As we grow up, get older and start building our own lives, we tend to forget just how much others have given up in order for us to be who we are. Of course, nature has its way of making sure we eventually make similar sacrifices for others, but let’s still take time out to appreciate the people who have given so selflessly of themselves.. I am referring to our mothers. There is a special something something about them.
Mother, this post is for you!
My mother is a lion. She’s always been. But there is a weakness she has, she suffers, she can do little about. This, I want to share with you today.
I’m the third living daughter born to my mother, Maggie (née Margaret Obamakinwa); who herself is the third of seven children (now second, for one is no more; she refers to her closest sister, my late aunty Elisabeth, as “the one who died” now) born to her mother, her father’s seventh-or-so wife. A man who possessed the means and resources to feed but not educate all his children. My mother was one of 37 born to his ten wives and a handful of concubines. A man I know little about. This post is not about him. Not really anyway.
My mother started secondary school at the age of 18. Yup, that’s right; around the time most of us are busy collecting money for clothes and other (more or less reasonable) things we might need for our new lives as university students. She was asked to stop schooling right after primary school, as her father did not see the importance of educating another of his daughters. At least not while there were sons yet to be educated. Why were her aspirations so high anyway? Alagidi, boys had priority!
And so Maggie spent the next couple of years selling items, saving money to afford tuition and related costs; and eventually managed to fully enroll. By the time she was 18 she had saved enough to support herself and- still doing menial work to keep up with arising costs, however- was in school!
Fast-forward a few years, and she’s getting married.
Now, that should be no great shock. She had finished secondary school, was an extremely beautiful woman and highly desired, was getting ready for university and was highly regarded and respected for her intelligence and high aspirations. Only: getting married was none of them!
She had never had a boyfriend (or the desire for one), let alone been with a man. She was a rebel, a fighter, an independent feminist, a hard-working woman not willing to submit to anyone, let alone a strange man! She was not going to marry anyone.
Or so she thought. The decision had been made: she would get married.. even if against her will.
And against her will it was. So she fled. She fled.. and was found, twice.
No one spoke about it much, until the day of her traditional wedding ceremony.
A ceremony that took place without her espoused man, for he was working abroad. His father accepting the new bride on his behalf.
A picture had been presented to her previously. She knew him but had never spoken to him. Alex Aleko, the player. Who didn’t know him in their town? He was charming, handsome, well educated, and came from a relatively rich home. He was the only son born to his father and held a special position. He was the only one who would carry on the family name, Ifamakinwa. Many a women wanted to be called his; but Maggie wasn’t one of them.
After the ceremony my mother did not move into her new family’s home, but returned to hers. That was, until one day her relatives came to inform her she needed get ready. She was going to move to Europe and join her husband. Realizing the seriousness of their message, she ran away.. again. As far as she could. Needless to say, she was found. The plane left the following day.
She would now live in a land she had not heard or known of: tiny ol’ Austria.
Being one of 37 children, she knew what it was like to live with boys; but she knew nothing about living or being with a man. The first couple of days were interesting. She lived in a new place, was meeting new people, and thought “This whole marriage thing might not be too bad afterall.”
Everything changed with the consummation of their union. Maggie knew nothing about sex or intimacy, neither did she crave it. Her ignorance, stubbornness, attitude and unwillingness to give herself to him resulted in an ever increasing impatience for his new wife and an addiction to violence and alcohol that lasted for many years.
She was a fighter, so she was determined to make it work somehow; living in a house that would never be her home. It wasn’t too long and she despised her new country, her new life.. and above all, her new man with every fiber of her being.
Wifely duties were carried out, whether he beat her or not, spoke to her or not, locked her up or not, threatened to kill her or not: all of which he did.. for years. Depression, frustration, and hatred growing on both ends; with the love they both shared for their four children being the only thing keeping them together.
I remember the nights we- my two elder sisters and I, later joined by our baby brother- slept out on the streets, at a family friend’s house, or on the top floor of our private block of flats. I remember the years I would not dare to fully fall asleep, for fear he would come home drunk, demand violent sex, beat my mother black and blue, or threaten to destroy everything. I remember the nights I knelt down praying God would just take his life, let my mother finally be, put an end to this misery, although he never ever laid a finger on me. I remember my mother rushing into our bedroom, hiding beneath the bed, beckoning us to ensure the mattress covered her fully, and begging us to say she wasn’t around. She shed many a silent tears. I remember hating myself for not being old, big, strong enough to destroy this man who cause our mother – a woman who had served us with all she had- so much pain. I wished to destroy him, but whenever I looked into his eyes, I saw helplessness, a cry for help. I saw weakness. I saw the need to be understood, freed. I saw love. I remember telling my mom she should just run away with the others- while little ol’ me would stay behind to look after dad. A man who could not possibly survive without his family. I remember my mother’s numerous suicide attempts that all came to naught, and God’s reassuring whispers that He had a plan. I remember not wanting to know about any plan then, but trusting Him anyway. For years I wished things could just be a bit different. Why all this pain? Why all these fights? Why so much frustration?
It was all because of one tiny thing:
My mother’s clitoris. She had none.
In her father’s house “sex” was never discussed. My mother really was as innocent as they came.
It wasn’t until she arrived in Europe and saw a gynecologist due to the fact that she struggled to get pregnant, that she was made aware of her “mutilation”. It wasn’t that she didn’t remember undergoing the procedure of being circumcised, it was just that to her, she looked normal. The fact that they had removed a very vital part of her “female genitalia” was a very normal thing. All those born before her and around her time were circumcised. She had never questioned it. Not until then anyway.It all suddenly began to make sense to her: apart from an already missing emotional connection, there was nothing about her physical make-up that could convince her of wanting to be intimate with her husband.
To her his sex-drive was abnormal, inhumane, animalistic. To him her refusal spoke of pride, domination, and above all: rejection.
Fast-forward to 2007 and they are falling in love.. all over again; or should I say: for the first time. I won’t go into all the things that happened in-between, as that would make this post way too long. But what I can say: there are always two sides to a story. Not ever does only one party carry the blame. My parents’ story is a long, sad, and painful one.. that inspires me whenever I think about it. How could I possibly not believe in God or the idea of love?
When I tell my parents I’d love them to find me a husband, they laugh; they remind me of their story and say, “Yinka, all we can do is teach and advice you. We shall never decide for you.” I smile and understand. When I complain about the fact that I don’t want to be single any longer, my father reminds me of “times and seasons that are in God’s hand. All you can do it ‘position yourself.'”
Today, when I play with my father (yes, stone me, I still do) my mom eyes me and tells me to “find my own husband”. I look at her, my father yimus, and we all laugh. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my parents at peace.. and in love with each other.
A couple of weeks ago, when my mother taught at a Marriage Seminar, she shared her current greatest pain and constant prayer,
“Back in the days, when he used to meet his mistresses, I wasn’t too concerned. I had no desire to be with him, I was glad they relieved me of that obligation. But today, I want to please him. If he touches me head to toe, even with romance, sweet talk, and kind gestures, I feel nothing. My heart grows warm, but not my body. I have sought help and medication; treatment and therapy, but nothing has helped so far. Now all I can do is pray. The Lord will not change my genitalia, but I believe there is something He can and will do about this issue. I cry unto God for help in pleasing my husband- sexually. Over the years we have come to love, understand, respect and cherish each other. He doesn’t cheat anymore, he has no mistresses, from morning ’till night he’s with me.. He has no other woman but me; and so he deserves to be satisfied. It is one thing to spread your legs for your man, but a completely different thing to meet his sexual need. I want to believe they are not the same thing. I want to be able to seduce him, pleasure him, make him love me more. Today, when I say “Daddy, I don’t like this.” he listens. We don’t argue or fight like before. We have become friends. Pleasuring him is something I now want to do. You cannot compare having sex to intimate love-making. It is this “love making” I pray for. I want to satisfy my husband and pray that the Lord grants me all that I need, emotionally and physically, to be a better wife.”
And as I sat there- half embarrassed about my mom’s openness- I cried. I cried for the pain she endured then, and is to some extent still enduring today. I thank God for His grace and hand upon my parents, but sometimes I cannot help but wonder just how different all our lives would have been, had they left her private part in-tact. Who would have thought such a tiny thing could tear lives and worlds apart? But then of course, changing anything in the equation, I would not be here to share their story.
Everything happens for a reason, I know. I look at all the women, children, couples, prostitutes etc that my mom has helped and still works with, and smile, knowing none of this would be the case, had she not gone through all she went through.
Today, my parents are ministers. They counsel individuals and couples, advise them, and share their story freely. They teach and admonish people to get properly prepared before marriage and choosing the right life-partner.
I am glad and grateful for my parents. I look at them and smile with pride.. they have come a mighty long way.
I pray the Lord endows each and every one of us with the wisdom and grace to make better informed decisions. May we learn from other’s pain more than from our own mistakes. Life is too short to stumble at every possible hurdle.