Leroy Dzenga Lifestyle Writer
Chipo Muchegwa’s journey into motherhood has been a tale of defiance and beauty.
Feeding her daughter Ribbon Matipaishe, she reflected the journey that saw her gain what she described as life’s greatest gift to her.
The warmth she enjoys in her life did not come easy.
But Muchegwa (28) has every reason to smile, as she has defied all odds considering that she was born with a disability — without arms and with limb abnormalities which left her with very short legs.
When she fell pregnant, she was not sure of how society would react, but considering her experiences with people’s attitudes towards her disability since she was born, she expected a backlash.
She thus decided to keep the news to herself.
“I did not tell anyone that I was pregnant until the fifth month,” said Muchegwa.
“I was afraid of what they would think and say. When I told my aunt whom I stay with, I was relieved when she responded kindly and started helping me prepare for the baby’s arrival.
“My pregnancy was difficult, my blood pressure used to rise regularly. There were people who used to give snide comments about my decision to have a child.”
Almost every visit to the doctor for a check-up resulted in her admission.
For her, it was a difficult time, bridled with expectant anxiety normal to any mother and social aspersions ignorantly directed towards people with disabilities.
Muchegwa’s initial fears were actually not unfounded; as some would crass remarks over her decision to have a child.
“There are some who would say why is Chipo having a child,” she said. “She wants to create problems for us. These opinions would find their way to my ears and they affected me greatly.”
Muchegwa soldiered on, ready to confront whatever life threw her way. In her pursuit of medical opinion, doctors had advised Muchegwa that she was to get a caesarian section procedure done at seven months.
“Doctors told me that as a result of my condition, which means I will be seated for most of the times, they feared that the child may be born with a disability and they said they wanted to operate me as early as possible,” said Muchegwa.
Then Covid-19 happened and the pendulum was skewed.
Hospitals were no longer admitting cases not classified as serious and her early visit to Sally Mugabe Central Hospital to book the caesarian section was considered not urgent.
“I endured the whole nine months of pregnancy, until I got into labour,” said Muchegwa.
“Labour was the longest 24 hours of my life. I started experiencing pains at 5am and I went to the hospital mid-morning, but the doctors were overwhelmed and could only attend to me at 2am the next day.
“I was in pain and I do not know if I want to have another child and go through the same experience.”
Muchegwa finally gave birth on April 24 this year. The arrival of her ‘bundle of joy’, now five months old, gave her relief, curing her of some fears she held.
“Part of me was concerned that I was going to give birth to a child with disability because that is what I was told by the doctors and I had not gone for the early operation as is standard procedure,” said Muchegwa.
Asked why she decided to name her child Ribbon, Muchegwa said she found ribbons beautiful and Ribbon’s birth brightened her life, just like ribbons that are used to decorate an event.
A musician, Muchegwa has decided to slow down on the career to focus on creating a bond with her daughter, which she says could be impossible to achieve with the bustle of showbiz, now that the world is slowly reopening following months of assault from Covid-19.
“I want my daughter to grow up knowing the best of her mother’s love,” she said. “I do not want anything to stand in the way. So, the music can wait for now.”
In the meantime, Muchegwa will be releasing content she had already produced.
“I have written a song for Ribbon, which I will record once I resume work,” she said.
She does not let limitations brought by her condition stop her from giving her daughter some love.
Muchegwa uses her feet to hold a spoon when feeding her daughter.
“I can breastfeed her without any assistance, change diapers, comb her hair,” she explained, wiping cereal off the tot’s mouth with a towel.
There are things she still needs assistance with, like bathing Ribbon.
“She is still learning to sit, as a result, I am unable to bath her because she may slide in the dish and I would struggle to pick her,” said Muchegwa, who is staying with her aunt in Norton.
Muchegwa is grateful for her family, which is supportive and are always available whenever she needs assistance in any form.
Since she gave birth, people seeking to learn more about her journey have inundated her, but she feels there is not much of a difference between her and other mothers who have toddlers.
“I do not want to be seen as a hero, really,” she said. I am just a mother who loves her daughter and wants the best for her. All I have told people who ask me about my experience is, if you are an adult and you want to have children; go on. Don’t let anyone stop you.”
A very private person, Chipo remained tight-lipped over certain aspects of her social life, deflecting questions with intermittent chuckles.
“After my child’s birth, a lot of people who were questioning my choice ended up revisiting their thoughts and they have since visited the baby,” she said.
There are some, who have remained adamant in their criticism, but Muchegwa says she is too busy enjoying the new addition to her to bat an eyelid.
Her immediate concern is singing for her daughter, whom she says loves the sound of her voice.
Muchegwa brushed aside questions about Ribbon’s father.