Thursday, October 30, 2008

S.O.S for Mercy, Twins and Triplets

The story of Mercy’s twins and triplets
By James Achanyi-Fontem, Cameroon Link
Cameroon Link received Atabong Mercy, 26 years and mother of eight children at its counselling centre in Bonabéri-Douala. Mercy was born on the 3rd December 1982 and she started her marital life at 16 and in eleven years gave birth to eight children, amongst them twins and triplets out of five pregnancies. The first child in the family ZANFACK Gaston and Atabong Mercy was born in 1997 and at 11, DEMEFFO Joshua Stollone is already in college. The second, DEMEFFO Carine was born in 1999 before the twins : DEMEFFO Reine and DEMEFFO Bétanie in 2001. In 2003 DEMEFFO Blessing was delivered before the arrival of the triplets: Demeffo Dani Chama, Demeffo Daniella Chékina and Demeffo Asonganyi Daniel on the 25 August 2007.
We discovered Atabong Mercy and her triplets during an educative talk organized to the documentation centre of Cameroon Link on the 6th August 2008 during open door celebrations of the World Breastfeeding Week. On that sunny day, the triplets were 11 months 19 days old and Mercy brought them to participate at the educative talk organized on the open door occasion. This gave the opportunity for others to listen to Mercy’s testimony on how she successfully breastfed all her children exclusively for six months and above for some of her children.
Atabong Mercy is an exceptional mother because in Cameroon it is often believed that when a woman gives birth to twins and if amongst the babies, there is a boy and a girl, she will no longer give birth to twins during other deliveries. Atabong Mercy crushed this rule by making the exception by deliverin,g triplets. Atabong Mercy is today called "Magni", the traditional title to honour a mother of twins or triplets. Magni needs to be encouraged for her to bring up her children well and give the children equal opportunities like all others. We conducted the interview that follows for Not For Fathers Only, as Atabong Mercy tells the story of her motherhood and the type of assistance she receives from her husband, ZANFACK Gaston.
Question : Hello, Mercy ! You are welcome to the WABA Mother Support Taskforce Newsletter. Can you tell us the story about how you discovered Gaston, your dear husband. How did your relationship start?
Mercy: I met my husband when I was aged of 16 years. I had just obtained my Primary and Elementary School Education Certificate, CEPE. When I discovered Gaston, my going to school stopped because we were in love.
Q: What was your husband at that time?
M: He was a palm wine tapper (vigneur) and he also broke pebbles to sell to those building houses.He also travelled a lot to Nigeria for trading. Gaston had a lot difficulties and problems in his life before bankruptcy when in Nigeria. He finally decided to return to live in the village. This was still not easy for him because people mocked at him lot.
Q: When did you begin to give birth to your children?
M: We had two children when we were in the village : DEMEFFO Joshua Stallone and DEMEFFO Carine. The first was in 1997. We moved to Douala when my husband found a job at the sea port in the economic capital of Cameroon. As a lorry driver, he travelled to the Republic of Congo to distribute products manufactured in Cameroon by their company. It is in Douala that we got our twins: DEMEFFO Reine and DEMEFFO Bétanie. The twins were followed by a girl, DEMEFFO Blessing before the triplets: Demeffo Dani Chama, Demeffo Daniella Chékina and Demeffo Asonganyi Daniel on the 25th August 2007. At that time, my husband had got a new job with PASTA food company.
Q: How did it happen that at your young age of 16 years you decided to get married to Gaston who had no job?
M : He had no job, but we loved ourselves and agreed to stay together as a couple. At the time I knew him, he was a typhoid patient and was very often sick. Looking at his situation, from time to time, I went to tap the palm wine in his place for use to make some money. I also broke pebbles in his place and gathered them to sell. My family in Lebialem opposed my relationship with Gaston. My parents propsed several postulants to me for marriage, but I repelled the proposals though these persons were richer than Gaston. I believed that marry ing someone who is rich does not replace love and happiness. I preferred to remain in the home where God had first chosen for me. With a lot of pressure of my parents, I escaped from our home and left to join Gaston where he was staying in the village.
Q : So, you escaped from your family to join Gaston’s home ?
M : Yes ! I escaped to join him, and it when he got a job that Gaston visited my parents to pay the dowry to my family to legalize our marriage by Cameroon tradition. So, we are married legally.
Q: In what year did you start your dating relationship?
M: We started our love affair in 1996 and I became pregnant, though still very small. Luckily I got my first child in 1997 without a problem and the second in 1999. That is how we continued to create our own family with deliveries between two and three years intervals. The twins were born in 2001 followed by the fourth pregnancy in 2004 before the fifth which brought the triplets in 2007.
Q : When we look at the gaps between your baby deliveries, it is imaged that you had wanted to opt for a good planning family scheme. But your five deliveries that have given eight children. What is your impression after having delivered twins and then triplets ?
M: As mother, I believe that children come from God and I have accepted all my children. They do not get sick very often and I believe that it is God who protects them.
Q : You participated in the educative talk on the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding during first six months of the life of babies. With your multiple deliveries, how did you organize breastfeeding of your children ?
M : All my children have had the privilege to be breastfed exclusively for six month and above for some. During my stay in the village, there was no conflict between the breastmilk and artificial milk because the poor peasant mothers do not have the means to invest on formulae products. We count on our gardens and farms to feed our children and families. I breastfed my first son for seven month exclusively and I gave him all the food we ate at home from the eighth month. He was breastfed for twenty four months even when we complimented with household meals. The others were also breastfed exclusively for six months.
Q:What is your observation when you successfull breastfeed your children ?M: First, they do not cry and I have observed that my children do not fall sick regularly. The first was admitted in college at 11 years and while in primary school he was always amongst the first ten in their class. We have no money, and our children support us by doing well in school. It is when I listened to two programmes on the activities of Cameroon Link on Radio and Television announcing the open door educative talk that i decided to come and participate with a testimony of how i breastfed my twins and triplets. Other mothers in the hall were anxious to carry my babies to feel their weight. Many were very surprised, though happy with what they witnessed about the triplets. My triplets began to move at 11 months. The others moved a little bit earlier at 10 months. But I have to testify that I had a lot problems breastfeeding three children, one after the other. It was necessary for me to eat regular balanced diets and drink a lot water. As the children aged in weeks and months, my breast produced milk, but it was not always enough for the three children if breastfed at the same moment. As I began lossing weight myself, I had to plannify the breastfeeding hours in way to spread the periods with a difference of one hour for each child. This permitted two children to be sleeping when one of them was suckled. It was not easy, but I managed it.
I believed that my breast did not produce enough milk at one point because I worked a lot at home and in the farm. I did not get enough assistance from my family relatives or the community. This is explained by the fact that everyone was engaged in their own farm work and care for their own children and families. This pushed me to wean them at ten months when they started getting up and standing. Another problem is that when children start moving they eat a lot. I need help and assistance for their feeding. Certainly in three years, it would be the problem of sending them to school. This necessitates money. It is for these reasons that I decided to participate at Cameroon Link open door educative talk. In other countries, mothers like us are assisted by the government, but since I started getting my children, the twins and later the triplets, I have received not aid from the government or public as yet. Persons of will good should know this and come to my aid through Cameroon Link.
Q : How did you organize complementary feeding of your children?
M : In the village, we have gardens that produce vegetables, farms for subsistence crops that produce food and we have also a small poultry farm that produces eggs and chickens for the household and for sale. I associate all these items to feed my children. What I sell assists me to give them clothing. I thank God because they are not sick. What I have also observed is that their growth rate decreased when I stopped to breastfeed the triplets. It is important to continue to breastfeed a baby even when he or she has begun to eat others foods. As a baby grows, he or she spends a lot of energy in playing too.
Q : Why did you remain in the village when your husband worked in Douala?
M: I remained in the village because the accommodation was not enough for ou large family. Accommodation in Douala City is very expensive and our family income is not enough. The cost of life in general is very high, especially if we consider the current food market prices. My husband did not get a job rapidly and even what he has currently is temporary occupation. One could therefore not live in Douala with all these children because others needed to continue to go to school. Schooling costs are less expensive to the village.
Q : Your husband is truck driver and his profession keeps him regularly on the move How do you organize to discuss problems related to the children’s care with him ?
M: Our situation is truly difficult. My husband is constantly in search of a better job because he earns only " Eighty Five Thousand Francs CFA (US$ 210) a month as salary. This is very small for a large family of ten persons. This means that each person in our family of the ten lives on US$ 20 only for a month. This is why the absence of my husband from the house does not disturb me a lot. During his multiple trips, we are constantly on the telephone to discuss family problems, because even when he is around during the weekends on Sunday, he is always tired and his does not remain long with us. We cannot do otherwise.
Q: You do not have a job and your husband’s job is not a permanent one with PASTA. How do you arrange to meet up with the basic needs of yours eight children ?
M: As I told you, my husband’s salary is only CFA 85.000 (US$210) a month and this amount is insufficient for our needs. However, through his job as truck driver, he obtains some small favour with financial out comes. This is against professional norms, but he feels obliged to make ends meet, though the high risks. If his supervisors know about his extra activities, he may be dismissed from job.
Q : If a good Samaritan wanted to come to your aid, what will be your priority?
M : As a mother with many children, I wish to be trained at a home economics center, where I can start apprenticeship to become a seamstress, beauty hairdresser or learn any other trade to generate resources or get a job for myself too. In this way, I could be able to assist my husband. I think also of clothing, health and education of my children as a priority. Our aims is to get permanent housing for the family as whole. Finally, I would like to see my husband have a stable job that could assist us to bring up our children well.
Q : Tell us the story of the pregnancy of your triplets?
M: When I went for pre-natal consultation in the hospiatl, the medical doctor made me to understand that I waited twins. At only five months of pregnancy my belly was very large that I understood we had to wait for a second set of twins in the family. I went constantly to the hopital but at one stage I became very tired and never wanted to move anymore. I no longer wanted to return to the hospital and my sister was afraid that I could deliver at home and not in the hospital. The delivery took place in the hospital when my pregnancy was nine months and I was very weak. It was my elder sister persuaded me to go to the hospital. Immediately I arrived, I was taken to the delivery room and the children started coming out one after the other every three minutes. I delivered normally, but we had prepared only for two children and a third come. Each child came after three minutes. The third was wrapped with a napkin and clothes came only later. I thank God because all the children had good weight. I returned to the house three days after my hospitalization in the maternity for post natal follow up.
Q : How are the triplets today?
M: They are all well. The triplets carry do not fall sick regularly. Since we stay in a marshy area of Bonabéri-Douala, they have malaria once in a while. They eat well and sleep well.
Q : If I understand youl, apart from the small sicknesses, they are growing normally ?

M: Yes. They are growing very fast.
Q : Thank you, Mrs. Atabong Mercy for your time and testimony.
M: It is me to thank you for allowing me to express my views and request for help. …

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