When I was a teenager, one of my favourite older cousins, Edward, got married to probably the most beautiful woman I had ever clapped eyes on at the time. Her name was Ifeyinwa. They were a ridiculously good looking couple and, every time I saw them, I prayed to God to give me the same thing one day. But alas, theirs was a volatile union. I was too young to understand the details then, but I remember that the fights were so messy, they often needed intervention from my Mother, who is his Aunt, and a host of other relatives. It didn’t help that she was arch enemies with all his sisters (he is the first born, and has six younger sisters separating him from his younger brother, their last born). As they were all in their 20s then (or early 30s at the oldest), they were all extremely passionate, and tempers were always blazing! In 1994, after 5 years together, they had ended their marriage.
Oh, how devastated I was to hear that Edward and Ify were no longer a couple. In fact, I happily accompanied another of my cousins, who was closer to their age range, to Ifeyinwa’s office (a bank, somewhere in Ikeja), to plead on Edward’s behalf. And I use the word ‘behalf’ loosely, as nobody sent us oh! Na only we waka go! But we had met a very determined Ifeyinwa, who was resolved in her decision not to return to the house. I was gutted.
Their marriage hadn’t produced any children, but as they were so young, I did not, and still don’t, think this contributed to their break up…at least, to the best of my knowledge.
Two years later, in 1997, Edward met, and married, another woman called Maureen. I sulked all through their wedding, as I thought she was nowhere near as beautiful as my dear Ifeyinwa. Alas, her character wasn’t as sunny either, and her constant frowning repelled anyone who even wanted to go close. I happily stayed at arm’s length and let them just be, abeg!
Within a year, they’d had their first child, and by 2002, they had four children. Maureen was dropping those kids like it was hot! I often found myself thinking about Ifeyinwa, and wondering if she had remarried as well, and started a family of her own.
I got my answer many years later. In 2012, I ran into her at the shopping mall near my house. Someone had called my name, and upon looking in the person’s direction, it took me a while to connect the dots. Though still beautiful, age had set in, and she looked a bit weathered and tired. As we chatted, I told her I’d just had twin girls, and after heartily congratulating me (and teasing me, as she couldn’t get over the fact that little teenage me had grown into a Mommy), I asked after her own family. I didn’t want to be too direct, see? It turned out that she was a few years out of her second marriage, which had ended because she hadn’t had any kids. When she asked after my cousin, her ex-husband, and I answered that he was well, I could see a brief flash of sadness in her eyes. I knew she probably knew he was a family man, with a house full of children, and I just couldn’t imagine her pain.
As we parted, words can’t express how heartbroken and emotional I was. By my calculation, she was knocking the door of 50 and, after giving the best of her years to two men, was now left all alone.
And I knew very well how she felt, as I too had experienced something similar. In previous articles, I have written about my ex-fiancé. On paper, our engagement had ended because of genotype issues, but in reality, it had been an incredibly painful breakup in the New Year of 2004, brought about by his infidelity with an older woman. Even though I was the one who walked away, the breakup literally broke me. And just when I thought I had recovered, 18 months later, in October 2005, he had married someone else.
I will never forget attending a mutual friend’s wedding, in November 2006, and seeing my ex, let’s call him Andy, with his wife and their newborn baby. Luckily for me, and my keen side eye, I had spotted them from a distance, so was able to compose myself by the time I walked past them. But gosh! Did it hurt or what?! There he was married, and with a baby, and I was there, 29 years old and still single!
Exactly two years later, I got married to my soul mate, and started my own TTC journey shortly after. After my failed IVF cycle in November 2010, my husband and I had attended a friend’s son’s 1st birthday party. And who was there with his now 4 year old daughter, and pregnant wife? Andy!
Oh my goodness, how I lamented to God! I cried and wagged my finger at him. This man was the one who had hurt me, but why was he the one getting all the blessings?! I asked why God had forgotten me!!! I was the one who was supposed to have married and had kids first, not him! This wasn’t how things were meant to have worked out.
Thankfully, a year later, I became a Mom myself…to beautiful twin girls, proving that God hadn’t forgotten me at all!!!
Alas, not everyone gets this happy ending.
A friend of mine, Oyin, and her husband, Hakeem, divorced after being married less than 2 years, following a very whirlwind 12-week romance. He was much older than she, and had taken to bullying her. It hadn’t taken too long for the bullying to progress from verbal taunts to physical abuse. On the last occasion, he had assaulted her whilst she was about 7 weeks pregnant, and she had, unfortunately, lost that pregnancy. That had opened her eyes to the reality that she was married to a beast. And so they divorced.
A few years later, she married a colleague of hers, after what she believed had been a sufficiently long courtship. That had been in 2010. When the first year, and then the second, and then the third went by, with no baby, he started getting restless. After the 3rd failed IVF cycle, he had had enough, and he left the marriage, leaving her with a 2nd divorce under her belt. Her ex, on the other hand, is remarried, with kids.
She has tortured herself, wondering what could have gone wrong. She had been able to get pregnant for Hakeem, so that had to prove for something. So, why hadn’t she been able to conceive for her 2nd husband? Nobody could give her any concrete answers, and we, her friends, just asked her to forget about the past and move on.
Because worry and feelings of regret really don’t change anything at all. Yes, it is natural to wish you had been the one to have kids first, but rather than cry over what has already happened, it is best to find a way to, first of all, accept the fact that your ex is now a parent, then accept the fact that the grand revenge you’ve spent years concocting might not happen, then be at peace with your own TTC situation, and then be hopeful to get your own happy ending soon. It is best to avoid looking in the rearview mirror, and to instead focus on what lies ahead. Stay on your lane, and keep your eye on the finish line.
I’ll conclude this story with an interesting book I read, some years ago. It was one of those pieces of fantastic Nigerian literature, about a Yoruba chief, who had a house full of wives and children. He then married this new wife, who just couldn’t conceive to save her life. The other wives and children mocked and teased her no-end. At a point, even Oga Chief started getting impatient with her. So, not able to take it any more, she started plotting her exit from the house. But before she could actualise this, the test results she and Chief had submitted themselves to, were released and, surprise surprise, the case of mumps Chief had had as a child had rendered him infertile, and unable to father even a fly. That was when katakata had burst, and it was revealed that ALL the wives had been serviced by the neighbourhood Eleran (butcher).
That’s how this woman would have left the house, thinking there was something wrong with her, but it had been her husband all along.
I think art imitates life a number of times, and I know that there are many such real-life instances. Which goes further to justify all the more the need not to keep looking back, at whatever your ex is up to, and instead focus on your life.
It’s just that simple!