By Yetunde Arebi
Childlessness in a marriage is not what any woman would pray for. Not even for her enemy. Its attendant problems are myriad and if not properly handled by the couple it can end the marriage and ruin many other beautiful things associated with the union. The woman is usually at the receiving end, she stands accused and bears all the pains.
Only in few cases such as Carol’s which you are about to read, does the man become guilty. Even then, it still might not change the situation. I love this woman for her patience and doggedness. Her story: “It took me almost thirteen years of marriage, bearing all the abuses from Folu, my first husband and his family, before I found out the truth. After suffering for eight years, he decided to disgrace me publicly by showing the whole world that our childlessness was not his fault but mine. Today, Folu is the ‘happy’ father of two bastards festered upon him by an ambitious wayward woman who was just looking for a nice nest to rest her overused body in collaboration with his over bearing mother.
Seizing the opportunity, the woman told my husband who was almost at breaking point then, that she was pregnant after barely three months of illicit mating. By then, our marriage was at rock bottom. I had been accused of so many things by my mother-in-law, including witchcraft which I was supposedly using to hold my husband down so he would not take another woman. But today, whether he wants to admit it or not, he is the loser. And of the worst kind too, since he has no hope of getting out of his situation. No one believed it when the results kept coming in declaring me fit and fertile but that my husband was sterile. He could only enjoy the pleasures of a man but never the fulfilling reward.
Folu had found it absolutely incredible to believe, declaring that something must have gone wrong with the specimen collected from him. Because the tests were carried out at a government hospital, he said they must have compromised since they could not be trusted for diligence and professionalism. Besides, everyone knows they are ill equipped. I had found the results funny too and told the doctor so, reminding him that my husband already has a child and another one on the way with another woman and that I was the one with the problem. But the doctor insisted it was accurate and that we should ask the woman where she got the pregnancies from. That day, we decided not to tell anyone yet but to go for further testing.
But throughout the night, I could not sleep. All sorts of things ran through my head. What if the results were correct. I did not want to accept it as the implications were too severe and earth shaking. What it meant was that I had only been suffering for over 11 years for nothing. I had indured all the insults and harassments from my in-laws for nothing. I had put up with the antics of Folu’s wife who suddenly became the centre of his life and the darling of my in-laws. It meant that the little ugly brat with big head was not from my husband’s loins but some stranger’s, and we had been simply raising a bastard. I was too overwrought to think or do anything else besides getting to the bottom of the matter.
Sometimes, my mind went back to some of the events of the last eight years. How my mother-in-law had walked into our house early one New Year morning when the world was still basking in the euphoria of witnessing the beginning of another year. Fortunately for me, I was fasting on that day, so I was able to restrain myself from doing anything that would escalate the problem. After attending to her, I tried to return to my room to leave her with her son. But she called me back that it was me she had come to see. My heart began beating so fast I almost collapsed. It was obvious that she now hated my guts. As I walked back to take a seat, I noticed that my husband was downcast, his head cupped in his hands. I tried to summon up courage to show my mother-in-law that I was not afraid of her. So, I said, “mummy, I hope there is nothing wrong”? But she quickly charged at me, “who is your mummy? I am not your mummy, your mummy is in your house. Doesn’t she know she ought to come and do something about your childlessness after all these years? Anyway, I have not come for that. When I leave here I will pay her a visit. I only have business with you and your husband”. That was how we stepped into that year.
She told us she was taking charge of things from then on. If I was wielding some supernatural powers over her son, she was set to break it. I simply got up, went to my room and locked the door. I heard her son trying to calm her down but she would raise her voice higher, swearing at him. If he was truly her son, he would listen to her, she shouted. I had bewitched him with sex, the only thing I was good for.
For several weeks, I received words of encouragement from many neighbours, instead of the sniggering and mocking I had expected. My mother-in-law found her way to my mother about three weeks later to tell her to go and pack my things from her son’s house as they no longer wanted me. But my mother informed her that only my husband could, as he had come to her to beg for my hands in marriage. She did not take my things there, so she cannot bring them back. By the time my husband got the new wife, my mother and his were already enemies and she’d advised me to leave.
I recalled again how things took another disastrous turn when Folu impregnated his so called wife. Some say they were introduced by his mother but my husband denied it. My mother-in-law welcomed her with too much enthusiasm and over the months the woman became a regular visitor to her house. Even though my female intuition told me something was going on, I was too ashamed to ask or even investigate.
The confirmation came when the child was born. It was my mother-in-law who came to break the news herself.
She just walked in that morning. My husband who had started sleeping out had not returned from the day before and she did not ask after him. She simply announced that my husband’s new wife had birthed a baby boy and that if I wanted to remain in her son’s house, I should dress up and follow her to the hospital.
To my surprise, I did not feel anything. I just got dressed and followed her as commanded. One look at the boy and honestly, I did not see any resemblance between him and my husband. I conclude that it was my jealousy that was beclouding my perception since everyone could see it.
Another shocker was to greet me a few days later at the naming ceremony at my husband’s family house. I arrived there very late since the ceremony was for the next day. They were rolling out the full carpet as it was the first son and long sought after child. After the greetings and prayers from members of the family, some of them whom implored me to have faith as the child could open my floodgate of blessings too. I went into my room to discover that the woman had taken up the place. I was taken to a small back room and I did not show my anger since I would be there only for a while. My husband was dodging me as I did not see him until the next morning at the ceremony. I was asked to sit beside the woman and I did.
Then, one of the elderly women pointed out that I ought to be carrying the baby and not the mother. So someone took the baby and placed him in my hands. I can’t remember what happened clearly but a few minutes later, I was accused of not holding the baby properly and trying to break his neck. My mother-in-law said it was because I was not happy for my husband and had never carried a baby before. I simply got up and went back to my room.
Such was the humiliation I had to face for the next four years. After the woman took in again, a close family friend recommended a doctor at the general hospital to us. I had gone for fertility tests in the past but never with my husband. We always assumed that I had the problem. But when we got to the elderly doctor, he insisted he does not see one person but both partners. That was how the bubble busted in their faces.
He took himself to two big private hospitals in town and came back with the same results. His mother and some others had to advise him against further tests so that the results will not fall into wrong hands. They dismissed the results, claiming that it was impossible and had never happened to anyone in their family. His mother even reasoned that I must be behind it so as to discredit his new wife.
I thank God for his mercies today as all that is in the past. I am now remarried with two children. My husband is a widower with two children so between us, we have four. I want more, but he doesn’t. So, very soon, a little ‘mistake’ is going to happen”.
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