When Shadrach Langat, 26, moved from his home to preach at a new church in Kuresoi, Nakuru County, his wife 23-year-old wife Mercy was six months pregnant. They were looking forward to their secondborn. Their first child, Aaron, had just celebrated his fifth birthday.
Mercy visited the antenatal care clinic at Kuresoi Health Centre, a walking distance from their new home. It was her first visit to a hospital since she became pregnant.
“On the second visit, she was given a clean bill of health and told she told she would give birth in December. But she developed labour pains early in November and was rushed to the hospital. She gave birth to twins, a boy they named Noah and a girl, Jemima. Both babies were underweight. The girl weighed 1.8kg and the boy 1.5kg grams.
“We were not surprised because there are twins in both our families, but I was surprised because the babies were very tiny,” says the pastor, who joined a bible college after leaving primary school.
Because the children were underweight, the couple had to be admitted to the hospital. Health workers taught them how to provide kangaroo mother care, which involves holding an infant skin-to-skin against the parent’s chest for prolonged periods for warmth. Without such care, premature babies could become sick due to dangerously low temperatures.
It is common for mothers to practice kangaroo care, but not fathers.
“I was hesitant at first, but I accepted to help out when I realized it was the only way to help the babies grow ... I started enjoying the experience,” Shadrach recalls.
The couple and the twins were discharged a week later to continue practising kangaroo mother care at home.
“I enjoyed holding the baby and only released him to breastfeed. During the day I enclosed him in my jacket because this area is very cold. The baby would cry but calm down when I put him against my chest.”
When the couple returned to the hospital after a month, the babies had grown, and their weight almost doubled. The girl weighed 3.1 kg and the boy 3kg. By mid-January, the babies tied at 4kg each.
Shadrach’s twins are among 41 low-birth-weight babies born in Kuresoi Health Centre out of 522 deliveries conducted during the year.
The local community health worker, Joan Chepkurui, has been trained on kangaroo mother care. She regularly visited the couple to encourage them. “These are the first parents to practice kangaroo (care)"