020


| This is the 31st story of Our Life Logs |

Growing up in the dusty countryside of Kenya was fun and typical for girls of my age in the early 1990s. Life was blissful. Sometimes I wish I could rewind and stop the time, just to savor the innocence of those days.

My family had settled about 10 miles from the famous home of Obama’s grandmother in Kogelo. The village was close-knit, and neighbors were often relatives or friends. Children could eat anywhere, and likewise, any child could be punished by any other adult and his or her parents would not go up in arms.

Our Kogelo home.
Our Kogelo home.

My sister and I had all the attention of our parents. I was the stronger one, but we made a great team. We would fetch firewood with our friends or swim in a river nearby. Mother would go to the farm and return with large yams to prepare a delicious meal. Life was simple but beautiful.

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A normal farm routine, however, turned tragic and changed the course of our lives forever. One day, my father went farming and while clearing the farmland for cultivation, he experienced a sharp sudden pain in his left leg. Things took an agonizing turn when my father’s condition worsened. He complained that the pain was spreading up to his thigh, and he could not move. I did not understand much then, but I watched my mother nurse him for four good months before he succumbed to the disease with half of his body completely paralyzed. Shortly after that, he died.

Mother was left a widow without a job but with two mouths to feed. She took father’s death hard, and she mourned for what felt like forever. She was unable to care for us on her own. One of our distant relatives took my elder sister away with them, and after a while, my mother and I left for my maternal grandparents’ home. My father’s relatives disinherited my mother of our farmland and the little property my parents had earned together. We were left in nothing but misery. We were forced to move into my mother’s parents’ house.

Life was different here. There were too many mouths to feed in the house. It was rare to enjoy a decent meal. Both my grandparents had no stable jobs, and with 12 children to feed, the race to survive became real. I learnt to adapt. I was glad my sister was not here. She wouldn’t have survived the feeding competition.

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I attended a local primary school and struggled. After spending a year out of school due to lack of money to pay my tuition fees, I was glad to get an opportunity to sit for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. It was during the time after I took my exams that I roamed the village. With the absence of a father in my life, I was seeking attention from a man, and I found it in Gilbert. Before I knew it, I was pregnant. I was beside myself with worry, anger and shame.

It is funny how opportunities open when you are on the wrong lane of life. It seemed I could never cross the road and get my footing right. My mother made sure I enrolled in secondary school. She was strict and very serious about education. I planned to finish the enrollment silently and then have an abortion. What I didn’t know was that after registration all girls were subjected to a pregnancy test. I felt like life was snuffed out of my lungs. I could not face my mother. I knew the sacrifice she has made for us.

The school called and informed her that I was pregnant and could not remain at school. I knew her heart broke to a million pieces. I probably made her feel like a failure. I realized my situation was beyond repair and braced myself for motherhood. I did odd jobs and helped around the house. I knew it could never make up for what I had done, but crying over spilt milk wouldn’t help, either.

Me (second left) with friends, 2011.
Me (second left) with friends, 2011.
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I welcomed my son in December of 2011, the same year my elder sister was graduating from college. A relative took me back to school and paid all the initial expenses. My mother and sister stepped in to help with my son and saw me through the rest of high school. I scored an aggregate of C+. It was not great, but I was happy about my efforts. My sister had moved to Kisumu and invited me to stay with her. My mother offered to care for my son while I continued to better my life. My sister enrolled me to a community foundation college where I studied hospitality.

Once I was done with my internship, she got me my first job. I worked for a while, but due to my different opinions with the manager, I left. I then got a job as a shelf attendant within the town, and while the pay was low, it was secure.

It was during my time with my sister that I met Derrick and we fell in love, or so I thought. We had a baby and we named him Damon. While this time I had not wasted anybody’s tuition payments, I still found it difficult to inform my family, especially my mother. I was working to be independent enough to care for my first son when I got pregnant with Damon. Since I didn’t fulfill my promises of becoming independent, I was afraid to tell my mother that I was pregnant again. I wish I did though. It’s one of the biggest life regrets I hold to date. She never got to get to know him.

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I loved Damon more than life itself. He was cute, with adorable eyes and a big smile. He was born normally in December 2016, without any complications. I had cruised through pregnancy without any discomforts. In fact, I was so busy with life that I missed a few of the antenatal clinic appointments that pregnant women normally attend.

Soon after birth, Damon developed a swollen forehead. I thought it would go away after a few days, but it did not. It kept building up. By the time I was able to get referred to the relevant doctor, Damon’s head had grown huge, and he started crying a lot. The forehead was soft to touch, and always hot. The doctors asked for a deposit of $120 to get the treatment underway.

Baby Damon.
Baby Damon.

I called my sister and she loaned me the money from her work. She sent the full amount to me. With the money, the hospital released an ambulance to take me to Kisumu for a CT scan. Damon had Hydrocephalus. The procedure cost $80, cutting deep on the funds my sister had sent me. Once the diagnosis was given, the next course of action was to seek a hospital that specialized in treating my son’s condition. We were advised to visit the Eldoret Teaching and Referral Hospital for specialized care and operation. Damon was only five months at the time.

By now Damon’s head had grown very large, and heavy. He experienced constant pain, and when it became unbearable, he would scream and tightly clutch at whoever was holding him. The boy cried thr