Two months ago, Davis, Tiyamike, Tiyanjane and Chimwemweâ€™s births seemed like a curse as they arrived at a time their family had no income to sustain five people. Their addition looked like God had turned a blind eye to the family that had now grown to nine.
These quadruplets were born to 24-year-old Estelle Charles and Charles Jubeki, on June 16 2012, at Mwanza District Hospital. As they turn three months today, the four babies are as healthy as a singleton and they are a living example of how humanity can go a long way towards changing the lives of the less privileged.
Clad in matching tops, pairs of socks and plastics pants, except for the green one for Davis that sets him apart from his three sistersâ€™ pink, the adorable infants wrapped in matching blankets lay on a reed mat taking their midday nap.
The mother, now a shadow of her former self, looked at them admiringly and then at her visitor from Nation on Sunday. A blushing stare at the floor was followed with a smile. There was no trace of her post-natal depression three months ago that led her to believe that she was better off dead than alive.
Said Charles on Tuesday: â€œI hope you all understood my plight that time you visited me. The babies looked so small and I had doubts about their survival. Everything is so different now. My duty is just to breast-feed because all chores are taken care of by my two nanniesâ€.
She strolled across the room where the babies lay surrounded by her husband, uncle, her five-year-old son Lewis and three-year-old twins Frank and Mary. Naturally, such a large family would have been more than a handful for a 24-year-old and indeed any mother. But fortune has more than smiled on this Mwanza family whose happy ending resembles one from a fairytale.
Her light skinned complexion now more enhanced and her body wrapped in a floral wrapper, Charles has become plump and radiant. She looked her age, young and fresh. Little wonder she claims that her visit to the market opens gates to free relish with praises from some vendors for having borne four babies at once, a development they describe as a miracle.
Now living at Mwanza Boma in a three-bedroomed house rented by President Joyce Banda as the champion for safe motherhood, memories of their 2.5 x 2.5 m single roomed house still linger in the parentsâ€™ minds. Their past is evidenced by little Frankâ€™s excitement, at the sound of a motor vehicle passing by their house, he rushes outside. It is a technology he has never come across in his lifetime.
The new lifestyle seems all too much for the three older children because in Thambani their home village, life could be limited and routine. This is not unexpected of a location more than 26 km away.
Said Charles: â€œI accepted with all my heart the suggestion to move into town for as long as it pleases the sponsors. Given a choice, I would prefer to continue staying here even after the four year period rental have expired as this would benefit my children. Back in Thambani, the earliest a child can enroll for school would be between the ages of eight and nine because of the long distance to the nearest school.â€
Her husband, sitting across the room next to the uncle, all the while listens attentively and nods as he watches his wife breast-feed one baby who had just woken up. Now a proud dad, he went for vasectomy to prevent further births. He did not seem to have problems with his wifeâ€™s admirers.
Said Jubeki: â€œI started a business selling sandals and slip-ons. I travel to Limbe three times a month. Business is picking up and I know it will help in sustaining my familyâ€.
He seemed to be at home with the invasion of their home by two grown women in the name of his childrenâ€™s nannies. One of them, Eliza Ilemba, only posts a smile as he describes his lonely nights in the bedroom. The other nanny, Jennifer Gunsalu, was attending a funeral. They are both employed courtesy of the President.
Jubeki describes the sleeping pattern of the three womenÂ who take up the living room to watch over the quadruplets. Ilemba said they hardly sleep as the babies take turns in waking up for feeding and nappy change throughout the night.
Said Ilemba: â€œWe prepare four full bottles of formula which lasts for the whole night. Sometimes two wake up at once, sometimes all four are up and kicking for attention. That is how we live.â€
Apart from caring for the quadruplets, the nannies also care for the home, including preparing meals. The father plays a part by taking and picking the first three children to and from school.
To date, Mwanza District Hospital spokesperson Taonga Mafuleka says Tiyamike, who was the first to be born, weighs 3.6 kg while Tiyanjane, second in line, weighs 3.8 kg. The third girl, Chimwemwe, is at 5 kg while the lone boy in the quartet weighs 4.8 kg.
Mafuleka said such has been the privilege of the babies that hospital officers call on them for a monthly weigh.
The family says it does not take for granted all the assistance that is still being rendered to it by well-wishers from all over the country.
As one good turn deserves another, Charles, having gone through the hopelessness in the face of four babies being born at once, did not hesitate to shareÂ some of her baby clothes with Felesiya Lomosi, 36, who had just delivered triplets at the same hospital last week.
En route to Gulumba Village, more than 25 km from the boma, the hospital vehicle passed by the house of the triplets to donate three jerseys hats, a blanket and three pairs of booties to Lomosi to get her started.
Looking as frail and dejected as once Charles did, the mother, missing a majority of her upper teeth struggles to speak and said she was more than grateful as she posed with one of the babies strapped to her bosom with a wrapper and nothing on the inside. All three baby girls carried by three women had nothing on save for the wrappers they were carried in.
Said Lomosi: â€œThe triplets bring the total number of my children to six. My eldest girl is 12 and I have a four and a five-year-old. We do not have an income and we rely on farming. We are asking well-wishers to help us too.â€
The three weighed 1.9 kg, 2 kg and 2.1 kg. One of them was particularly fussy and kept crying throughout the photo session. Then, it was time to leave for Gulumba.