Every time I speak to my mum on phone or meet her in person, I ask myself “What if I had not reached out, would we still be here talking”
I choose to be a part of the #SaveAMum campaign because as a mother of 2, I fully understand what a woman goes through while giving birth. That duration from the time the water breaks or the contractions start to the time the baby cries out for the first time is one that is so sensitive, anything can go wrong in a matter of minutes and become a matter of life and death to child, the mother or both.
The Chase Group Foundation asked me to write about the role that my mother plays in my life and it triggered in me an avalanche of emotions. My mum often tells me;
Njeri, were it not for you, I would not be here today
It has been 20 years since my mum was diagnosed with a terminal disease. I was in form 2 at Kambui Girls, and I eagerly waiting for the birth of my sister. I had been alone for so long, the anticipation was killing me. My mum was a single parent and so, I was mostly brought up by her and my late grandmother as mum had to work out of town most of my school life. I had always wanted brothers and sisters like my cousins who seemed to enjoy life more than I did. My longing for siblings was as strong and palpable as my need for a father figure in my life.
When my sister, Naomi was born in 1995, I was in school. I had to wait almost a month before I could lay my eyes on her during midterm. I loved her the minute I saw her. My mum was equally elated and named her after her older sister.
A few months after Naomi was born is when my mum started feeling unwell and so did Naomi. After consultations with her brother (My Uncle) who is a Doctor, she underwent a series of test and that’s when she got the diagnosis.
Although its been 20 years since, details of what happened then and for the next 5 years are hard to relive or fully describe. My mum went into severe depression. I was 15 years then when it suddenly dawned on my that I would lose both my mother and my sister.
Despite my age, I found the will to fight and chose not to believe or accept that both would die and leave me. I spoke to my mother in a way I have never done before. I reached out to her and made her see why she needed to fight this, why she needed to believe that she was not going die. Why I needed her to be there with me when I said ‘I do’, when I held our first baby, why she meant everything to me and why I was not going to let her give up on life.
I could not believe the words I was telling her were coming from me. I am not sure where they came from or what made me so bold.Looking back at those months when I held her hand through finding treatment centers, changing her diet and believing that she was not going to die, I now understand why I had to do it.
My mum is my best friend now, I confide in her things I am too afraid to tell my friends. When we had our 2nd daughter whom we named after her, she told anyone who cared to listen that she has been reborn. Our kids do not spend more than 2 weeks without seeing her. She is the first person I call when my house helps decide to quit without any notice. When I was a new mother, she would bring me fresh groceries every week and made sure there was a whole mtungi (Pitcher) of fermented porridge in the house.
I call her almost every other day and on most evenings when I call, I put the phone on speaker mode for her to say hi to the girls and get confused on who is talking to her as the girls sound alike on phone. Her laugh when my daughter asks her
Nikii ureka?, (What are you doing)
brings tears to my eyes.
When I think of all the moments we have shared, the joy that my daughters have brought to her life and how she has reached out to so many people who seek her Peer Counseling skills, I realize that there was a reason I reached out and why it was not just me who needed her.
Her calling in life and the impact she has had on the lives of many people in my village makes me than God everyday for using me to pull her out of the despair.