Motherhood • 2013

At Kimbilio, our Living Room team cares for sick and dying men, women, and children. It is not unusual for mamas to ask our team to make sure their little ones will be alright after they are gone. 

Each request bears the weight of a mother’s love. We listen—our faces often stained with tears—and try to assure them we will do whatever possible to help.

Meet Maggie

Maggie's Children

Titus

I loved my work at the hospice, yet I ached for a family to call my own. At thirty-two, I was introduced through friends to Titus. It’s not a stretch to say he’s probably the kindest, most humble human being on earth. He grew up and lived only twelve miles away from Kipkaren. We fell in love over shared meals, visits to Titus’ beautiful family farm, and on walks along the Kipkaren River.
On my thirty-third birthday, we stood on top of a mountain overlooking a magnificent rain forest. There, Titus asked me to marry him. It was an easy yes for me.

Titus and I, along with our families, friends, colleagues, neighbors, friends of neighbors, and neighbors of friends celebrated our engagement on a rainy day in April. No invitation was required to attend. All were welcome. More than two thousand showed up.

Titus’ family negotiated with  elders from our community over a dowry price, including cows and sheep. And then they anointed one another with oil as a symbol of our families becoming one.

Celebrations continued with a small wedding ceremony with our family and friends in the US, followed by a Kenyan wedding with five thousand of our closest family and friends in attendance.

Ella

Fourteen months later, Titus and I, along with our entire community, awaited the arrival of our baby girl, Ella.

There is a well-known African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” To our village, this is more than a proverb. It is a way of life. Children are seen to be the joy and responsibility of all.

After a long labor and emergency c-section, Ella came into the world, a wide-eyed wonder.

Being a mom was harder and more wonderful than anything I’d ever known. I was overwhelmed by the gift we had been given. 

Titus and I hoped to have a second child, to give Ella a baby brother or sister.

One night, in the quietest part of the night—somewhere in between when insects buzz and birds begin to sing—my mind was wide awake. Something changed within my prayers. I was asking for the same thing, but there was a shift, and I knew it.

I asked God to make room within our love and within our home for life to grow.

 

With the one exception of my post-labor chatter the night Ella was born, Titus and I had never talked about adopting a child. There was no earthly plan for what was about to unfold. I was simply praying for God to make enough space within me for new life.

Ryan

I walked into Kimbilio Hospice like I have done so many times before. On this Friday afternoon, a premature baby wrapped in an oversized pink blanket had just arrived at the hospice. His mother’s body, which had given him life and space to grow and develop, lay next door in the mortuary, being prepared for burial.

For the past five days, this premature infant had survived, against all odds, on water alone. His mother had died in childbirth; his dad had been killed in a roadside accident. 

The baby was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. A relative, I was told, had named him Ryan Kibichii, meaning little king and survivor.

I held this baby wrapped in pink within my arms, and all I knew is that I wanted him to live.

“Titus, may Ryan come to our home when he is discharged from the hospital, at least until he’s stable?”

 

I knew it was a big ask. 

In the end, Titus said yes.

Ryan spent 14 days in the NICU. The neighboring hospital was on strike. Ryan shared his incubator with two babies.

We weren’t sure how to handle introductions. 

“Ella, this is baby Ryan. He’s going to stay with us for a while.”

“He’s my baby,” she’d say in response.

I fed Ryan each hour, drop by drop, praying the formula would stay down. My lofty and calculated goal was two teaspoons per feeding. Sometimes it worked.

It was one month since Ryan came to our home, and he was beginning to grow into his doll-sized preemie clothes. An hour had passed since his last feeding, and it was time for the next spoonful of formula before he went to sleep again.

“He doesn’t need to leave,” Titus quietly said.

“What?”

“He doesn’t need to go anywhere.”

“Okay,” was all I needed to say for now.

“We would like to apply to become guardians of a baby,” Titus explained to the attorney.

 

A few weeks later when we returned to his office, our case file was retrieved. In bold black marker, it read: BABY RYAN—ADOPTION CASE.

I half-smiled at Titus and breathed in a deep breath. A major decision seemed to have been made for us by what was written on a file folder, and, without looking back, we chose to proceed. 

Five of Ryan’s brothers and sisters.

During this time, Titus and I met with extended relatives of the children. They agreed that we would permanently care for Ryan as well as support his brothers and sisters.