On a morning like this, 18 years ago, I woke up to keep an appointment with the staff at the Aga Khan Hospital, for my weekly clinic. It had been a difficult nine months. I had been on bed-rest, unable to move without great pain since the fourth month after fainting at the CBD one Wednesday afternoon. I carried with me, the 35kilograms of extra weight, evidence of five months of either sitting or lying around and satisfying my craving for Lasagne and passion fruit juice, along with fries, kebabs and lots of chilly. I had a low blood count and the hospital had asked me to prepare for a transfusion during delivery, which could only be via Caesarian Section.
I had no job, having been fired from the one I had, because my boss was also my mentor and was disappointed in the evidence of my fallen state – as this was my second pregnancy as an un-wed mother. He believed my medical appointments with my counsellor, Dr. Paul Wangai, were clandestine attempts to procure an abortion. Besides, being already a young woman in Christian ministry, and he being a mentor of mine in at least one of those ministries in which I served, I could not blame him. He was reacting possibly as a loving father would, on being suddenly confronted with evidence of his daughter’s misadventures. Sins.
I almost got another job, but was disqualified before I took on my appointment letter due to the politics of my country, back then. I came from ‘the wrong tribe’, my interviewer told me in great sorrow. He was not from my tribe, and neither was my intended supervisor, but he said that the state had called to request that they don’t hire any more people from my tribe just that morning. I don’t think he was lying, but I have no way of proving this. Anyway, all this, would work for me. I was not going to be able to work for anyone for most of my pregnancy. On my fourth month, as I waited for a bus to take me home from my monthly clinic, I was to faint, and ‘twist something’ as I rolled unconscious towards the road. I was saved by business people, who sold their wares here; most of whom happened to be people living with disabilities. God bless them. It was too painful to move after that…to get up and walk.
Still, it was a pregnancy of miracles. It was long before the time of mobile phones. Our house phone rang and on the other end, was my friend. We had not really been in touch for a while and she sounded…exasperated on the other end of the line. She had gone to a phone booth, on God’s instructions, looked through the list of ‘Ogolas’ in the phone book and called each till she got through to me. She said none of the other lines had been picked. She had an urgent issue – ‘I don’t know what this thing is between you and God, He seems to favor you. He asked me to call you, to tell you to bring the list for your baby’s things. Which hospital do you want to have a baby in?” I was shocked. I told her it was okay. I was going to a public hospital because that is what I could afford. She said, ‘no! Tell me which hospital you want to go to, even if its Nairobi. God said it was up to us to cover you.” I again said, am okay where I am. She insisted and I told her that I preferred Aga Khan…she asked how much the clinic money was, and told me to pass by her office the next day. It was her first job after university I think, and it must have been her first month working there. Someday, I will find out the details from her. So that is how an unemployed lady got to attend clinic and finally have her baby in a ‘nice hospital’.
The miracles were many: Dr. Wangai attended to me pro borno throughout my pregnancy – he was an expensive and much sought after Counsellor, and doctor and I was humbled by his gesture. God led me to a new church, Glory Tabernacle, led then by Pastor Wale Akinyemi. They taught me to trust God for my needs. They were there for me. Once all the ladies in ministry came home to see me, a baby shower of sorts. One of the Pastors passed by our family house to check on me almost daily, especially when I was not able to attend services. Because of the tension at home, Pastor Wale had offered to pay my rent for the first few months for my children and I. I was not able to take him up on this, due to the complexity of this pregnancy; I needed to be around people. God bless him. I had a list, and each item on that list was miraculously provided for throughout my nine months.
Come October 31, 1995. I had been having contractions for most of October. I just wanted to have this baby and rest. My due date was November 2, but I had clinic on November 1. My dear dear Daddy, would take me all the way to Aga Khan every Wednesday morning for my now, weekly clinics. Leave me there to rush and report to work, and then come back and take me back home, before settling in for his Wednesday. This was to be no different. I had not packed my bag because I was tired of asking God to cause the baby to come, every day for the past month or so. So I thought He was planning to let me down again. I painfully got into Daddy’s Peugeot, and we went to Parklands. I enjoyed clinic days. I had made many ‘friends’ there, none of whom I can now recall. But I got in and it became really noisy in a happy way as the chatting began. Daddy left promising to be back for me. The doctor looked and me and said ‘No need to examine you chatter-box, you look and sound fine.” I said to him, “you must since its’ my due date today.” He looked at the card and said, “Yes” as he ushered me in. He examined me and sent me across the road…”You are in labour.” O-o!
I ambled like a bear across the road, and went to the reception. I was booked but not paid up for Delivery. But they graciously allowed me through. I took the ramp. Daddy apparently came back for me and was told to look for me across the road. He took the lift and we met as I took my last few steps to the door of the Maternity Ward. He told me I was a strong girl, that it was going to be alright, and that he would come with Mama later to see me. I can’t remember much about the rest of that day, except the pain, the drama, and the fact that I actually really only had intense labour for three hours then they wheeled me to the delivery room. I thought they were making fun of me as I had labored for 16 hours with Leroy. But no, a few minutes, kicks and yells later, at exactly 5:45 pm, Baby Shukurani Aoko was born. O wasn’t she a feisty baby. She had fully developed lungs it seemed and cried and cried for about half an hour, despite my rocking her, until she was humoured [read bribed] with formula. Her name ‘Shukurani’ was an exclamation of my gratitude to God, Who had stood by me as a Faithful God, Father, Friend, Husband, Provider, Comforter….He was Everything I needed Him to be, every step of the journey.
He did not stop. Daddy went to pay the bill and had to go back thrice as the accounts department told him I was fully paid up for my three days there. He still paid. I went home and the favor was such that for Shukurani’s first four years, I was busy trying to find people to give cloths, cots, baby stuff. I first bought her a dress at the age of four, and it did not fit. God knew her exact size, and the clothes He sent, always fitted. One day, she and I will write a book on the journey that has been being and mothering Shukurani. But suffice it to say, we have had, daily, many, many more reasons to give thanks, to God and His wonderful people.
As she turns 18 today, I have an appointment to keep at her school. She has sent messages that I cannot ignore. I am going. I discovered that God sets the times, and He calls us forward to our appointments, whether or not we are ready. The idea is to believe Him, and show up for the appointment. When we do, we find, He has been waiting for us. Someone needs to hear this today…take the journey, it is not without its complex challenges; but it’s also one you will be glad you did not opt out of. I am.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHUKURANI