It was the fifth pregnancy test that year. I lost count of the number I took in the last year. He was waiting outside the bathroom door. To be honest, it was irritating how he always looked at me expectantly and asked, ‘Well?’ when he knew exactly what I was going to say, that we weren’t successful. Then he would put his hand on my shoulder and tell me we’d have better luck next time. It was getting irritating because he refused to go get checked. I was the one in the gynecologist’s office every other time getting checked and trying out a new and ‘innovative’ technology to get pregnant.
His mother would sometimes say that all a woman needed was for her womb to be given, “A little push,” she made it seem like I was a stalled car engine, all I needed was a jump start and we’d rev the car and away we’d go.
I had been married four years. Our families had made it very clear their expectations of us. They wanted many grandchildren. We started trying immediately. The first year, we weren’t so successful, we attributed it to birth control since our gynecologist warned that since I had been on contraceptive pills for a long time, it might take some time before my body reverted back to a normal cycle.
So, we waited and after year one, we started trying again. Sex became a routine, we tried all sorts of positions and times of day that were said to be guaranteed to work but every month, the test would come up negative.
One time, we had a false positive which was confirmed at the hospital and that was probably the lowest point in my life. I went alone because I wanted to surprise my husband in the evening about the news. I had the whole set up planned. I would make a dinner of his favourite meal and buy him one of those ‘Congratulations, you’re going to be a dad’ cards. I sat outside the doctor’s office waiting for my results and daydreaming of the happy evening we were going to have.
When he told me that I wasn’t pregnant, I almost broke down in tears at his office. What the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I conceive?
The pressure from my family members came in the third year. They had been patient enough so when were the children coming? The pressure was too much. It was hard to avoid the very invasive and personal questions about when I would get a child at family gatherings.
Some time in the beginning of the third year, we started seeing a fertility specialist. I started on some hormonal therapy even though the doctor said everything was fine and that I should be able to get pregnant without any difficulties.
It takes two to tango right? But my partner in this dance stubbornly refused to go get checked. He was a virile African male. He had no problem with his seed. It was the doctors who weren’t looking hard enough to find the problem which was according to him, was me.
So, we kept trying and I was in and out of fertility clinics. We were almost half way through the fifth year and still the same result. My husband’s hope had dwindled in the course of the four years. He stayed out longer than he used to and, he’d often make snide remarks about my womanhood based on my inability to get pregnant.
It was unfair because it was obvious to me that I was not the problem but he refused to go get tested. I had broached the subject of adoption as an option but he was against it. What’s worse, was that both our families seemed to take his side. Everybody was putting pressure on me like I was the one with the problem. I was the one facing the stigma of not getting pregnant.
The fact that we didn’t have children had taken its toll on our marriage. It wouldn’t be long before the tightrope that was holding us together snapped.
One time he came home with a really stinky concoction made up of traditional herbs that he’d been given by his mother. I was to rub it on my stomach each time before we had sex. It was supposed to ‘unlock my womb’ from the evil stares of my enemies. It didn’t work. I wasn’t surprised.
That was the last straw. That evening, after mustering enough courage, I asked him to go get checked. I was tired of being a guinea pig. I had hoped he’d change and be more open to being examined or to be more supportive.“Tim, can we talk?” I asked as I slid next to him.
“Tim, can we talk?” I asked as I slid next to him.
He mumbled absentmindedly and continued to watch TV.
‘Tim, it’s important.”
“Well, what is it?” he asked in a harsh tone without even turning to look at me.
I was hurt by his tone. This is the man I loved who now treated me like dirt because I couldn’t get pregnant.
“Tim, I have been checked enough times and there is nothing wrong with me… You still refuse to get checked. I don’t even know if you truly want to have a child or you just enjoy putting me through the humiliation of your family who thinks that I am the cause of our inability to bear children. I think it’s time you go get checked.”
He turned to look at me.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of. If there is a problem we’re not alone in this. Many families have had children through IVF or adoption.”
What followed next, I will never forget. Tim stood up and slapped me so hard that I was reeling for what I think must’ve been ten minutes.
He went into the kitchen, took a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water. His calm as he stood at the kitchen door scared me. It shook me to the core. I didn’t know what to expect or what he would do next.
“You’re the one who is broken,” he finally opened his mouth to speak. “Whoever heard of a man who is incapable of providing viable sperm! Certainly, not in my family!”
“You are the one who is cursed. There is something wrong with you. I am fine.” He took a sip of his water and continued, “I am tired of your whining. Leave my house. There’re plenty of women who can bear my children. I don’t want faulty goods.” With that, he walked to the bedroom and shut the door leaving the noise from the TV to drown my cries.
I slept in the sitting room all night. In the morning, after he’d left for work, I packed my clothes and went to my sister’s house.
I didn’t look back. He started bringing different women to our house, I guess trying to prove that he could have kids. It did him no good. I decided to get a divorce and 3 years later it was finalized.
Eventually, I was able to open myself up to a romantic experience and I met someone new. Initially, we took things slowly but as the feelings intensified, so did the need for us to be together all the time. After the formal family introductions, we moved in together and after four months, I got pregnant without any external aids.
I carried the pregnancy to term and now my daughter is the joy of my life. I have nothing to prove to my ex-husband or his family. I just wished he would have been more open-minded and supportive and maybe things would have been much more different than they are now.
I have a man now who is supportive and who loves me. A man who is willing to marry me even though we weren’t sure if I could get pregnant. I found my fairy tale ending after years of humiliation for something that wasn’t my fault.
Featured image via Mile2herald.