MY NAME IS ASIYA DOGO. I AM 35 YEARS OLD. I AM FROM JIGAWA STATE. I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE MY DIVORCE DIARIES WITH YOU. I WAS MARRIED TO ISA MAHMUD.
Isa was a good man, he was a wonderful husband. He was easy to fall in love with.
When I look back now it seems to explain why I was so careless and reckless about falling in love with him. I met Isa at a wedding; he was among the groom’s friends who were tasked with conveying the bride and her friends to her matrimonial home (Daukan Amarya). He stood out from the gang of abokan ango with his quiet demeanour. He seemed reserved and calm. I liked it.
Over the next few months we really got to know each other. It was such a wonder to find out his little unique mannerisms, his funny laugh, his caring heart and most especially his fear of God. It did not take long for me to fall head over heels for this man. He was everything I wanted in a man so why should I resist falling for him? I found myself thinking a lot about wanting a future with Isa,
I wanted to be his wife but I didn’t want to force things. I was not sure how to bring up the issue after just 6 months of dating so I decided to pray about it. I prayed really hard for God to reveal my husband to me.
One day, he took me out to lunch and we started talking about marriage. The conversation was flowing in the direction of how important it is to find the right person when, with all the courage I could muster I opened my mouth and said: ‘Malam Isa, will you marry me?’
I wanted to take back the words immediately. The stunned look on his face made me cringe. He was quiet. I wanted the ground to swallow me and my shame. Just as I was regretting my utterance, he held my hand and said: ‘I would love to marry you, even tomorrow”
As you can imagine my shame immediately gave way to relief. Alhamdulillah was all I could say. I must have had the widest grin of all time, sitting in that restaurant. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would burst. Alhamdulillah Glory be to God for blessing me with this man.
Four months after my proposal, Isa and I got married in a modest ceremony. I was happy. I vowed to do whatever I could to make him as happy as he had made me. In my mind nothing could go wrong. I had married my prince charming and I was about to live happily ever after.
Real life is more complicated than the fairy tale.
The first 3 years of our marriage were blissful and made me truly and deeply appreciate how blessed and lucky I was to have Isa as my husband. We were happily married except that we had still not had a baby. The pressure was mounting but Isa didn’t seem to mind. He stood by my side and protected me from all the side talks, attacks and gossips. He was always saying that God’s time was the best.
In the 5th year of our marriage I got pregnant! I was so happy and my husband’s joy knew no bounds. Isa was always around for all my clinic visits. He would spend hours with his hands on my protruding belly talking and praying for the baby. We eagerly awaited the arrival of our baby.
We welcomed our baby girl Salma. It was so wonderful to see Isa settle into being a father. All was well until we started noticing that our daughter was a little different from other babies. When she was 8 months old, we noticed she would get very high fevers. Her wrists would swell, she would cry all night, her feet would swell.
Doctors kept treating the fevers and we had no answers. Finally we saw a consultant pediatrician and baby Salma was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disorder. We were devastated to learn that it was our fault. We were asked to test our blood types. The day we took the tests Isa and I were sure there had been some sort of mistake; it wasn’t possible that the product of our deep love would be in such pain because of blood group.
The results came back; confirming the doctor’s initial suspicions that we were both AS blood group. He explained to us that we were both carriers of the gene and that we had a high risk of having children with the full blown disorder. We were crushed. Seeing baby Salma in such pain and knowing that my carelessness was responsible was hard for me as a mother. I blamed myself. Isa blamed himself. How did we neglect to do the test before our wedding? I hated myself during this period.
As baby Salma grew, her sickle cell disorder symptoms got worse. We were constantly living between hospitals, drugs and IV drips. The constant care, the medical bills, the arguments about baby Salma and her condition really put a strain on our marriage. We were just like zombies, guilty zombies (that’s what Isa called us).
Baby Salma died after she turned 4, she died in my arms. She was crying in pain and I was crying too. I had nothing to offer my daughter to comfort her in her pain. I held on to her. I felt her body becoming cold. I saw the light leave her eyes. She died in my arms. Truly no parent should have to go through this experience.
Grief has a way of bringing a husband and wife closer. The loss of baby Salma seemed, in an odd way to mend the raw wounds of our marriage. At least for some time. Isa was by my side, crying with me, grieving with me. As depressed as I was, it gave me some solace that my husband was still kind enough to be there for me, to also allow me be there for him.
Six months after my daughter’s death, I found out I was pregnant again. We had mixed feelings. On one hand we were not thrilled but at the same time we were hopeful that this child would mend our broken hearts. The doctors all told us there was a high probability of having another Sickle Cell baby. But there was also the probability that our child could be AA or even AS like us.
Hope is a dangerous thing.
With bated breath we welcomed baby Aminu into our world. We watched his every move, looking out for signs of the Sickle Cell Disorder. And like his sister, Aminu started having the fevers, the swollen wrists, the jaundiced eyes etc…
We were back to the routine once again. Hospitals, injections, all night cries. I blamed myself. We blamed each other for having another child. We started fighting again. I kept thinking why I would do this again despite my experience with my daughter. Now my son was lying in the same hospital, clinging desperately to life and I was helpless.
Enough of this I thought.
I sat my husband down and told him I wanted to stop having children. I expected him to understand. I couldn’t put myself through this trauma anymore. I wanted to have my tubes tied. I told him I wanted us to keep Aminu and pray that he at least has a chance to grow up.
Isa did not understand me. He went into a rage.
‘Why should I stop having children because of something God has destined will happen?’ he fumed.
‘After all the doctors have told us we could have a healthy baby. There is still a chance that Aminu will be our only sick child. What is wrong with you? We will have other children. We will have healthy children.’‘Isa this is science, we are not compatible to have healthy children. Look at how much pain our son goes through on a regular basis because of our selfishness, I just cannot do this anymore. I hate seeing my children suffer because of my stupid belief in hope. It’s just enough’
‘I am not saying I enjoy it too but I am just saying we can still have healthy children. And as for compatibility I love you, you love me, that’s all the compatibility that matters to me. Aminu will be fine. They grow stronger with age. You will see. He will grow up to be a strong boy. Aminu will be fine.’
‘And what if we lose him like Salma? You want us to keep burying our children because we have ‘hope’ of having healthy children? What is the guarantee? Tell me Isa what is the guarantee?’
He just stared at me. He started crying and I rushed to hold him. After a while he asked me:
‘What do you want? Asiya what do you want me to do? I don’t know what to do.’
‘I want us to divorce. That’s the only way out of this. Since you want more children, it’s the only way’
I said that sentence with so much pain; it still hurts as I write this. Initially he refused but as Aminu’s health got worse, he agreed with me that the best thing to do was to get divorced. After 11 years of marriage, our union came to an amicable end.
Aminu is now 13 years old. He has struggled through life. We share custody of Aminu though he primarily lives with his father. Isa remarried and now has 4 children. His wife is such a blessing in our lives. She has never treated my child like a burden; she is always at the hospital helping with Aminu.
I might remarry someday. But for now my focus is on my son and making sure he is as healthy as is practicable. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to take the blood type test before Isa and I got married. Maybe things would have been better.
Thank you for sharing my story. I hope you have learnt from it.
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Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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