Due to a rare condition, the world’s most fertile woman has given birth to 44 children, all by the age of 36.
Mariam Nabatanzi, from Uganda, is now 39 and had her record number of babies all with the same father, a 40-year-old man who she was married to from the age of 12.
Her first set of twins were born a year after the marriage, and in total she has now given birth to four sets of triplets, three sets of quadruplets, and six sets of twins.
Her husband left her three years ago so she now looks after the huge family on her own.
They live in a set of four cramped houses, made from cement bricks and a corrugated iron roof, surrounded by coffee fields.
Mariam found out that she had unusually large ovaries when a doctor examined her after the birth of her first set of twins.
He was concerned about the health problems that birth control pills might cause, so she continued to have more babies.
In Uganda, large families are fairly common, with the average woman in Uganda giving birth to 5.6 children, but needless to say, Mariam’s family is considered huge.
She had 25 children by the age of 23, so she went back to her doctor in desperation, hoping he could help her stop having more.
However, the doctor’s advice was to keep getting pregnant due to her ovary count being so high.
She had no complications until her last pregnancy in which she gave birth to her sixth set of twins, when sadly one of them died during labour.
It was after this that her husband abandoned her, so now his name is a family curse and Mariam swears any time she has to mention his name.
“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.”
Mariam has done her best to find ways to feed the mouths of so many children, working as a hairdresser, an event decorator, and collecting and selling scrap metals.
She even brews her own local gin and sells herbal medicine.
All the money she makes goes towards feeding her family, as well as paying for medical care, clothing, and school fees. She is doing her best to ensure her kids get a good start in life.
Her eldest child had to drop out of school to help her mother raise the family. Ivan Kibuka, 23, said:
“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.”
Mariam has lived a tragic life, starting with her mother walking out on her, her five siblings, and her father, three days after she was born.
Her father remarried, and her new stepmother poisoned her five siblings with crushed glass mixed into their food, and they all died.
Mariam got lucky as she only survived because she was away visiting a relative at the time.
“I was seven years old then, too young to even understand what death actually meant. I was told by relatives what had happened.”
It was this tragedy that ignited her desire to have a large family of her own, although her original plan was to have only 6 children.
It’s extremely hard work for Mariam to look after so many children, with 25 kilograms of maize flour required in one day to feed them. Meat or fish are rare treats for special occasions.
But she keeps it organized and the kids do their best to help out. The older children help to look after the younger ones and everyone gets involved with the cooking.
Washing and cooking duties are designated using a roster on a small wooden board on the wall.
Mariam only hopes for her children to grow up happy, given the sadness of her own childhood. She said:
“I started taking on adult responsibilities at an early stage. I have not had joy, I think, since I was born.”