Mariam Nabatanzi is a Ugandan woman referred to as “Uganda’s most fertile woman”. At 39, she is already a mother of 38 children, having lost six of them to death.
The Ugandan woman has given birth 15 times to five sets of twins, followed by four sets of triplets and then five sets of quadruplets. Mariam broke the Guinness Book of Records after giving birth to five quadruplets. The previous record was four quadruplets as the initial birth.
While this is a great feat for some, Mariam Nabatanzi hasn’t had it easy all her life. Right from a very young age, she has faced a difficult life as her mother abandoned her, her father and her five siblings three days after giving birth to her.
“I started taking on adult responsibilities at an early stage,” she said. “I have not had joy, I think since I was born.”
After her father remarried, her step-mother poisoned her five older siblings. She used crushed glass, which she mixed with their food, while Ms Nabatanzi was visiting a relative.
“I was seven years old then, too young to even understand what death actually meant,” she said. “I was told by relatives what had happened.”
Ms Nabatanzi reveals her desire for a large family stems from this tragic incident during her childhood. She also says she went through years of abuse in her childhood home.
The mother of 44 children got sold into marriage at the age of 12 in 1993. She was sold to a man 28 years older than her.
Al Jazeera reports that Ms Nabatanzi says she had no idea she was going to be married. She only realised what had happened after she escorted a relative but ended up being given off to the man.
Motherhood began for her at the age of 13 when she gave birth to her first set of twins.
“I take care of my children by myself. Others have asked me to give birth for them, but I cannot do that,” she told Citizen TV‘s Saida Swaleh during a recent interview at her home.
Ms Nabatanzi is now 39 years old. She lives with her extended family in four cramped houses made of cement blocks and corrugated iron in a village north of the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
“I have grown up in tears. My man has passed me through a lot of suffering,” she said. ”All my time has been spent looking after my children and working to earn some money.”
According to her, her husband disappeared after becoming violent and marrying other wives.
In a past interview with Daily Monitor, the Ugandan woman narrated how her husband humiliated and tortured her during their 25 years of marriage.
“….he beats to the pulp when I try to reason with him over any issue, especially when he gets home drunk. The children hardly know who he is since he is an absent father who gives his children names over the phone and not physically,” she said.
He walked out for good following her last pregnancy two-and-a-half years ago. It was a delivery of her sixth set of twins, of which one died in childbirth.
Ms Nabatanzi does a lot of laborious work to fend for her family, and the money gets exhausted almost immediately by their needs.
Her eldest son, who is 23, had to drop out of school when money became an issue. He says, “Mum is overwhelmed; the work is crushing her. We help where we can, like in cooking and washing, but she still carries the whole burden for the family. I feel for her.”
Seena Khalil has more about Nabatanzi’s life in this video.
Watch this video by Al Jazeera’s Seena Khalil to learn more about her life.