We had our first daughter, Grace, while we were dating. We had dated for three years when I got pregnant. He had no job then so we couldn’t marry. I was the only one working to take care of our daughter. I went to antenatal and paid my own bills. I was hospitalized for two weeks during pregnancy. He came there, visited me and left. Not once did he come there with something in his hands for me. I didn’t have it easy with birth. Some complications here and there which required money. The day I was discharged from the labor ward, I had no money to pay for the rest of the bills. It was my mother who came through for me.
A year later he came to my house with a drink and some family members to perform the knocking rite. By then, he had started doing something for himself. His junior brother had a sachet water business which he employed him to manage. He was making some money so after the knocking, I thought the marriage would follow up very soon but it didn’t happen. He kept giving me excuses here and there; “You see I just started running my brother’s business not too long ago. If I get married, he may think I stole money from the business to do the wedding. He might even take the business from me. Let’s give it another year. Things would be alright.”
Before the ‘another year’ would come, I got pregnant again. The day I delivered, he came to the hospital and when he was told the baby was a girl, he said, “Ah, a girl again?” I remember, when the nurses were trying to give him the baby, he didn’t take it. He said he was scared of fresh babies but in my mind, I knew it was because the baby was a girl. He was by my side when I got discharged and the nurses brought the bill. I thought he was going to pay. He tapped the left side of his pocket and tapped the right one too and said, “I forgot my wallet. Pay. When we get home, I will give it to you.” We got home but that money was never paid.
He complained to everyone who had ears to listen that I had given birth to a girl again. He told them, “I wanted a son as the firstborn and she went and gave me a girl. I thought the second one would be a boy and then she went and gave me another girl. She thinks I’m going to raise Black Queens team in my home.” One evening he told me, “Girls are trouble. They’ll grow up and fall in love with silly men who would take them nowhere. The sad thing is, you’ll advise them as a father and they won’t listen to you.” I said in my head, “They’ll fall for silly men just like I fell for you. You’re right.”
At some point, he moved in to live with me. He said, “We are getting married this year. There’s no need for me to pay rent there. If we live together, we can save money and get married as soon as possible. He made sense so I allowed him to bring his stuff to live with me. Combining the two kids with work became an impossible mission so I requested my mother to come live with us and take care of the kids. He didn’t want to agree. He said my mother will put her nose in our affairs and dictate our lives. I said, “Then pay for a house help.” He said, “It looks like you don’t want us to get married. Pay for house help and use which money for the marriage?”
So my mother came to live with us. She slept in the hall at night while we slept in the bedroom. I didn’t like to see my mom sprawled in the middle of the hall while we seem to be enjoying the bedroom so when one tenant left the house, I rented her room for my mom. He had a problem with that. ”Why do you like to waste money like that? Do you think money is easy to come by? Why don’t you put that money there so we use it when the time comes for us to marry?” When all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. In his eyes, every money spent was wedding money wasted. He lived in my house, bought nothing for the house and paid no bills yet he had the audacity to question me on how I used my money.
Silly me. I got pregnant again.
Again, she was a girl.
We knew from the onset that it was going to be a girl so we had all the fight we could have before the baby was born. I remember one dawn after we’ve been told the baby was a girl. He woke me up with worries in his voice. He said, “Why can’t you give me a boy? When you walk around and you see parents walking their boy child to school, don’t you see how beautiful it is? Why can’t we become those parents who wake up, get a boy ready for school and actually walk that boy to school? Why can’t we?” I asked him, “Are you sure you schooled for that degree in your possession? Tomorrow show me your certificate. I want to know if it has your name on it. Or you bought ‘Abro ne nkatie’ by the street and the seller used someone’s cert to fetch it for you so you think that’s how a degree is awarded. I doubt your degree if you can ask me these stupid questions. In fact, leave my house tomorrow morning.”
Of course, he didn’t leave. He stayed with me because he got free food and free water. He didn’t have to pay for anything and that made his life easier than mine. My mom asked, “You think this man is a good thing to be married to? Do you think he’s the best choice for your future? It’s about time you began thinking about the future with him. It may look too late but it isn’t. I’m here for you. We can return the drink and call everything off.” I saw the wisdom in what mom was saying but I was scared to let him go. Starting all over again scared the shit out of me. I convinced myself that there were no good men left. I told myself that no man would marry me after three children. I gave myself all the reason not to let him go because it was safe that way.
One day he came home with bad news. His brother took the sachet water business from him. According to him, some of the guys there bad mouth him to his brother and his brother believed them and got him sacked. Honestly, I didn’t give a hoot about it. His sack added nothing and took nothing away from our lives. Now, he had nowhere to go so he stayed home all the time, picking series of fights with my mother. I know my mom, you can’t fight her and win no matter who you are so instead of asking my mom to stop the fight, I advised him to leave the house in the morning and come only when I was in; “You can even use that opportunity to find a job.
A year later, he got a job that paid well. That same year he walked away calling me and my mom bad luck. He told me, “I was with you when I couldn’t get a job. I was with you when my own brother fired me. What shows that if I continue living with you I won’t get sacked from this one too? You’re my bad luck. You even continue to give me only girls. Another bad luck.” A moment before he said all that to me, he had picked a fight with my mom and lost so I thought he was bringing his anger on me so I didn’t take him seriously. I came back from work the other day and he had packed all his things. I asked my mom what happened and she said, “I even helped him to pack. That’s the only help I can ever give him.”
I tried getting him back. If he was a problem, he was my own problem and I wasn’t complaining. I told him, “Even if you won’t come because of me, just consider your kids. They need you.” He said, ‘Those girls?” Then it dawned on me that the kids were the wrong bait to bring him back.
That was how eight years of my youthful years went down the drain. With time, mom organized for the drink to be returned back to him and his family. With time, I learned to count my losses and named them one by one. With time, I grew up and healed. When I was looking for strength mom told me, “Where is your own father? When he died, you and your four other siblings were young. I didn’t go out there looking for another man or asking for pity from people. Look at how you all turned out. I’m here. we’ll do just fine.”
And just fine we’ve always been. Now I look back and ask myself, “How was I so stupid? How didn’t I see the signs very early and what is in that man that made me so stupid in his presence?” I get embarrassed whenever I tell my story but you know what? That’s how we all grow up…from a folded pupa to a beautiful butterfly.