Joyce Lay Biography
At only 19, life happened for Taita Taveta Women’s Rep. Joyce Lay opened up to John Lawrence about her teenage pregnancy, suicidal thoughts and how husband Bill turned her life around.
How was it growing up in rural Taita Taveta
I was born in a small village called Mariwenyi in Mwatate, Taita Taveta County. As I child, I walked through the path of poverty. From the days of sleeping hungry, going to school with no shoes, having only one dress that I used to wash at night and wear in the morning. Do not ask if I had a panty or not. I remember wearing my first shoe when I was being admitted to Form One.
What memories do you have of your childhood
I am a village girl who went to Mariwenyi Primary School, but I could tell right from my early age that I did not want to live such a life. That is why I excelled in class. I grew up not knowing the love of parents because my father was an Administration Police officer who was always away and whenever he was home, it was not always rosy. He beat up our mother frequently that when I got pregnant, I could not face him.
What was your father’s reaction
Well, I gathered some courage and broke the news to him then he told me in my face that I was no longer his child. At that point, my world came to an end. I left home, picked a rope and I headed to the bush ready to commit suicide. Luckily, my little brother saw me and he knew what I was going to do. So, he quietly followed me and managed to stop me (breaks down in tears and sobs uncontrollably). To this day, I am glad that my father gave me a second chance to go back to school and agreed that I must continue with my education. He believed in me and this became my drive.
Did your mother support you and how did you juggle school with motherhood
My mother remains the pillar of our family. Even at my most trying moments, she stood by me and encouraged me. Even after raising us, she was still ready and willing to help me raise my son. She loved him (sobs).
Where is the baby daddy
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I had a teen lover whom I met during my school days in the village. I would not share the exact details because I cannot even tell where he went to or where he is today. Like I said, my father was a no-nonsense person so, immediately word went round that I was expectant, my boyfriend took off and I have never seen him again.
Please narrate the events leading to your son’s passing…
I remember I was in school but we had come to Nairobi for a trip when I had a phone call from my mother through one of the teachers telling me that my young boy was unwell. But things happened so fast because the following day, I received the sad news he had passed on. The doctors said he could have suffered from severe yellow fever, but my mother suspected poisoning probably from the playground.
Did you ever get over the death your son
Not really, his death dealt me the biggest blow. I was only 19 then and here I was thinking about things like peer pressure having been born in the village where a young lady did not have to carry an unwanted pregnancy. I had the choice of abortion but I did not take such nonsense because I wanted to raise my baby but he did not live to be.
At some point you dropped out of school
Yes, by the time I went back to school my father suffered a stroke. He got sick, paralyzed and he remained bed-ridden for a long time. I remember visiting him and while on his hospital bed, he encouraged me to go back to school.
He told me, “Go back to school because when I die, you will take care of the family.” That left me shocked and confused because I am just but the seventh born, how did he expect me to take care of the family.