To the other TTC women she knew, Anuli had the perfect life! Yes, she was trying to conceive, just like they were, but she appeared to have everything they wished they had.
For one thing, her husband, Eric, was always there with her. For every appointment, every blood test, every scan, for everything…he was there! He was her rock. And he wasn’t one of those husbands who would sit in the waiting room, looking bored and wishing they could be anywhere but there. No. Eric was the kind of guy who would rub her hand, as they waited. He was the one who would come for appointments armed with his questions for the doctor. He was a TTC woman’s dream!
As if that wasn’t enough luck, she was blessed with the loveliest and most understanding in-laws ever! Her Mother-in-law was the kind of woman who would show up, on a Saturday morning, with a cooler full of delicious food, and a maid in hand, to help her ‘wife’ clean her house, so that she wouldn’t be too stressed. There was no pressure or harassment in any way, instead they were full of unconditional love and support for her.
Yes, she had been trying to conceive for a few years, but to the outside world, Anuli had it all!
Except she didn’t.
She was the only one who knew what happened, the minute her bedroom door was closed. When her oh-so-likeable and fantastic husband, Eric, would take off his mask, and bare his fangs the way they really were.
“You’re just a waste of space!” was one of the choice statements he would throw at her.
“It’s just like being married to a man! Tell me, how are you different from being a man?!”
“How can you not ovulate?! Isn’t that what women are supposed to do?!”
“I don’t even know why I bother wasting my sperm on you. It’s just like pouring water into a basket!”
“My girlfriend in Uni got pregnant for me every time we had sex. Every time!!!”
“I should be out playing football with sons now…but instead here I am…nothing to show for six years of being married to you!”
“We could have bought a plot of land in Lekki, with everything we have spent on these cycles of yours!”
The list was endless. No matter how bad she was feeling, he always managed to make her feel worse. He delighted in reminding her of her supposed failings. He relished seeing the hurt in her eyes, when he threw these verbal missiles.
There was no physical evidence of the abuse she was undergoing, so to the outside world, everyone thought her life was golden! And with Eric being the kind of actor he was, he was able to fool the world into thinking he was this fantastic partner…but only she knew the torment she was living with, on a daily basis.
Once, she had tried telling his Mom about it. She had broken into tears, as she poured out her heart to the woman, letting her know how badly her Son was treating her. By the time Eric had turned on the charm, he had managed to convince his Mom that Anuli was over-reacting, how he had been nothing but supportive of her, but was hurt that this was the way she would repay him. Needless to say, that encounter had almost turned her dear Mother-in-law against her, as she had been scolded for not being grateful to have a husband as supportive and understanding as Eric was.
And so, the abuse had continued.
Every time her period arrived, in addition to dealing with her own feelings of despair and disappointment, she always had to hide this fact from him, as it would always come with taunts and jeers. Even when they were out in public, and he was putting up a show for the world, all it took was for him to have the odd sarcastic smile, or shake of head, for her to know exactly what he was thinking. And it only added to her despair.
Even when their 3rd IVF cycle had finally resulted in a pregnancy test result, after rejoicing in their doctor’s office, the minute they had gotten home, he had scoffed “Let’s see how long you will hold on to this one!”
And when she had, unfortunately, lost that pregnancy, it was a perfect I-told-you-so.
“But I said it! I said it!” he had retorted “How will you be able to carry a pregnancy! Man, with no womb If I had been wise enough to marry a real woman, my kids would be teenagers now!”
Anuli carried the weight of all this, in addition to her TTC anxiety. It didn’t take too long for the despair to start colouring other aspects of her life. She became withdrawn, moody and reserved. People around her thought it was the stress of trying for a baby for so long, but her TTC friends couldn’t understand why she had become that way…considering the fact that she had the perfect partner, and support system.
One day, seven years into their marriage, and at her first consultation with yet another new doctor, she had broken down, and wept uncontrollably. For the first time since the fiasco of confiding in her Mother-in-law, she had opened up to the doctor, and had told him everything aha had been enduring in her marriage. The look on his face confirmed that she wasn’t crazy, and that everything Eric had put her through was absolutely not normal. He had asked her to come along with Eric for their next consultation, and made the recommendation for them to see a Marriage Counsellor.
When she had told him about it, he had blatantly refused…instead choosing to laugh in her face, and taunt her all the more.
Lying in bed that night, she had realised that this was what she would live with, for the rest of her life. What was the guarantee that this would change, if she succeeded in having a baby? How did she know that he wouldn’t find something else to make her feel insecure about? Was this the kind of environment she would want to raise her children in? Was it really?
No…it most surely wasn’t.
They had proceeded with yet another IVF cycle. She had learnt how to disengage emotionally, and block out his taunting words…and so, they had gone through the motions. The day before their official test date, Anuli had taken a home pregnancy test. No surprises, it was negative. But to her surprise, she was actually relieved. She knew she didn’t want to stay married to this man…talk less of parenting with him. She would much rather be alone, than to endure a lifetime of emotional torment.
She had left their home before he got back from work that day. He came home to meet her closet swept clean, and every trace of her cleared from their home.
Nobody understood why she had left a ‘wonderful marriage’. A few even thought it had been Eric who had gotten tired of being in a childless marriage. There was plenty of speculation, but Anuli remained tight lipped through it all. Even when her hitherto wonderful in-laws decided it would be best to tarnish her reputation as best as they could, by telling everyone who cared to listen how difficult and spoilt she had been, and how Eric had been a saint to put up with her, Anuli chose not to engage with them, and simply allowed people make their own assumptions.
Today, five years later, and a few months past her 40th birthday, Anuli is in a happier relationship, with a man who loves and respects her, not just to put up a show for the public, but even more so in the privacy of their bedroom. She still hasn’t conceived, but is happy loving her husband’s children from a past relationship, as her own, with plans to probably adopt a child of her own soon.
Eric, on the other hand, has also remarried. However, three years into his marriage, his new wife is also yet to conceive.
It appears his sperm isn’t that super after all!
Unfortunately, a lot of women go through the same kind of emotional abuse as Anuli did. I know, firsthand, too many of such women who faced the greatest persecution in the privacy of their bedrooms. Women whose TTC efforts are scoffed by condescending husbands, annoyed over being ‘dragged’ through this TTC journey, and without mincing words reminding these women how much of a favour they are doing them.
It is unfortunate…but it is a sad reality.
No woman should have to go through this kind of emotional abuse. TTC is hard enough on its own. If you find yourself having to deal with this, please find someone to talk to. Having an outlet might be the salve that is needed to mend your shattered confidence, or even regain your faith in the journey.
It is highly critical for this kind of emotional bullying to be curbed, especially before you start to expanding your family. But if it shows no sign of abating, you need to ask yourself which is more important to you. To have a husband who is less of an emotional pillar for you than he is a mere sperm donor, or to hold on to your sanity without having to lose it to an emotional bully.
It’s never an easy decision to make…but one that absolutely has to be.
If you are a victim of emotional abuse, and would like to reach out to someone, please drop me a message here.