Taabu answered my call for The Budding Creative. Her story immediately touched me, not only because of the honesty and its resonance with our times but also because of how she told it. Her writing is mature and her sentences clear. We exchanged a few emails and did some edits (They were very few). The story is a bit long. Get up and stretch your legs a bit. Go to the photocopier or water dispenser and say hello to your office flame. If they ask why you’re so excited, tell them you’re just getting ready to read this mature writer called Taabu on Kisauti.
Be patient in reading this, because every paragraph is somehow connected to the last sentence. I have to do this, explain this to you because even if you judge me, or hate me, or sympathize with me, it is my truth. Here is the thing. The way our marriage began was not conventional. Truth is, when we got married, I was not yet ready for marriage. I was merely a child trying to understand myself. But fate happened and I became pregnant in my final year of college.
I was lost, confused, and felt as if it was the end of the world. To be honest, I wanted to abort the unborn child. However, as fate would have it, I did not terminate the pregnancy. I decided to keep the baby. It should be noted that I had minimal support at this time in my life. So when my husband offered to take care of us, I obliged without question.
I remember that while I was preparing to go back for my final semester, my mother asked me what my plan was. Considering that my pregnancy was unexpected, I had none, but I clearly remember her telling me not to get married. So I went back to school and studied hard so that I could clear college with good grades. I stopped staying on campus because the institution did not allow expectant mothers to stay in their hostels. I was forced to reside outside the premises. Inevitably, we moved in together. The year was 2011, I was 24.
That is how our marriage began; out of convenience because unexpected decisions had to be made, and made fast. I must point out that at this point, I did not feel like I was welcome in any other place, not even at my mother’s or sister’s. Guilt has a way of doing that to you. I felt like a disappointment to them. I had let down the most important people in my life. So I stayed away.
A few months later, after clearing campus, the baby came. It was on the 11th of May 2011 at around 3 in the morning. A handsome baby boy, a replica of its father. But before I saw how handsome he was, before I held him in my hands, before I latched him for the first time to suckle my very tiny breasts, the experience I had was nothing short of torture.
When I think about my transition to motherhood, the experiences seem like a punishment from God for going against my mother’s wishes. It is the only explanation I have for what I went through. I remember the day vividly; I mean, which woman forgets the day she goes into labor? The cramps started at 6.00 in the morning. I panicked and immediately called my brother-in-law’s wife who warned me against rushing to the hospital. She said that I should wait until they became more severe and frequent.
The contractions were nothing like I had ever felt before. Every time they found me standing, I had to sit down, take deep breaths, and wait. The process went on for over 6 hours. At around 7.00 pm, I thought I would die of pain, so we looked for a means to go to the hospital. A vehicle was found but little did I know that the worst was yet to come. The road that led from where we stayed to the main road was a rough one. Each time the damn vehicle hit a pothole, my heart jumped into my mouth.
Upon arrival at Njoro District Hospital, the nurse on duty ordered that I be referred to the provincial general hospital in Nakuru because of my swollen feet. And so we went. I was directed to the labor ward. Honey, there is a reason that the ward is called the labor ward. In my case, by the time I arrived, it was full so I had to share a bed. Oh, the amount and intensity of moaning, swearing, and cursing that goes on there! I writhed, and cried, and cursed every time the nurse had to check if I had dilated enough.
I kept thinking I would die, but each time the labor pains shot through me, I was very much aware of how alive I was. At three in the morning, I was ready and was ordered to walk to the delivery room. Oh! When I remember this moment, I can’t help grimacing. I could feel the head of my baby almost on my thigh but the nurse kept shouting, “Don’t push!” I did push and out came the baby. I was too exhausted to look or listen to any other instructions. I passed out and woke up two hours later all stitched up.
Things were so bad that my hospital bill was paid by the caution money refunded to me by the university after clearance. Now, do you believe me when I tell you that this was a punishment from the man above?
Things started looking up from there. A few weeks after my delivery, he landed his first job, while I stayed home and looked after our newborn baby. Looking back, I feel the circumstances under which we started our union partly contributed to our current situation. We never had a conversation about what was expected of us. We were just two clueless kids who did not know what marriage was. We had no idea how to raise a child, but since our actions had brought this baby into the world, we had to man up and do what was supposed to be done.
A few months later he landed a better paying job and we moved houses. By that time the baby was 6 months and I also started looking for work. I got a gig that lasted only four months. I looked for another and landed one. But at around this time, he landed his third joband we moved to another town. This town was quite rural and much duller than what I was used to. Before I landed a job in the new town, I would sit with the baby at home all day. I was bored, didn’t know anyone, and had a hard time adjusting because it was a predominantly Kikuyu-speaking environment.
I adjusted and started looking for work yet again. I landed a teaching job in a nearby secondary school. We had never had a conversation on whether or not we wanted a second child, whether or not we would ever have a wedding, or things like that. My husband is an excellent provider and my child never lacked for anything. However, I must say that my emotional pot was drying up, and quickly. The harder my husband worked to provide for us, the less time he spent with us and the less available he was emotionally. To say I was lonely is an understatement.
I felt trapped. I felt stuck. I felt lonely. I had so much to say, but he was not open. I tried to reach out to old friends and acquaintances, to try and vent or offload my baggage, but it seemed like no one understood my plight. The thing about marriage is that it distances you from your single friends and makes it seem as though anyone who is not married will not understand you and that is why, at around this time, I had an affair.
It was not so much about who gave me the comfort, but more about the fact there was someone willing to listen to me and give me attention. But when I look back at it right now, from the time I started living with my husband, I had never received a compliment. No encouragement, no words to cheer me on, nothing. Just provisions, provisions, and more provisions. I was so vulnerable. So I allowed myself to get carried away by the little affection I received from outside.
The affair masked the fact that I couldn’t tell the world that the man I lived with wasn’t paying enough attention to me. That I didn’t feel beautiful anymore. I didn’t find myself worthy of anything anymore. So I threw caution to the wind, and for a few months, I felt on top of the world again. But it was short-lived because having an affair is simply lying to yourself. The constant deletion of text messages so that either party doesn’t find out, the fights about certain long calls. It’s exhausting.
My husband found out. I asked him to let me go. I didn’t feel worthy of his life or his time. He refused and said he had forgiven me. But when I look back at it, he never did forgive me. And he probably never will. I mean he provides and ensures that the children (yes, they are two now) never lack for anything. But I always feel as though from that time my voice is no longer important in our household. My goals, my dreams, they do not matter to him anymore. Whether I have or I lack, that is none of his business.
My job, according to him, is to be there and look after his children. After all, that is the only thing I am good for. I mean I had been in relationships before but this, this is something else. I know that marriage is not a bed of roses but damn! We never really have conversations about us, just about the kids. I miss arguing for the sake of it without feeling inferior. I desire to crack jokes without worrying whether someone likes them or not. But I don’t think I can do that anymore. I lost that privilege the day I stepped out.
It’s been hard. You know, realizing this and then accepting it. Accepting that I live with a man who never has and never will forgive me. But I am strong, and considering that he will never let me go, physically at least, I am learning to let go, emotionally, slowly. It might take months or years, I don’t know, but I have to. I have to leave to create space for you so that you can come into his life.
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