Lilian Madonye: When Infertility Leads to a Life of Reckless Abandon
By Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama
When 37-year-old Lilian Madonye took her marriage vows 14 years ago, she looked forward to the exciting life that lay ahead of her. In her early twenties, she was marrying the man of her dreams, an athlete whom she had courted for two years.
The wedding marked the beginning of her new life, a life that would be filled with untold happiness from both her husband and the beautiful babies they would raise together.
Lillian, a second born in a family of three, had been raised in a relatively comfortable upbringing in Eldoret town. Her father, a banker, and her nurse mother had provided them with a stable home and good education.
Nurtured in a Christian environment, Lilian was a role model in her school, neighbourhood and church where she served as a worship leader. And her marriage did not disappoint.
Photo: Lillian Madonye during the interview
The first year was full on love, warmth and laughter. However, in the second year, the couple became worried when they were unable to conceive.
After trying for a baby for three years in vain, Lilian decided to seek professional help and saw a doctor who put her on fertility drugs and supplements. However, the desire for a baby became a dominant, crippling thought which consumed her whole being.
“Sex became a laborious task that was no longer enjoyable because of the pressure to conceive. Family, friends, neighbours and church members were already spreading rumours about my barrenness,” she remembers.
Meanwhile, Lilian kept hopping from one doctor to another seeking a miracle treatment, but none helped her conceive.
“The day I would receive my period each month would send me to a very dark place where I would spend the duration of the menses in tears. Helpless, I wondered what worth I was as a woman if I could not bear a child. What justification did I have to call myself a woman if I could not have a child?” she asked herself.
Frustrated and at her wits end, she one day asked her husband to take a fertility test if only to encourage him to be part of their quest for a baby.
“Even though I knew I was the one with the problem because I believed that infertility was a condition only for women, I asked him to get tested anyway.” But the results of the semen analysis test on her husband shocked her.
“My husband had a low sperm count, hence my difficulty in conceiving! The news took me aback because all along I thought I was the one with the problem,” Lilian says.
A low sperm count decreases the odds of a sperm fertilising an egg which results in pregnancy. Lilian’s husband was then put on fertility treatment aimed at boosting his sperm count.
At the same time, out of curiosity, Lilian decided to take a fertility test as well, and whose results showed that she was perfectly capable of conceiving and bearing a child.
“I stopped all the drugs I was taking. I wished we had both done the tests earlier as it would have saved me all the medicines I had taken for three years!”
For the next two years, the couple continued trying for a baby, but were unsuccessful. During this time, their marriage began undergoing turmoil.
“We would constantly engage in verbal confrontations about anything and everything. We were both frustrated and very desperate about wanting a baby. At some point, the fights became physical. Our marriage became filled with extreme tension and anger. We both became very unhappy in our marriage. There were infidelity issues and I was constantly rebuking women with whom my husband was having dalliances with. We stopped talking and even slept in separate rooms. I felt there was nothing left to hold on to and I eventually walked out of my marriage,” she remembers.
Lilian then moved to Nairobi where she landed a job as a sales representative in a bank. Older, wiser and with her newfound freedom — her faith in God long gone, Lilian took to alcohol and drugs. A short while later, she got a transfer to Mombasa.
“As soon as I landed in the beautiful Coastal city, I met up with people who introduced me to a wide variety of hard drugs which were easily accessible unlike in Nairobi. Soon, I began engaging in prostitution to finance my new lifestyle as my salary could obviously not cater for my needs. I would have multiple affairs with married men who would take care of my different financial needs.
Despite being aware of the dangers, I would have unprotected sex with my partners. I didn’t care about HIV, venereal diseases or drug overdoses because I had nothing to live for. With no husband and no children, my life had no meaning,” she confesses.
Lilian says she was on a constant high because when sober, the reality of her empty life would hit her, something she did not want to face. One morning after a night out, she began feeling sick.
“I knew that Aids had finally caught up with me,” she remembers. Lilian went to the hospital, but the doctor’s diagnosis shocked her. She recalls his words:
“Lilian, your HIV test is negative. But there is another test that has yielded positive results. Congratulations, you are pregnant!” She did not believe it.
“I was living a very evil life, engaging in all the abominable acts mentioned in the Bible, but yet God remembered me? I wondered why, yet when I was a good Christian, faithful in my marriage and with enviable morals, he ignored me. But now, when I was fully immersed in sin, he remembered me?”
Shocked to the bone, Lilian decided to sober up for the sake of her unborn baby. She packed all her belongings and moved back to Nairobi to start a new life.
She got back her old sales job at the bank, and began piecing her life together, which was not easy. “I was used to men taking care of all my bills, but now I had to support myself and my unborn baby. It became very difficult to make ends meet, but I did not despair. My baby motivated me and kept me going,” she says.
One day, in her seventh month of pregnancy, she noticed some blood stains. She rushed to hospital, and by the time she got there, her clothes were soaked in blood and she was writhing in pain.
An ultrasound done on the foetus revealed that Lilian’s baby was already dead. Lilian had faced high blood pressure issues during the pregnancy, which led to her having pre-eclampsia, a condition characterised by a high level of protein the urine and which can be fatal.
But she had to deliver the baby anyway, and after six agonising days, she finally gave birth. “It was a baby girl. Even though I wanted to see her and hold her in my arms, the doctors refused and only showed me her legs. They said that because she had been dead for more than a week, she was already decomposed and in a bad state. I called her Zawadi, because she was my special gift,” she says, struggling to contain the tears welling up in her eyes.
As she walked out of the hospital on that day in May 2012, Lilian left with a new resolve. To completely turn her life around and find her purpose in life again.
“I don’t blame anyone for the path I took in life. I am responsible for all the decisions I made. I could have made better choices, but I did not. I have forgiven myself and I am embracing my new life.”
In January this year, Lilian formed a group for women struggling with infertility. The group is called Diamonds Women Ministry, and it brings together women struggling with infertility, and teaches them to focus on other areas of their lives even as they try for a baby.
“The reality is that not all women struggling with infertility will have a happy ending where they will get pregnant and have babies. I encourage women not to be consumed by the search for a baby to the extent that other areas of their life suffers. They should also not peg their worth as women solely on the basis of motherhood. I talk to women during bridal showers and talk to newlyweds about marriage expectations. I always use my personal experiences because I know I contributed to the loss of my marriage and advice them not to make the mistakes I made. I am a strong believer in marriage and just because mine did not work, it does not mean that it will not work for another couple,” she concludes.
Article courtesy: The Star