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Woman has 44 children with six sets of twins, four sets of triplets and five sets of quadruplets

...Six of them didn't survive

A mother has revealed how her unusually large ovaries mean she is unable to get pregnant with one baby at a time, leaving her with 38 children, including six sets of twins, four sets of triplets and five sets of quadruplets. 

Mariam Nabatanzi, 39, gave birth to the first set of twins a year after she was married off at the age of 12 and was abandoned by her husband three years ago, leaving her to support their surviving 38 children alone.

It was just the latest setback in a life marred by tragedy for Mariam, who lives with her children in four cramped houses made of cement blocks and topped with corrugated iron in a village surrounded by coffee fields north of Kampala.

Six other babies did not survive, including one from her last pregnancy, a set of twins two years ago.

After her first sets of twins were born, Mariam went to a doctor who told her she had unusually large ovaries.

He also advised her that birth control pills might cause her health problems.

So the children kept coming.

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In Uganda, the fertility rate averages 5.6 children per woman, one of the highest in Africa, and more than double the global average of 2.4 children, according to the World Bank.

But even in Uganda, the size of Mariam’s family makes her an extreme outlier.

Her last pregnancy, two and a half years ago, had complications. It was her sixth set of twins and one of them died in childbirth, her sixth child to die.

Then her husband – often absent for long stretches – abandoned her. His name is now a family curse and she refers to him using an expletive.

During an interview at her home, she said: ‘I have grown up in tears, my man has passed me through a lot of suffering.

‘All my time has been spent looking after my children and working to earn some money.’

Desperate for cash, Mariam has tried several trades including hairdressing, event decorating, collecting and selling scrap metal, brewing local gin and selling herbal medicine.

Any money she earns is swallowed up by food, medical care, clothing and school fees.

On a grimy wall in one room of her home hang proud portraits of some of her children graduating from school, gold tinsel around their necks.

‘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,’ said her eldest child Ivan Kibuka, 23, who had to drop out of secondary school when the money ran out.

Mariam’s desire for a large family has its roots in tragedy.

Three days after she was born, her mother abandoned the family: her father, the newborn girl and her five siblings.

‘She just left us,’ said Mariam somberly, as some of her ragged children played on the dirt floor while others did chores.

After her father remarried, her stepmother poisoned the five older children with crushed glass mixed in their food. They all died.

Mariam escaped because she was visiting a relative, she says.

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‘I was seven years old then, too young to even understand what death actually meant. I was told by relatives what had happened,’ she said.

She grew up wanting to have six children to rebuild her shattered family.

However, providing a home for 38 children is a constant challenge.

Twelve of the children sleep on metal bunk beds with thin mattresses in one small room with grime-caked walls.

In the other rooms, lucky children pile onto shared mattresses while the others sleep on the dirt floor.

Older children help look after the young ones and everyone helps with chores like cooking.

A single day can require 25 kilograms of maize flour, Mariam says. Fish or meat are rare treats.

A rota on a small wooden board nailed to a wall spells out washing or cooking duties.

‘On Saturday we all work together,’ it reads.

Having endured such a hard childhood herself, Mariam’s greatest wish now is for her children to be happy.

‘I started taking on adult responsibilities at an early stage,’ she said. ‘I have not had joy, I think, since I was born.’ (DailyMail)