“You think I am happy?” she asks, her panting signalling that her baby is getting more difficult to carry by the minute.
“But you see this one,” she points to her swollen tummy in an almost aggressive manner, “I am not making the same mistake I will bring him up to love the Lord and to love me and do what is right.”
I sit almost in stunned silence as Susan (not her real name) continues to speak rapidly. I am missing some of her words as I try to comprehend what she is saying. You see on the outside Susan appears to have what many refer to as the “perfect life” with the “perfect family.” She is married to a ‘drop dead gorgeous’ man with a good job and she herself has a good job. They have been married for a number of years and have two beautiful children and are expecting their third.
But Susan is not happy and she chooses to unburden on me and I know my silence could be what she wants, as she may prefer a listening ear, but I also know if she wants words from me there are none I can offer as I am just stunned by her utterances. We are friends but it was never a friendship that saw us sharing the intimate details of our lives.
“Many times it is just me who is disciplining the children and so sometimes I feel that they dislike me for this. He leaves early in the morning and comes back at night almost every day and so I think to make up for his absence he just gives them their own way,” Susan said almost close to tears.
“But the children need discipline as much as they need love. I love my children and I would do anything for them but they have to grow the right way. They are always complaining to him and he would make certain comments in front of them and this makes me question whether I am their mother or not.
“It is as if I didn’t make these children!” Her voice goes up causing me to jump in the process.
“My daughter is a teenager now and I know it is a difficult time but instead of clinging to me she is clinging to her father and the two of them seem to get along so fine. And even the little one who is just six she is also always clinging to her father. Where does that leave me?”
I know she is not expecting an answer.
Susan and her husband are very religious and as a result their teenage daughter is not allowed to be involved in certain activities. This creates a problem, since the church does not regularly provide activities catering to the needs of teenagers. The couple’s home does not have a television set; there is internet connection but the use of this is also curtailed.
“But this is our religious belief and this is what we believe in and we have to bring our children up in what we believe,” Susan says with a small sigh.
She did not say it but I sense that while her husband is willing to ‘flex’ with their daughter on some issues she is the stickler. “And it is not just that, he gives me no emotional support. I don’t have many friends and sometimes I just want to have him to talk to, to share things with and he is never there and even when he is home it is like he not there too.
“So many times I am so unhappy but I get on my knees and I pray and leave it in God’s hands. I am in this forever because I believe in till death do us part. It is not like my husband is not a good provider or that he physically mistreats me but sometimes I feel the emotional mistreatment is just as bad.”
This time there is a long pause as she sits with her eyes closed.
“Many nights is me in bed, my husband next to me but still I feel so lonely and when he is snoring I can’t fall asleep,” Susan continues, this time in a quiet tone.
“And he didn’t want a third child. I wanted another child because at times I felt that I did not do the right things from the inception, like I did not spend enough time with my children when they were babies and so I believe that bonding was not there. And then they were left at day care, this is not happening with the next baby. “I don’t know what it is but he didn’t want another child. I begged him, I even cried but he said no. We don’t use contraception but we would have sex during the safe periods [a period when the woman is most likely not to get pregnant].
“But I pray and I told God this what I want and to let his will be and then I got pregnant. Of course, he was not happy about it but I was happy, it is not like I was using contraception and stopped so he couldn’t blame me.”
I finally find my voice and ask her why she wanted another child considering she was not happy and believed her husband was turning the children away from her.
After a long pause she says: “It is as if I wanted another chance to be the mother I need to be. I love my daughters but as I said I believe they are more for their father than me. With this child, I am going to ensure that he, yes it is a boy, is where he should be when he is an infant, at home. No day care and I am not working I am staying home with my child. I am going to ask God to guide me in bringing him up the right way and I am not going to be leaving him by relatives either.
“Many times we don’t understand that in those infant and toddler stages when we leave our children at day care and allow relatives to look after them it is then their characters are formed and it is not the characters that we want for them but rather it is of those whom they spend most of their waking hours with.
“But as I said I am in it until death do us part, right now I am not happy but I am not giving up, this is the family the Lord has given me and it is the one I will remain with by his grace.”
There is silence, Susan says nothing more and I am still somewhat speechless. The silence prolongs and both of us know the conversation is over.
Susan picks up her bag and indicates with a movement of her head that she was leaving and I nod back. She leaves in a taxi and I know I will hear from her via phone later but I also know that she may not say anything else on this issue; at least not for a long time.