By Fadimatu Zahra
MY NAME IS HAMID IBRAHIM. I AM 31 YEARS OLD. I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE MY DIVORCE DIARIES WITH YOU
My family is a very tight knit family. I grew up in a small family. My parents had four of us; two boys and two girls. My parents stopped having children when they realised that their genotypes were incompatible for having children. My parents were both AS and two of my siblings were of the SS Genotype. As you can imagine, Genotype is an important part of my life. I grew up around hospitals and IV infusions; I grew up watching my parents struggle to cater for my SS siblings emotionally and financially so I vowed never to have children that would suffer like my siblings. I lost a sister and a brother to sickle cell disease within the same year.
After I started working, I decided it was time to start searching for a wife. My mum introduced me to tens of girls but no one quite fit what I was looking for. They were all in a hurry to marry me. One girl even gave me an ultimatum after just two weeks! I did not like most of the girls, and the ones I managed to like were of the wrong genotype. It had begun to feel like finding the perfect wife would be an impossible task when I met Jamila.
Jamila was a breath of fresh air. She was intelligent, she was confident and she was not pretending to be a ‘wife material’ to get me to marry her, like all the other girls I had been introduced to. She was honest and she was herself, unlike those other girls who were pretending to be ‘wife material’ to con me into a quickie wedding. I loved her immediately I met her. She was ambitious unlike those other girls who wanted to be housewives and grow fat on my money.
The more I got to know about Jamila, the more fascinated I became with her. She felt the same way and with time we became closer than close. We talked about marriage and I was very particular about whether our genotypes were compatible. I wanted both of us to get tested together, though I already knew I was AS; but somehow it proved impossible. Jamila discouraged me from the idea because according to her, it would not be proper for us to be seen together in public since we were not married. She had a point; any public sightings could set tongues wagging and all sorts of stories would surface. I agreed with her.
So eventually she showed me a genotype test with AA result. Immediately I got the result we started preparing for our wedding. I was sure in my mind that we were destined for each other with the way we got along and now our genotypes were compatible. I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her. She was my soul mate. She demanded for so many things to be included in her Lefe. She wanted all kinds of designer wares; from bags to shoes to underwear and my family struggled to keep up. Her family demanded a lot from us and in fact I ended up selling a parcel of land to finance the Lefe and the numerous wedding events.
After our wedding, we decided not to have children right away so Jamila got on birth control pills. We had the usual ups and downs of a new marriage but nothing major. Everything was fine.
About two years after our marriage, Jamila got pregnant after the pills failed to prevent pregnancy. But it was not so bad because I had stabilised enough for us to afford a baby. Jamila was distraught. She insisted she was not ready for a baby but I did my best to reassure her baby would be perfect for us. Throughout that pregnancy she complained, mostly about everything. I felt bad that I was not around as much as I would have loved to, because I was constantly travelling during this time. It was hard for her and I tried my best to be there as much as my busy schedule would allow.
On the day my son was born, I was out of town. I rushed back to meet my wife and newborn son. I took to fatherhood like fish to water- as she used to say. I took some time off to stay close to mother and baby. As usual, during this time, Jamila’s family milked me dry asking for money for everything from clothes to toothpicks for naming ceremony. I met all their demands as usual.
After nine months, everything I thought I knew about my wife became a lie!
My son kept falling ill and we were always on the edge, wondering what would set off another round of fevers and allergies. At first I thought he was just a sensitive baby but the very frequent trips to the hospital made me wonder what was really wrong.
Our doctor asked us to do a genotype test and my heart skipped beats and jumped in my mouth threatening to spill out. Jamila and I sat in the office and waited for the longest 30 minutes of my life. The result shocked me to my core: my son had SS genotype! The news hit me like a knife through the heart. I prayed that it was a dream; my worst nightmare. I stared at Jamila as she was fidgeting in her chair and scratching her hair. Her demeanour confirmed to me that this was no mistaken test result: This was the truth! My heart sank as I realized either of two things had happened; and both scenarios were not good. Jamila had either lied to me from the beginning or she had gotten pregnant by another man.
She kept fidgeting and apologising. I was struggling not to punch her to hell, where betrayers like her belonged.
‘What are you scratching your face for? You better start talking.’
She looked at me dead in the eye and I could see the shame in her eyes. She had definitely done something. Something that was not good.
‘I can explain… I had some issues back when we met, you know I am the eldest daughter and at the time we met you know all my younger sisters were married. You know how it is; everyone from my mother to my friends were all on my case to get married. When you came into my life, everything was clear: I HAD to marry you. Then you asked about this genotype thing and I knew I had to do something.’
I was too stunned to say anything.
‘I stole someone’s genotype result and gave it to you as mine. I was desperate you know, I could not lose you. If not for this stupid contraceptive that failed we would have been happy together’
‘Jamila you lied to me! I specifically told you how important this was to me! You pretended to be upright but you were just a useless desperado. CAN YOU SEE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE??? LOOK AT OUR SON! You did this to our son!!!’
‘Wait, hear me out please! I did not lie to you I just could not bear to lose you.’ She said remorsefully.
‘You have ruined my life. You have ruined our son’s life; I hope you are happy now.’
I picked up my son from her laps, his body temperature still high.
I started leaving and she held on to my trouser begging me with how much she loved me but I was numb. I could not even look at her. I left the hospital and drove straight to my parents to break the news. My parents were devastated. I left my son with my mother and I went home. I was still in shock. I had married her because she was ‘different’ not knowing that she had manipulated me into a marriage. She deceived me and despite my so called convictions, I had wound up living my worst nightmare: father to a sickle cell patient.
For months after that Jamila and I hardly spoke to each other. Sometimes at night I could hear her crying and sobbing but my heart was stone cold. Jamila had done the unthinkable to me. What drove me crazy was that she expected me to accept her reasons for doing what she did. She expected me to understand. As far as I was concerned there was nothing to understand. I loved her a lot but that did not make me a moron. I resented her over the course of those months. I went over it in my head over and over again. Why did I not insist on doing a test together? Why was I careless despite knowing better? How could I explain to my son that he was born into a pain filled life because I was too care less and trusting of his mother? How would I cope with seeing my child in pan day after day because of my mistake?
Jamila asked me for a divorce, one night. She got on her knees and begged me to let her go because according to her, she could not bear to see me unhappy. She said she could understand why her presence in my life made me miserable. The nerve of this woman! She had manipulated me into a marriage and now she was trying to manipulate me into forgiving her. I saw right through her.
‘Okay’ I said.
‘You can go if you want. My happiness does not depend on you Jamila. My son and I will be fine.’
I waited for her to beg, but she did not. It was all a ruse to guilt trip me into forgiving her. She seemed astonished and the tears quickly dried from her face. And her tongue became her sword. There is no name that she did not call me that day.
I just got up and left the house. Later on, my parents tried to intervene but I was having none of it. I loved Jamila quite alright but I could not trust her anymore. She was capable of a lot more evil if I did not protect myself. I did agree with my parents that she be allowed to observe her Idda Period in my house. Even during the Idda, she did not stop trying to manipulate me into taking her back. She would dress in skimpy shorts and skirts and waltz around the house shaking her behind like those girls in the music videos. She would cook mouth watering dishes and so on. I won’t lie, it kind of worked but God has been good to me I did not fall for her tricks.
My one regret is that I was not vigilant enough. I will live with this guilt for the rest of my life as my son struggles through life with this disease. I get panic attacks when I think about losing him. It is not easy being a single parent to a child with Sickle Cell Anaemia. I always tell people to get tested together before they get married so as not to end up like me.
Thank you for reading my story.