Seated on her toilet, Anita was devastated as she looked at her pregnancy test. She could not believe she was here again. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think that seeing a positive on her pregnancy test would fill her with such a sense of dread. She already had 4 children and a fifth was not part of her future plans. She loved her children, she really did but they never seemed to show up at the right moment.
Anita had her firstborn, Talia when she was 18. She had met this dashing young man, Norman when she was 17 and he had swept her off her feet. So when her very traditional parents pushed her into marrying him because she was pregnant, she had no qualms about it. They were after all so in love. She had the baby a few months after finishing high school. However, it very quickly occurred to her that even though both of them had become parents, they had been affected differently.
Since she and Norman had no source of income, Norman’s father had set them up in his servant headquarters. Food and other amenities were catered to by Norman’s father. Norman then enrolled into a university leaving Anita behind to take care of the baby.
‘A woman’s job is to take care of her own flesh and blood while the man goes to make money,’ Norman’s mother-in-law would often say.
The reality of things had not hit Anita until she saw her friends join colleges and universities too. She remembered way back when all she wanted was to become a lawyer. So she made a promise to herself that the moment her baby was old enough, she would go back to school. For now, she would take care of Talia. But it seemed there was no right time to go back. Days turned into months and months into years. Norman finished his education and secured himself a good job. It was paying well enough for them to move out of Norman’s parents’ compound.
Talia was now 4 years old. Anita decided that this was the perfect opportunity to approach Norman and pitch her idea to go back to school. She was shocked when she was met with ridicule and disdain.
‘So who will raise Talia? Anita do not be so reckless,’ Norman barked.
‘She is 4 now, she will be in school during the day. She does not need me as much. I can take evening classes then look for a job during the day to pay my fees,’ Anita defended herself.
‘So when do we get to see you when you are constantly away? Look, Anita, just wait a couple of more years then we can revisit this topic,’ That was that. Norman was not willing to continue the conversation.
Since she loved him, that is exactly what she did; she waited. But time is a funny thing, it does not always birth great results. When Talia was 5, Anita found out she was pregnant again. Norman was the only working parent so he struggled to foot the bills. Having another baby would only put worsen the financial burden. But what could she do? She was having the baby and that was that. 2 years after that she was pregnant again. And after another year, she was pregnant again.
She shared the news of her pregnancy with her best friend first. Clearly, she was not as excited as she should be about having another baby and she did not want Norman to get the impression she did not want the baby.
‘You should think about using long-term contraceptives after this baby,’ Lucy, Anita’s friend said.
‘Talk about contraceptives in whose house? The C word is taboo in our house. Norman and his family think that every child is a blessing and actively trying not to have children warrants a curse,’ Anita replied.
To tell the truth, she had thought about looking into contraceptive options. However, she knew very well where Norman stood on the issue so she had been reluctant to bring the topic up.
‘He does not have to know you are using contraceptives. You can just use the pill solution. Just ensure that you do not miss a dose,’ Lucy went ahead to add.
Anita laughed at the idea. Use contraceptives behind Norman’s back? Such a crazy notion. So she went ahead to have her fourth child, Tim. Raising four children on one salary wasn’t easy. Being a stay-at-home mother meant she was of no financial help to her family. Not that Norman would even accept her help even if she could. He was a very hard-headed man blinded by traditions that believed in the man being the sole breadwinner.
When Tim turned 2, Anita began to think about the idea of contraceptives again. As she looked at how many of her personal dreams she had accomplished she was sad. More so when her old schoolmates seemed to have pursued their passions to the fullest. The idea did not seem too crazy after all. So just as Lucy had suggested she started using contraceptives without Norman’s knowledge. She would hide the pills very well to ensure that they did not fall into the wrong hands.
She was also fortunate enough to find a former schoolmate turned manager who was willing to give her a chance as her assistant even without a college education. The job was a bit hectic but Anita did not care. To her, this was her chance to make her dreams come true. She had it all planned out, she would work for a while, then go back to school with the money she would have saved. Norman also began to shed his once-thick traditional skin. He was more open to sharing bills with Anita. For the first time in her life, she saw the pieces of her life align.
However, there was still the aspect of secret contraceptives. She hated lying to Norman. After all, he had been able to adjust to sharing bills. Maybe had also less rigid in matters to do with contraception. Or at least that was the lie Anita told herself. When she finally came clean, Norman was furious. He felt cheated, used and manipulated.
‘What curse is this you have brought on our home now?’ he shouted.
‘I love our children, Lord knows I do. But Norman, I long to have a life other than being a mother. And look at our financial status right now. We are finally doing well for ourselves. ‘ Anita went on the offensive.
‘Children are a blessing. We do not have the right to decide when we can or can not have children.’ Norman shot back.
‘Even when we are struggling to feed them?’ Anita shot back.
‘Do not get smart with me Anita. Let me deal with the expenses.’ and that was that.
Like the dutiful wife she was, she obliged and stopped using those ‘agents of witchcraft’. Now seated on her toilet seat 2 years later she could not believe she was here again. She hated herself for blaming her woes on her unborn baby but was it so wrong for her to just concentrate on herself for once in her life? Her oldest Talia was 16 and her youngest was 5, and she had thought she was finally done with having and taking care of babies. She was only 34 and she was already pregnant with her 5th child. She decided not to tell Norman right away and hid the pregnancy test deep in the dustbin.
As she walked home from work that day, she began to feel guilty. What exactly was her plan? To keep the news from Norman then what? She walked into the house, dropped her things in the bedroom and walked into the sitting room to share the news of her pregnancy.
‘Norman….’ she started,’ I am………..’ her statement was interrupted by Talia who suddenly walked into the room.
‘Mum…dad, can I speak to you,’ Talia started.
‘Yes of course. Are you okay?’ a concerned Anita asked signalling Talia to sit down.
‘It is just that.. well… I am..,’ Talia burst out in tears.
‘Talia, what is the matter?’ Norman asked her. They were both starting to worry.
I’m pregnant,’ Talia finally said amidst tears.
‘Is this a joke? Are you trying to pull a prank on us?’ an agitated Norman barked.
Talia just sat there and cried.
Norman was furious.
‘Who is the father? Do you realize what kind of shame you have brought into my house? What I’m I supposed to say to people? What were you thinking?’ Norman bombarded Talia with questions.
Anita just sat there in shock. She didn’t know what to say. She could see her life playing out all over again with her daughter. Talia was still not saying much just sobbing as Norman continued to scold her.
‘Have we not taught you better than this? To behave better?’ As Norman finished that question it finally hit her. It was an innocent question. A question most parents ask their children after they have disappointed them. But in their case, it was a legitimate question. Had they taught her any better?
‘We did not teach her better.’ Anita finally spoke up.
‘Wait, what? You are defending her?’ Norman furiously asked Anita.
‘No. I am rebuking our actions. Where would she have learnt about sex education and reproductive health when such topics around here are taboo?’ Anita stood.
‘ I am warning you Anita…’ Norman was growing angrier by the minute.
‘You will do what Norman? How can we expect our own daughter to behave a certain way yet we have never shared the information she needed to know?’ Anita was on a roll.
‘Our traditions are clear Anita. Some things are not meant to be said. Everyone should know that?’ Norman replied.
‘And where does that leave us? Where does it leave people like our daughter Norman? I am pregnant again. And I love our children, you know I do. But I can not keep putting my dreams on hold because you won’t even have a conversation with me about using contraceptives.’
Norman looked at Anita as if the news of the pregnancy was of no surprise to him. That did not stop Anita. She continued.
‘We cannot continue like this Norman. My daughter is pregnant, at a young age just like I was at 18. I will not let that ruin her dreams. I cannot.’
Talia had even stopped crying and she was looking at her mother in amazement. She had never seen her mother stand up for herself like that before.
Norman looked at Talia, then looked at Anita for a short while then picked up his phone and walked out of the house. Anita had never felt so empowered. She felt free like she had been holding back emotions for years. She then walked towards where Talia had sat.
She hugged Talia, and they sat there for a while, both of them crying. After a while, Anita said ‘We will be fine. Do not worry about it. You will have the baby and go back to school. I will make sure of that.’
Did you have a conversation with your parents about sex and protection Or they just assumed that you would learn this from school or your friends? Are you able to have a conversation on using contraceptives with your partner or is that a taboo subject? You can answer below in the comments or comment on social media with the hashtag #FormNiGani.