Teddy Nahabweki, 60, is a mother of 18 children, including five sets of twins. One would imagine she would be happy with her offspring but it is far from it.
Her dream was to have as many twins as her womb would allow until age caught up with her. But, of the 18, death has robbed her of 12.
The single mother is a resident of Ibonde village, Nyakasura, Karago Town Council in Kabarole District.
She lives in a small room with her two children at an old house belonging to Bishop Jimmy Katuramu of the Pentecostal Church, Fort Portal. The church minister was kind enough to give her a place to call home at no cost. This has been her place of abode since 2002.
The four-bedroomed house accommodates three other families. Nahabweki and her two young children, a girl in Primary Three and a boy in Primary Six, survive on a meal a day. It is obvious they live from hand to mouth.
Determined to survive
On a typical day, she starts her mornings by doing household chores.
To make ends meet, Nahabweki hawks porridge locally known as Obushera bwekinga. “I prepare the porridge from millet and sorghum. Then I get a boda boda rider to take it to the selling point, which is about four kilometres from home.
On a sunny day, her porridge sells out but on cold days, which is often than not in Kabarole District, she has to take it back home.
To increase her profts, Nahabweki distributes the porridge to local grocery shops and resturants. On a good day, she can earn Shs20,000.
“I started this business in 2012 with 10-litre jerry can and when customers liked the porridge I doubled the production.
“This business is what has enabled me to survive and care for my children. I am able to provide food and pay school fees for these children.
She adds, “It is very challenging to get all these from my small business because when it is cold day, I incur losses yet my responsibilites do not change at all.
“Because of these uncertainties, we survive on one meal a day which is supper.”
Asked if these conditions are not harsh for the children, Nahabweki says her children are used to the prevailing conditions.
The situation at home
The living conditions in her home speak for themselves. There is no chair or table in her room. The room is bare, scattered with a few utensils and mattress.
Her last born Ruth Kiiza, 8, has learnt to put on a brave face even when she has to go to school on an empty stomach.
Fortunately, this has not affected her grades. The little girl is an excellent pupil.
“I was the second in class last term but I am aiming at the first position this term. I want to be a nurse so that I help other people,” Kiiza confidently says.
To realise this dream, her mother needs a miracle.
In spite of these challenges, Nahabweki is sad that she did not have even more children.
“If had resources, I wanted to produce as many sets of twins as possible before menopause. Doctors told me that I was able to but I had to stop because the relationship with my husband was volatile.”
Her host, Bishop Katuramu, says Nahabweki needs help from well wishers so that her children can have a brighter future. “This lady gave birth to twins five times, the husband did not care which led to the loss of some of the children. I gave her shelter but this is not enough, she has other needs,” he says.
“I appeal to government and any Good Samaritans to come to my rescue, help with my children and settle me on a small piece of land,” that is all Nahabweki mutters when you ask what kind of help she needs. “At times my children do not attend school because I am unable to provide for their school fees.”
“Young girls should not rush into marriage but listen to their parents, she says, adding, “People cautioned me about the dangers of early marriage at 18. I wish I had listened to them perhaps my life would be different,” she adds.
“Had I followed my mother’s advice, I would not be living in such a mess,” she says.
“Wives whose husbands are providing at home should thank God. I also advise especially the women to leave bad relationships as soon as they realise that it is not ideal for them. It is better to leave while you still can before you make more mistakes.”
Most prolific mother ever in the world
The officially recorded highest number of children born to one mother is 69, to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (b. 1707–c.1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia.
In 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. Numerous contemporaneous sources exist, which suggest that this seemingly improbably and statistically unlikely story is true.
According to The Gentleman’s Magazine, the case was reported to Moscow by the Monastery of Nikolsk on February 27, 1782, which had recorded every birth. It is noted that, by this time, only two of the children who were born in the period 1725–65 failed to survive their infancy.
The twins and her blotted family life
Nahabweki was born to a family of three in Mutolere village, Nyakabande in Kisoro District. Her father died when she was two-years-old.
“In 1972, my mother moved us from Kisoro District, my elder sister and I to our maternal uncle’s place in Kyomukama Village, Kyaterekera, Kibaale District. The following year, I got married to Matias Sebunyenzi.”
In 1974, she gave birth to her first born, a boy who unfortunately passed away.
In 1975, she gave birth to her first set of twins. Both were girls, but one later died. The surviving twin, Magdalene Nyakato, grew up and is now married in Kagadi, Kibaale District.
In 1976, she gave birth to her second set of twins, both boys, Isingoma Luke and Kato Mark who unfortunately passed on as well.
In 1977, Lady Luck smiled on her and she gave birth to the third set of twins, both girls, Josephine Nyakato and Margaret Nyangoma
In 1978, she gave birth to Mariam Kiiza. The following year she miscarried her what would have been fourth set of twins.
In 2004, she gave birth to the fifth set of twins, a boy and girl. The girl died but Daudi Kato survived. He is in Primary Six.
In 2007, she gave birth to her last born, Ruth Kiiza who is now in Primary Three.
“Of the 18 children I brought in this world, only six have survived,” Nahabweki laments.
“In 1982, doctors advised me to stop producing. There were so many wrangles at home and our relationship was not a good one,” she shares.
This explained why she separated from her husband.
“In 1983, I separated with my husband because he was a drunkard and could not provide for us. I am born again and I could not bear it any more. I decided to go back home.