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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Anna lost her baby and needed some help. A little episode of life's challenges.

Submitted: September 10, 2016

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Submitted: September 10, 2016



Mbise, our night guard came from a large family and because he was to only family member with an actual paying job, he took on the responsibility to support them whenever he could. We came to know his family well as time went on because we too helped out from time to time.

During one of our evening chats, Mbise had told me that his younger sister, Anna was due to have her baby, adding that she ‘had not been able to have a wedding.’ This was his way of preparing us to supply some sort of assistance or him to have some time off.

The following Saturday morning, Mbise told me that Anna was in hospital and was sad that her baby had died. He asked me if I would help him by taking him into Mt. Meru Hospital to collect her and the dead baby.

I wondered why she was in Mt Meru Hospital rather than the local one, Nkoaranga and found out some time later that the protocol was, the first child should be at the larger hospital and then other births in local hospitals - but number four has to be at the larger hospital. Purely as a matter of health safety [with an option of free sterilisation].

Mbise had already organised our friend Mama Upendo to come with us as support for Anna, which is normal because culturally, two guys don't get involved with this sort of ‘women's business’. I parked in the hospital grounds and waited while Mbise with Mama Upendo went in to collect Anna and he returned after a short time carrying the dead baby inside a tatty, used cardboard box! He told me that they had to wait for the doctor to make his rounds and to sign the release document for Anna before she was allowed to leave. He put the box in the back of the Toyota and I was pleased that it had the protection of the fibreglass canopy – but there was no ventilation in there.

I was conscious of the hot sun and what it might do to the small body, so I parked with the canopy in the shade of a tree, and as time went by I had to follow the shade as the sun tripped across the sky.

Mama Upendo came out to tell me that the doctor had given the clearance but payment was required for the bed, rubber gloves and other items before Anna was allowed to leave! I had expected such an eventuality so handed over the amount requested and soon the three emerged from hospital. It goes without saying that Anna was exhausted and upset but she did not forget to give me the formal and polite, ‘Shikamoo Baba.’ as she climbed into the back seat beside Mama Upendo.  And we headed for home.

We were met by the father of the baby beside our Makumira house, he was waiting for us outside our compound, under the big mango tree that grew there. I never could understand how word gets around so quickly and how he knew we would pass by there! Bush telegraph!

Mama Upendo and I went into our house for a quick cup of tea with Mags and to refresh after a long, hot morning because we knew the rest of the day would become somewhat ‘involved’. Meantime we left the bereaved couple and Mbise to talk privately.

As the crow flies, it is not too far up to Mbise's parents' place, but it is steep, narrow and slow traveling, however, I was informed that we were not going there, instead we were going to the father of the baby’s house - well actually his parents'.

On arrival there we were greeted warmly and offered a cup of tea, meanwhile and without us realising, the box and baby were buried somewhere in the garden, without any sort of ceremony. I would have thought there would be at least an Evangelist attending, because these were staunch Pentecostal people. Apparently the baby did not take in a breath.

I sat with Mama Upendo and we could see that Anna was upset, crying while there was some animated discussion between family members and Mbise, but they were speaking the Meru dialect, which was pretty much beyond me. When I moved to leave, Mbise asked me politely to stay put for a while longer. I had no idea what was going on, nor did Mama Upendo, she was from a different tribe and knew only a little Meru - but thinking about it later, she probably did but didn’t fully let on.

Meantime someone kept filling my cup with sweet, milky tea and after my umpteenth cup, Mbise came to tell me that Anna did not want to stay with these people, she just wanted to go home! The family of the father of the baby were demanding she stay with them! Mbise looked to me for advice.

What did I know about cultural protocols of such things?

Making it up as I went along, I said it was no use leaving Anna if she was upset and unwell so soon after childbirth. After losing her baby she would be feeling vulnerable and exhausted and in unfamiliar surroundings, so it is best that she be as comfortable as possible to recuperate and that means doing whatever she wants. I told Mbise to ask her again to make certain, while I hatched some sort of a plan. He returned to say she was indeed sure, but added that the guy’s family were absolutely against her returning to own her family – they believed they had ownership!

Ownership? I asked Mbise if he thought they would become violent if we took her and he thought they probably would.

The Toyota was parked the wrong way for any sort of a quick getaway, so I casually strolled over to it and turned it around to ‘park it in the shade of a tree’. I explained this to Mbise beforehand. Anna was to 'feel uncomfortable with a sore back and as well was to feel hot’, so she had an excuse go into the shade and sit in the ‘comfortable’ vehicle with Mama Upendo comforting her.

Once they were in the vehicle Mbise and I 'casually' talked with the family members for a while forcing yet more sweet, milky tea into our bladders. Then when I saw the chance as nonchalantly as possible we moved towards the vehicle and on my nod Mbise and I quickly hopped aboard, I fired up engine and took off in a cloud of dust with fists shaking and some of the guys chasing after us!

When we arrived at Mbise’s place his mother was full of concern for her daughter, but her father was furious that she had returned and that he again had to support her! In his eyes, she was not welcome there anymore! I hadn’t anticipated that!

Wise Mama Upendo knew the guy and whispered to me to give him some money for nyama choma and pombe - grilled meat and booze, he was partial to the strong, illegal piwa. So I forked out more money and he immediately became happy and headed off to his local bar!  

I have no doubt he knew very well he could not refuse her re-entry into the family fold and just wanted to make a show of fuss – anyway, Mbise funded the family far more than his father!

As far as I know, Anna had nothing more to do with the father of her dead baby – but you never know and time is a fickle thing.

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