Her path to motherhood was intentional and well calculated. She was in love and starting a new life with the man she believed would be her forever. But forever had other plans. What wasn’t part of the equation was abandonment, a series of heartbreaks and severe abuse.
For the past six months, Kenyan-born Priscillah Kabura has immersed herself in Italian culture and is taking classes to learn the language. At 40, her opportunity to start over and begin pursuing some of her dreams has finally come – dreams that looked bleak years earlier. Life as a single mother was trying and making ends meet was a constant struggle.
“My son, who is 17 years old now, is my inspiration,” Priscillah told The Weight She Carries. “Everything I do, I do because of him. Hopefully, I’ll be working and teaching English here soon.”
Priscillah grew up in a very strict Christian home. Her mother was a pastor, and the schools Priscillah and her sisters attended reinforced the Christian values upheld at home.
“I remember one time my mom had a church in Nairobi and that’s where I met the father [of] my son,” she said. “His mother and my mother were friends. So, one day, a year after high school, his mother asked me to spend some time with their family. We started dating and fell in love.”
Having been raised in a sheltered home, Priscillah was introduced to a different world that involved drinking and partying.
Two years later, she went away to college but didn’t like the major she had chosen. Unfortunately, that was the only course her mother could afford because Priscillah’s father had died a few years prior when Priscillah was 16.
“The principal at my high school was partially sponsoring me through school, but my boyfriend did not support me going because it was far away. He did everything he could to get me away from school,” she said.
He finally convinced Priscillah to leave and return to Nairobi.
“My mother was very furious because the fees had already been paid. That was the beginning of the downfall for me. Our mothers began to quarrel – each one blaming the other person’s child for negatively influencing the other,” she said.
Priscillah’s boyfriend paid for her to take a course in customer care. Soon, the young couple decided they wanted to settle down. Their parents, by this time, were not on speaking terms. It was the two lovers against the rest of the world. All would be well as long as they had each other, they believed.
“My boyfriend suggested we get a house and I moved in with him. We had a mutual agreement to have a baby and I conceived our son,” she said.
In January 2002, during her fourth month of pregnancy, Priscillah’s boyfriend got a visa to go to the US and left Kenya shortly after. It was an opportunity for him to further support his family. Her only job, he said, was to raise their son. In fact, working outside the home was out of the question. She was 23.
The two years following the birth of their son, her boyfriend remained supportive. He sent money often and called Priscillah several times a day. Their little family was stronger than ever despite the less than ideal circumstances. By now, her mother-in-law had warmed up to Priscillah and would visit and send her some food from the farm.
“Things were going very well,” Priscillah said. “Then my boyfriend didn’t call for two days and that was unusual. I was worried so I decided to go to the town center to send him an email to find out if he was okay.”
Priscillah checked her email. Nothing. Then she decided to check her boyfriend’s email since she had his password.
“In his inbox, I found that he had sent an email to his sister asking for advice, saying that he had fallen in love with another woman and he didn’t know how to tell me. I went numb.”– Priscillah Kabura
Priscillah was too distraught to address the matter. She confided in his mother and revealed what she had stumbled upon.
His mother was of little comfort. She would try to talk to him if she could find him, she promised.
That evening, he called Priscillah and apologized profusely. It was out if his control, he said; he was smitten.
“When I asked him what would happen to me and the baby, he said he would still send money,” Priscillah said.
A short time later, he called again. This time to inform her that he was getting married.
“I moved into my mother’s place because I couldn’t afford to live on my own with the baby. At this point he wasn’t talking to me or helping and I had to rely on my mom. Life became hard because my mother could not afford to pay the rent,” she said.
Priscillah decided to go to Malindi to see if she could find a job but was unsuccessful.
“I became very depressed. It was so hard, and then later on, my mother was kicked out of the house and it was foreclosed. She had to go to the village and we all went with her. We didn’t know how to farm since my mother had lived her whole life in Nairobi, but we had to do something to eat.”– Priscillah Kabura
Fortunately, Priscillah’s aunt invited her to live with her on the outskirts of Nairobi. Priscillah eventually found a job in a hardware store. The owner of the hardware store was a 70-year-old man and he took a liking to Priscillah.
“I want to marry you,” he told her one day.
Priscillah refused. In addition to being far too old for her, her boss already had two wives. He insisted.
“He told me he would give me three months to think about it. After three months, I still told him I didn’t want to get married him. He told me I was a joker and that I needed to go find a house for us to live in together. ‘I’ll pay the house rent and you will move in with me,’ he said. I told him I could not do that. He then said that if I was unwilling to do that, he would fire me.”– Priscillah Kabura
Soon after, he delivered on his threat and told Priscillah her services were no longer needed. It was back to no income and mounting bills.
With nowhere to live, Priscillah confided in a man she had recently met and explained her situation. He offered to help by providing a roof over her head and send me back to school to study whatever I wanted. Before long, the two were a couple.
“I thought it was a good opportunity, so I moved to a military camp because he said that it was better since we won’t have to pay house rent as it was at the army barracks. I soon realized that this man did not sleep at home; or he would just come in the morning, get his uniform and change, and then go back to work,” she said.
When she asked him about where he was going, his response was that he could go wherever he wanted. Priscillah later discovered her husband already had a wife, multiple mistresses and nine children. When she confronted him about what she had learned, he beat her.
“From that point on, whenever I asked him [about his whereabouts] he would beat me with a military belt. It was made out of strong, thick leather. Whenever I screamed, he would tell me that men in the camp beat their wives all the time, so nobody would care about me. It was true. Nobody cared. They would hear screams in the house and not even come to ask what was wrong. That was the life.”– Priscillah Kabura
The physical abuse was incessant. Priscillah threatened to leave, but her husband promised to kill her if she did.
“He said he would use the back of a G3 gun to hit me in the head. I thought he was joking because I told him that [his gun] wasn’t loaded. So I kept packing, and as I packed, he was writing a suicide note for me. The more I packed, the more he wrote. He told me that he was going to kill me and then shoot himself,” Priscillah said. “When I was done, he cocked the gun and warned me a second time.”
At this point, Priscillah had been with her husband for eight months. She became frail and her hair thinned.
When her grandfather noticed her bruised face during an impromptu visit to her home, he, along with Priscillah’s mother, encouraged Priscillah to leave. She was reluctant to do so immediately because all of the household furnishings were hers and she wanted to find a way to move with her belongings.
Shortly after, an opportunity to flee presented itself.
Priscillah’s husband left home for a trip. He said he would be back in a few days. He was going to the village but she knew it was a lie because he rarely went to his village, which was about 12 hrs from Nairobi.
When he went to take a bath, Priscillah snooped in his phone and found text messages revealing that he was going to Mombasa to see a newly found mistress.
Priscillah took the mistresses’ number and decided to call her once her husband left. Perhaps feeling a sense of guilt, he left Priscillah with Ksh 3000 ($30) to buy shoes and a few other items. Once he left, Priscillah sprung into action.
“I asked a friend to help me find someone to move some furniture to my sister’s place because my house was too congested. I couldn’t make it obvious that I was leaving him. I knew the neighbors would report everything to him, so I needed to have an explanation,” she said.
She was right. Her husband caught wind of her move and called to confront her about it that evening. By then, Priscillah had returned to the home she shared with her husband to avoid suspicion. She denied moving out, but he didn’t buy her story. He was coming back to deal with her, he said.
“I knew it would take him eight hours to get to Nairobi, and before he could inform the [guards] at the gate, I was already gone,” Priscillah said. “The next day, he came to my sister’s house demanding to see me because I was his wife. My sister told him that he needed to talk to my grandfather first.”
Her husband called Priscillah’s grandfather, apologized profusely for beating her and asked for her to come back home.
“My grandfather asked me if I wanted to go back, and I said no,” she said. “Between 2000 and 2006, life was bad. The best thing I did was have my son stay with my mother ever since he was two. So he was shielded from all of the violence and dysfunction.”
While that decision brought Priscillah peace and changed the course of her life for the better, her community disapproved.
“A lot of pressure came from church. They would tell me to keep holding on and that I could not divorce my husband because God hates divorce. They kept telling me that [my husband] will change over time and I needed to be patient. But I did not see any change happening and he’s the most unfaithful person I’ve ever known. At some point, it became more about my safety and well-being. I had to leave.”– Priscillah Kabura
A friend called Priscillah from Dubai and told encouraged her to move there because there were many job opportunities. Priscillah applied for a passport, purchased her airplane ticket and left for Dubai.
“My life began to stabilize mentally. I started over and then things turned around,” she said. “If I could redo the whole thing, I would stay in college where I was and probably done things the right way. My life would have turned out different. I do regret that I wasted time with people who really didn’t deserve my time.”
Today, Priscillah is living a fulfilled life and is happy to be alive and healthy. She looks back on her years of abandonment and abuse and hopes her story will encourage other single mothers who find themselves in painful situations.
“What I tell single mothers is to stand up and fight because you have children. It’s true…what happened is painful, but all is not lost. Face the pain and move on. If you have to go to school, go to school. If you have to run a business, run a business. Just remember that your life is yours and nobody else’s. You have children who are looking up to you so you cannot afford to lose hope or give up.”– Priscillah Kabura