When we meet Anne Wanjiku Waichigo on a chilly morning at her home in Langata, Nairobi, her radiant smile is welcoming but that smile conceals her troubled past, a quest to get a child after being declared infertile.
She had a “normal” life but fate had its own plans for her too. In 2009, at the prime age of 27 years, she was diagnosed with a hormonal condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
“I missed my periods so I went to the hospital, they did a few tests and the doctor found I had PCOS,” she says.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the leading causes of infertility among women. The condition is caused by an imbalance in the levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone in a woman. This leads to the growth of cysts in the ovaries.
She describes the moment she learnt that she was infertile as the lowest in her life, having believed all along that she was “normal”.
At that time, she was dating her then boyfriend, and now husband, Jackson Kamau, also known as DJ Soxxy, a gospel disc jockey and TV show host on television station K24.
BROKE UP WITH BOYFRIEND
“I broke up with my boyfriend for two months. I was stressed and that crippled the relationship. ”
“Jackson didn’t have any problem with my state — he thought I was being over dramatic,” she adds.
For fear of being ridiculed, she did not reveal her condition to anyone except her mother and partner. She was fully aware of the ostracism and discrimination that come with a woman's inability to give birth.
“How would people take it if they know that you would never have children? I felt they’ll look at me differently.”
A month after they said their wedding vows, they started trying for a baby but were unsuccessful for three years.
They made regular visits to the doctor. Her medication consisted of hormonal injections that affected her emotionally.
“Those three years were bad. If we never divorced then, I think we will never do it!”
BATTLE OF THE MIND
She says that infertility is a battle of the mind owing to the psychological torture that one experiences. After two and a half years, the doctor gave up. She had two options: undergo surgery or in vitro fertilization (IVF). But neither of the two could work because she had developed high blood pressure.
“It reached a point I got fed up. We realised we were trying a humanly impossible thing, because we knew children come from God. He decides to bring life.”
She got the sweetest shock of her life when a regular pregnancy test revealed that she was expecting a child. Her husband didn’t believe it, to the extent that he alleged Anne had borrowed the results from a friend.
“It was a miracle. I still have polycystic ovarian syndrome. I can’t say am infertile, because I have children now, PCOS gives you problems in conceiving a baby.”
She is now a proud mother of two children, a boy and a girl.
“There was a time we thought we could never have children, crying in our house, now we have two making all the noise and playing,” she aptly captures the good turn of events.
She recalls how she was so stressed from being childless that she almost went into depression and she stopped attending social events like weddings and funerals.
“I feel that a woman should bring forth life but it’s not written that a woman must. People should stop mounting pressure on them, because God is the provider of life.”
Because of her experience, she now supports women undergoing the same predicament. When not working as a marketing manager at Radbone Clark, a distribution company, she blogs about her struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome at www.mummystimeline.wordpress.com According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every four couples in developing countries have been found to be affected by infertility. In many African communities, infertile women are judged and profiled harshly for their inability to bear children.
Anne is a champion for change regarding the treatment of infertile women in the society. Using her journey as a testimony and encouragement to infertile women, she is the ultimate voice of reason and she aims to create awareness about and fight against the stigma and ostracism suffered by infertile women.
HEALTH EXPERT VIEW
Gladys Opini, a health professional, says polycystic ovarian syndrome is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age occurring up to 10 to 25 per cent.
“The exact cause is not known but environmental and generic factors have been pointed as possible causes of the condition,” she says adding that diagnosis of PCOS involves exclusion, largely dependent on history and signs and symptoms and elimination of all other possible causes.
“You can’t calculate the odds of someone having the condition conceiving, each case is unique and any outcome depends on the treatment applied.”
She notes that management of the disorder is aimed at relief of symptoms and prevention of complications, such as, infertility, diabetes, Type 2 heart disease and stroke. Some of the treatment methods are hormonal injections to induce ovulation and surgery to remove the ovarian cysts.