Shattered Dreams

Great Relationship Is Great Health

Shattered Dreams details the implication of hysterectomy on a young couple’s marriage.

I dream dreams. I dream of being a beauty queen. I dream of studying abroad. I dream of being a pharmacist. I dream of marrying a young, successful and handsome man. I dream of a made-in-heaven marriage. I dream of having my own perfect nuclear family. Most importantly, I dream of being financially independent – a woman of substance. Seventeen years down the line, how have I fared with my dreams?

My name is Charity. I am from Onitsha. My parents are kind and loving. As a matter of fact, I was surrounded by loving sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. I grew up with so much love and with so much hope for the future. Looking back, I asked myself what happened to all those dreams.

My father married another wife after I came out of secondary school. I was sixteen years old then. None of us thought he would ever do that, so it came as a shock. My father got a separate apartment for this other woman until my mother discovered she was pregnant. In order to allow peace to reign, my mother suggested she should live with us in the house. I was the only child living with my parents when my stepmother moved in, as my other siblings were in boarding school.

My mother had begged me to leave my room for her, which I did. I decided not to take any of my things from the room. I just left everything there. That was the beginning of my hell on earth. It was always daggers-drawn with my stepmother. One day she fought me in the dream and tampered with my womb. When I woke up I saw marks all over my body. My parents arranged a series of special prayers and assured me it would be all right. The repercussions of my dream manifested fourteen years later.

I was twenty-one years old when I got married. I met my husband when I was in secondary school. I was strikingly beautiful – fair smooth skin, well-defined features, and long, silky hair. I was the envy of every girl in the village. Of course, suitors came in droves, one after the other seeking for my hand. My father was not interested in marrying me off so young. He had plans to send me abroad to study, so naturally, he did not welcome any man.

The day I met my husband, Stephen (fondly called Steve), I was on my way back from school. He stopped his car and asked if he could give me a ride. I accepted. But I begged him to stop a few yards from the house, so my father would not see me getting out of a man’s car. Steve invited me out. I declined. That was the end of that brief encounter. Four years went by before I saw him again. I had gained admission into a college to study Mass Communications, and Steve had come into the premises to make a telephone call. So had I.  On seeing me, he greeted me and said bluntly, “You will be my wife,” – just like that. I laughed and ignored his audacity. I went my way. He went his, but not before giving me his card with a Lagos address on it.

I continued to ignore Steve’s several entreaties. When he could not bear it anymore, he sent someone to my house to beg me to at least speak with him. I agreed and we communicated through the phone for about six months. One day he came to Onitsha, and I invited him to a chieftaincy title ceremony in the village. He attended but left early without eating, hence I promised to take him some food as soon as the ceremony ended. I went to his house with my friend, and of course, when told he was not at home, we dropped the food and made a run for it. Obviously, I was too shy to face him.

Within a few minutes, he was at my front door and asked why we did not wait. I babbled some reasons and excused myself to go and change into a more comfortable outfit. Unfortunately, as I was undressing, I had no idea that this man was watching me until I came out and I saw him so excited. I asked what the matter was. He told me that the light outside reflected into my darkroom, exposing my nakedness.

‘Guess what, I’m going to get a rechargeable lamp,’ he said.

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘I saw everything while you were undressing.’

I gasped and felt ashamed

‘Not to worry, I love what I saw, but I would not allow another man to see the woman I’m going to marry.’

True to his words, he actually bought a rechargeable lamp. The night he brought the lamp, we talked and that was when he asked me to marry him.

‘But I don’t know you.’  I said.

‘But I’m getting to know you now,’ he replied.

‘I’m still too young.’

‘It doesn’t matter. I will take you to Lagos. I’m the only son, and I would like you to meet my grandmother,’ he ended the matter with so much confidence.

I met his grandmother in the village. The old woman held me, with so much happiness in her eyes and said she would like to see her great, grandchildren. Soon after, the elders in his family started to visit, bringing the usual traditional wine. But my father rejected the gift. He told us later that he was aware of about five suitors who wanted to marry me. How come it was Steve that I wanted to pitch my tent with? How well did I know Steve? Did I know the family? Didn’t I want to live my dream of studying abroad? He asked me several questions, which I could not really give direct answers to. Moreover, he felt I was still too young and shouldn’t be in a haste to get married.

‘If there are five suitors hanging around to marry you, at least one of them should be able to wait long enough for you to achieve your dream of being a pharmacist,’ he ended angrily.

My father, however, soon succumbed to Steve’s charm. He liked him for being a young barrister, and to some extent believed he should be able to take care of me. Despite my father’s likeness for Steve, he continued to doubt his mother’s sincerity about the whole “marriage thing”. Consequently, my father discouraged, without any apologies, any official meetings with Steve’s family. On my part, I put so much pressure on my father; told him I was in love with Steve and it was him or nobody. In the end, traditional marriage visits began.

The “first call” (Nmaya Achuchu) from Steve’s family was to ask my family for my hand in marriage. After the second visit, I went back to the village with my proposed husband’s family. I stayed for four days. My third visit was with Steve in Lagos.  I stayed for eight days. That was when I became pregnant, which traditionally was not meant to happen. Under normal circumstances, the bride-to-be should not sleep with the husband-to-be. She should sleep in her mother-in-law’s apartment. But I broke the rule. In the meantime, since my father was still not convinced about the family I was marrying into, he continued to dilly-dally on his response to Steve’s family marriage request. Moreover, my father was not aware of my pregnancy. The whole thing was becoming frustrating. Eventually, I had to open up to my mother about the pregnancy. She advised we go to my father to enable us to plan a unified position. I went to my father’s room, knelt down, and begged for forgiveness.

‘Papa, I have done something I should not have done. I am pregnant, please forgive me.’

I had never seen my father cry before. This was the first time. He wept, and with tears streaming down his face, he turned to me,

‘Why?’ he asked.

‘There was pressure on me, Papa. They told me my husband was an only child and they wanted children.’

I know at this stage you will dismiss my excuse to my father, wondering how anyone could force a twenty-one-year-old woman into a pregnancy unless she wanted to. You are absolutely right. It takes two to make a baby and I went into it with my eyes opened. I was in love; at least I thought I was.

‘You have changed your destiny, my daughter. Since you are now pregnant I have no choice but to let you go. Ask Steve’s family to come and see me,’ my father said.  I had never seen my father so dejected. I felt a knife in my chest.

Steve’s family came to see us. My father agreed to dates for the traditional wedding. We had a big wedding in January. I was seven months pregnant. After the wedding, my father called my mother and instructed I should return home after delivering the baby, to continue my studies. Deep down, he still believed I married into the wrong family. My mother refused and said people would mock her. I was the first daughter and how would it look to her neighbours if I returned to my father’s house after proclaiming my marriage vows to the whole world? She insisted I remain with my husband. My fate was already sealed.

In the early stages of my marriage, life was blissful. My husband worshipped me and we were so much in love. After all, we were young and had a lot to look forward to. We decided to stay with his mother temporarily until we got our own apartment. But as time by, I discovered that ‘all that glitters is not gold’. My mother-in-law who showered much love on me initially started to be domineering, bossy and selfish. She watched my every move and accused me of trying to take control of her son. It was under this intense pressure that my first baby was born through a C-section, after being in labour for nine hours.

Things got worse between my mother-in-law and me. I asked myself several times what I had done wrong to deserve such animosity. After all, I did not marry a self-made man. I married Steve because I was in love. Therefore, mother-in-law’s threats to make my husband marry another woman came as a complete shock. What about a rain of curses? She would curse and curse.   Finally, we decided to move out of her house. This increased her hatred for me because she felt I wanted to take her son away. She hated us leaving her. For six months she refused to visit us in our new home until my baby celebrated her first birthday. Even that visit was done under the influence of so much persuasion from other relatives.

When the situation did not improve, I knelt down at midnight and prayed to God to reveal the cause of my problems to me. That was the night I had this dream. In the dream, I was in my mother-in-law’s house and she offered me a drink. I entered the kitchen, I saw her young daughter with two other big girls in the kitchen. The small girl greeted me but the other two big girls ignored me. I asked them why they refused to greet me. One of the big girls now turned. She had plaited her hair in two and they stood out like devil’s horns, her eyes catlike. I said to them, so you are the ones causing all my problems. You are witches. I rebuke you in the name of Jesus. I refused the drink and woke up. After the dream, I became very cautious.

I had my second baby – a girl – through a C-section. She was asthmatic and very ill. We took her to a doctor who later diagnosed bronchitis. But thank God with prayers my baby is much better. We had our third child in quick succession – again a C-section birth. I was warned after the third birth there should be no more pregnancies. The doctor found it difficult stitching me up as the wall of the womb had become thin. I tried family planning with the coil but was bleeding so badly I removed it. Soon after removing the coil, I became pregnant with my fourth child. This was the stage my marriage took a drastic turn for a total breakdown.

Knowing what I went through during the last birth and the doctor’s warning, I got very scared and very depressed, most importantly for my health. Moreover, I was planning to go abroad for a conference in Germany. The conference had been paid for, so losing all that investment was unbearable. I had no support from my husband. No love. No money. Thank God for my small business, which I had started earlier to take off the boredom of being a full-time housewife. Otherwise, I was completely and totally on my own. My doctor was not happy with me either and summoned me to his clinic. I went with my husband. What irked me the most was Steve’s denial about being part of the pregnancy?  Have you ever heard of such gibberish? He said it was my idea to have another baby. I felt humiliated and wanted to die. As a matter of fact, I thought of committing suicide because of his betrayal. I just felt really bad. Nobody knew what I was going through.  I was mentally and physically drained. I refused to eat or take my drugs. I would collect the drugs all right and flush them down the toilet.

But miraculously my baby came without any deformity. Of course, it was still a C-section. A baby girl, I see her as a gift from God. I never thought I would survive the birth. I had actually made all preparations in case I did not come out alive from the operating theatre. When I came off the anaesthetic, and my baby was placed in my hands, the first thing I checked was her hands, to see if her fingers were intact.

Before going into operation for the fourth birth, the doctor had asked my permission to remove my womb, as I was not likely to survive another pregnancy. I said fine. So I must have had two operations done. The after-effects of two operations (hysterectomy and C-section) were traumatic. The pain was indescribable. I felt my bones breaking, such that I swore not to put myself through such pain again.

I am thirty years old now.  Four children and my womb gone, naturally, I feel cheated, dejected, neglected, used and dumped. I also began to question my femininity. My husband rather than give me love and all the care I needed at such a crucial time, actually abandoned me physically, emotionally, and financially. He refused to make love to me for five months. You can imagine a young wife being rejected by her husband. Of course, I was frustrated. I started to look at myself again, asking whether I had a disgusting body odour that was not there previously, or whether not having a womb disturbs sexual intercourse, or whether my vagina had gone with the operation, or whether my husband now saw me as a “man”. I could not help doing a self-examination. I hated what he was doing to me.

When I could not stand the neglect any longer, I approached my husband and asked why he was not making love to me anymore. He said he was sorry, but worried about his business which was not going as it should. Three months after his apology, he was yet to make any attempt to touch me. Rather than love, he replaced it with violence one stormy night when he beat me severely because his dinner was cold. I toyed with the idea of leaving him that night, but I had to think about my children. The next day, my family warned him sternly that if he ever laid his hands on me again, they would take me away. After that beating incident, the wedge between us got bigger. We were like two families living in the same apartment. I woke up in the morning, greeted him like a brother, prepared food for the children, sometimes for him, and went out to my business. When I returned home, I would cook dinner, watch television for a while and retire to my room for the night. We continued to sleep in separate rooms.

One day, I sat down and thought about my marriage. I remembered the good times and decided right then that my marriage was worth saving. I decided to fight back. After all, “I am young. I am beautiful, not smelling, so why is my husband neglecting me sexually, and why this coldness between us?”  I took the time to monitor his movements without him knowing. I discovered he was receiving several calls, which would make him run into the room (away from me) to answer. I saw several text messages from women. Some so upsetting I would not want to reveal what I read.  Infidelity! Yes, you are right, there was another woman or women. Once I knew it was not me, I relaxed. I knew what my weapon would be: prayer. What I have learnt over the years is that God is the only one to turn to in times of trouble. He listens. Put your hopes in man and you are on your way to the biggest disappointment of the century.

I summoned the courage and consoled myself that dealing with another woman should not be a hard nut to crack. I would just take her case to God. After all, early on in my marriage, there was so much love. My husband would change the baby’s diapers; he would wake up with the baby and feed the baby. I was not contributing anything financially, but we were happy, so what happened to our marriage? I am the same woman he married. I want to believe so anyway. I prayed like a scorned woman, and you know there is no fury like that of a woman scorned. I cried to God, “If there is any strange woman in my husband’s life, Father God let there be confusion. Let there be enmity.” I also added another prayer point. I asked God to put guilt in his mind and make him uncomfortable if he is doing anything contrary to his proposed business trip—he had been leaving home several days or weeks on ‘business’. I would set my alarm for 12-midnight every day and pray to God to bring back my husband. God answers prayers if you do it with a clean and humble heart. Three days later, my husband came back home. I am sure he did not sleep out of restlessness.

After eight months of not sharing the same bed, he came to me one night. He made love to me. How did I feel? Not excited. I just laid there. I was not a participant.  Why?  When I needed and wanted to make love, he did not respond to my moves, so I had gotten used to being alone. I had psyched myself to live without love for those eight months. Perhaps I will try to make myself accept love again as time goes on. I do not know. But that is just the way it is now. I also have to bring myself to forgive him for the physical abuse, infidelity, the lies, and the neglect – physically and financially. If I do, maybe then I will let go.

I had asked if I have lived my dreams seventeen years down the line, or whether they were simply “shattered dreams”.  Yes, lots of dreams were shattered, through nobody’s fault but mine. I should have finished my university education and worked at least for some years before getting married. I should have done my Masters degree instead of stopping at the diploma level. I should have listened to my parents. I should have… there are many “I should haves.”

Dreams can be shattered, but that does not mean you cannot re-live the dreams. That is what I have decided to do. I have a small business, which makes me financially independent, and I am also back to a part-time degree course doing what I should have done years ago. Though I am not studying pharmacology, at least I am slowly charting a course for my future.

In my short existence on earth, I have gone through so much pain and tribulations.  And, of course, it is useless if you do not come out with lessons learnt. I have quite a few warnings to offer. First, it is good to be patient. Do not be in a hurry. Take one day at a time. Listen to honest advice – from parents, aunts, uncles and elders. These people have been there before you. Include wisdom in what you do, and do not forget to look before you leap. Remember a virgin diamond looks rusty outside, but it is when you polish it that the sparkle comes through. Do not be carried away by ‘sweet love’ talk. Do not let sentiments or emotions take over your thinking faculty. It is good to be exposed and educated so you can handle issues. It helps. Now I know. I did not have enough educational background. I was naïve. I just did whatever my husband asked me to do. I believed him, trusted him. Whatever he said was okay. I did not have enough knowledge to argue logically.

I do not want my children to make the same mistakes as I did. Therefore, I want to ensure they turn out to be good children, well-rounded, good schools and sound education. When it is time for them to marry, their intended spouses will be scrutinised right down to their great grandfather and grandmother. They must essentially be good people.

As for the relationship between my husband and me, there is peace. There is little love or little contact. We were not talking before, but now we are talking. My husband used to run away from me into his room to answer phone calls, now he stays to answer his calls in my presence. He leaves the door to his room open. He used to shut it before. Though things are improving slightly, I do not want to get carried away. I still ask that God’s will be done.

One thing that struck me most is the power of prayer to turn around events. There is no doubt that God answers immediately. It is not a case of ‘come back tomorrow’. If you go down on your knees with a genuine heart and clean spirit and cry to Him. He will listen. I read Psalm 35 daily, and I believe good things will come my way very soon. For me, the good things include better health, financial stability, being emotionally sound, and most importantly, God rebuking the devil for my sake.  The Bible says ‘the young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but those that diligently call upon the name of the Lord, shall not lack.’ The goodness of the Lord is my strength. If you can praise God privately, then you can praise him publicly. Cast your burden upon Jesus and he will take care of you because in my case prayer turned around seemingly shattered dreams into positive ‘replay’.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that before you decide on hysterectomy, it is important you and your husband get good counselling from your doctor, a psychologist or psychiatrist about the after-effects and repercussions of such an operation.

Charity should have been counselled that, although the womb is a magnificent shelter for the developing baby, generally, it has no effect on femininity, since one or both ovaries are often retained after this operation.  However, in cases where the ovaries must be removed, before menopause, as a result of cysts or another disease, the patient is usually given hormone replacement therapy.

Lastly, the most important take-away is that any bad situation is a phase, and you have a choice to allow the situation to control you, or you control the situation.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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