Before you start reading, let me repeat that this is a long story [10 pages], and if you do not read to the end, you may not fully get it. Amaka Munonye is a Nigerian resident in BC, Canada and in the process of getting a divorce from her Ghanaian husband. At this stage, all you read are her side of the story. Their case is in court and she is afraid that if she keeps silent, she may lose custody of her children. She has shared the following story on her blog and I've been asked to help publicize it. If you know anyway to help, please do, or leave a comment in a respectful manner. Beyond that, I believe this is a story many women stand to learn a lot from. Thanks.
*Some names have been initialed to protect third party privacy.
My daughter was born in the spring of 2006. She had a foot deformity at birth. I started to take her to the pediatric orthopedist when she was only four months old. The morning she was born, I had been woken up at about 6:00 am by intense labour pains. I had a quick shower and I went to the kitchen to get breakfast for David, who would soon wake up since I was gone from the bed. C came out while I was in the kitchen and said, “Where are you going so early?” I said, “The baby is coming so I have to go to the hospital. I am getting food for David. If you will get him, I will get his food and you can drive me to the hospital.” Well, he said, no, he wasn't going to drive me, he was going to stay at home and look after David. I said David could come, just drive me and drop me and then you can go back, but he still refused.
I called Evelyn's mother, Hannah, and asked her if she could come drive me to the hospital, but I'm not sure what delayed her, and the times were getting shorter and shorter between my contractions. So, I just went to my car and I drove myself to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital I parked and I started to walk toward the family birthing unit. I was walking and just trying to hold on to the sides of the wall, I was in so much pain. I looked up and there was a wonderful woman standing beside me. She looked at me and she said, “Oh my god, you're in labour!” She ran for a wheelchair, which she brought back and sat me in, and then pushed me to the reception. I told them there as were checking my preregistration that I was very close to delivery. I said, “I can feel the baby coming!” And they rushed me to a room. I could also hear them paging the doctor stat. Two nurses were putting sheets on the mattress with a plastic cover, and another one was setting up an IV pole. The one nurse kept saying, “Are you pushing? Stop pushing!” Well, I couldn't hold back. While they were still trying to get the bed made, I pushed the other nurse aside, got on the bed, and I just had my baby. It was about 9:00 am by then. One push – boom – and she was out, just screaming. She was born so fast, her eyes were blood shot for two days afterwards. She was the most adorable baby girl I had ever seen, and I was completely, just completely in love with her. And my love for my dear Ctine has only grown more and more as each day reveals a new aspect of the beautiful, wonderful, kind, cheerful, loving girl that she is – my Ctine.
Anyway, when she was about two weeks old, C told me that he had an old girlfriend from Ghana, whose name, I believe, was Lydia. He said she had moved to Toronto, and that he was leaving me to be with her. Oh, I could barely contain my joy – freedom at last, freedom! I attributed my impending freedom in part to Ctine coming into my life, and we had her christened in the church about two days after C told me that he would be leaving, and I named her Ositadinma, an Igbo name, which means that 'it shall be good from today onwards'.
I was so hopeful – I was so happy. I couldn't believe he was actually leaving. I said, for sure today is the day of my freedom and very soon I will make a new life for myself and my children, and we will just be together and be happy and be free of C. I could not wait for him to leave. C told me that he would handle the management of the church through the other people there, and asked how we were going to manage. I'm like, “Oh never mind, we're fine. David and baby and me, we're going to be just wonderful.” He said when he was settled he would come and visit sometimes. I said, “Fine, no problem.” He also promised to send money for the upkeep in the future. I said, “It's all good. Thank you. I'll wait for it.” I was just so excited. I couldn't believe that after everything I had suffered at his hands, that he would just like that get up one day and be gone, and I would be free. I was very excited.
A few days after Ctine's christening, he packed his bags and he left. My immediate plan was to move to a new apartment. I called my uncle in the UK the next day, and I told him that C had left and that I needed to move ASAP, and could he please send me some money, as I was short. He was very upset. I tried to tell him that it was a very great thing, happy even, and that I was fine, but he was very angry. He couldn't understand why C had left me with a two week old baby. And I said, “Don't worry about it – we're fine.” Well he said, “What kind of a person leaves a woman with a newborn and an 18-month old? That's just crazy.” And I tried to pacify him and ask him to imagine if C had died. What if he had died? I would still be able to carry on with my children, so he was not to worry about it.
I started to look for a place almost immediately, and my uncle asked me to give him a couple of days to a week and that he would send the money to me. I was so excited. I was looking for houses. I was checking the newspaper, which is how we looked for houses in those days. And about four days later, C returned. I was so surprised when he showed up. I was really taken aback. I was upset. I was shocked. I said, “What happened? Why are you back?” I said, “How about Lydia?” He said, “Oh, I'm back. Things were not what I thought with Lydia, so forget about Lydia. I'm back.” Oh. My dreams were shattered. My hopes were just dashed. It seemed as though I had been teased with the tiniest ray of sunshine in the darkness that had been my life. Oh, how I mourned his return as my return to captivity. I went back to crying every day, not even caring what he said to anyone about my unending tears.
By December 2005, Ctine was not even a year old, but she was doing so well. She was brave, she was strong, she wore her cast about – just carried that thing about, not caring. She would sit at the top of the stairs and go down the stairs on her bottom – boom, boom, boom, boom, boom – with her cast making a racket as she descended the stairs. She played like every other little girl. She was unmindful of that cast. She just carried on like a very active and strong and beautiful baby that she was. She, of course, did not eat too much. She was not very great at eating. She was extremely picky, and she refused many different types of food. But, I did go to the pediatrician with her, and we also saw a dietitian – a pediatric dietitian – and they assured me that whatever she would accept was fine. They also gave me a chart with minimum values that I was supposed to adhere to, and I followed it down to the letter just to see that my baby was getting enough to eat.
At this point also, I decided I would go to BCIT to take Medical Laboratory Science. I had researched it, and it seemed the shortest route for me to try to get back into Medicine that I left so many years ago. This was my purpose to coming to Canada – to get an education – and I could not lose sight of that at all. I found out that I needed all of math, physics, chemistry, biology, and English at the grade 12 level, and so I set out to get those prerequisites done. I mean, it was already December, and according to the course outlines, I would not have been able to get everything done by August of 2006 if I was going to start school in September of 2006. So not only did I enroll at VCC, I also enrolled at the Vancouver School Board, and I took my prerequisites concurrently. I was able to complete all of the prerequisites in those eight months.
C, of course, refused at first to let me go to school, saying that I would not be able to look after the kids and go to school at the same time, and that he would not look after both kids. I said, “Fine, I will get someone to look after them.” And I did get someone to look after them. When he saw that he couldn't use the issue of the kids to prevent me from going to school, he still kept trying . “Who's going to do all the church work that you’re doing?”. He just tried every way he could to stop me, but I wasn't going to budge this time. I had already dropped out of school twice because of him, and I wasn't going to do it again. So, I called everyone. I talked to everybody I could talk to in the church. I called the people that he knew. I called people – just everybody I could call, I called – and I told them that he was trying to stop me from going to school, and people just started to bombard him with questions, like why couldn't I go to school? Once it became public knowledge that he was trying to stop me from going to school, there was really nothing he could do. He had to back down. And that's always the way he operates. He will always hide his things. All the bad things that he did, he would always hide them so that he would always look so good in public, but once it came to the light that, yes, this is what he is doing, then he would just back off completely as if he had never even done anything like that.
He kept on saying, “If you go to school, where is money going to come from to feed the children?” And that he was not going to go to work seeing as he was a pastor. Therefore, I had to figure out a way for the children to eat. I just ignored him. Lucky for me, I got a grant – a return to work program from the government – and that was what we mostly lived off of. He just continued to refuse to work. One would have thought that since I was going to school and I had somebody to look after the children, that he would go to work, but he didn't.
The only times he had actually gone to work was in 2002, early 2002, shortly after he arrived. He worked at Wendy's for about three months before he quit, and then shortly after David was born, he worked at Wal-Mart, and this again for about six months. He worked three days a week at minimum wage as an unloader at Wal-Mart. I actually was the one that asked him to stop working at Wal-Mart and to stay home to look after David so I could return to work. A part of it was after my father died I was so miserable; he was there with Mary all the time, so I didn’t want to be around them and secondly, he was stealing from Wal-Mart. He kept on bringing things from Wal-Mart – stolen items. It was things for the baby, household stuff, and clothes, and clothes, and clothes for himself. And when I dared to ask him, he said, “Everybody does it.” He actually bragged about how when they were unloading the trucks, they would break open boxes of just about anything they wanted. If they were thirsty, they drank juice. There were biscuits and other things to eat when they got hungry. It was just alarming to me, and I was very scared by it. When he came home with things for David, I would ask for receipts, and he would get so angry and rage at me or he would hit me. I discussed this horrible issue with someone, and we agreed that the best thing to do was to ask him to stop working and to stay home. I felt sure that at some point he was going to get caught, and I didn't really want to be involved in it. I supposed that I could be charged along with him for receiving stolen property or something like an accessory to the theft, or something.
I had actually read something about somebody who was sitting in a stolen car along with the person who had stolen the car got charged along with the thief, and I was afraid that when he got caught, that I would be charged along with him as well, seeing as I had knowledge of his stealing things – and I couldn't afford to be charged with something that I wasn’t guilty of, and that outside my power to prevent. I knew that I would not be able to exonerate myself from being part of his stealing things from Wal-Mart, and the only option I had was to find a way to get him to stop working there. So after much discussion with my friend, we decided to tell him that I needed help with David and that way he would stop actually working in Wal-Mart, and of course, if he was not in Wal-Mart then he would not be able to steal from there. I just had to find a way to let it seem as though I wasn't telling him what to do, it was just a suggestion.
I attended BCIT from December 2006 to October 2008. I passed all of my courses, and I aced my professional exams in spite of all of the abuse that I continued to endure at C's hands. It was always one thing or the other. A good example was the issue of my car. I had a Mercury Tracer that I had bought just before starting my prerequisites. The car was dark green with two gold stripes winding around it. Initially, it was just a car, but I soon realized what an excellent commuter car that she was, and I started to really like her. I called her Connie-Tru because she was constant and she was true. I always talked to the car, I said, “You're an excellent girl, Connie Tru” Or “Thanks for the ride, Connie Tru.” It was just harmless silly talk to an inanimate object. I mean, the car was great on gas, $30 of gas filled the tank and it took me to school in Burnaby from Surrey five days a week and back. It was a really a great car. On weekends, I would put the kids in the car and we would go out for drives all over the place. It was freedom for me and the children. Going to school and coming back, I would pray, I would cry, I would ask God to save me from C. The car afforded me a private place to just be myself. I just loved that car. I really did. It was such a reliable car. Of course, I never let C drive the car unless he made threats against myself or the kids or he took the keys by force. The major reason was that he had no drivers’ license since he arrived in 2001; due to his very limited reading, he was unable to pass the computer test, and of course, could not get licensed. He actually did not get licensed until 2011, I believe, and this after he had taken the computer test possibly more than 15 times. So, from 2001 until 2011, he drove without a license – 10 years. Once he got a ticket, and the second time the car got towed, and David was in the car with him. He called me to come and pick them up. I had just got off from work luckily, and I went and I picked them up. I never let him drive my car, because I didn't want anything to happen to my car, and the insurance would not pay for it because it was being driven by an unlicensed driver.
He wanted to know why I named the car Connie-Tru. He also wanted to know why I talked to the car. Of course, I refused to answer him, so he decided that the car was possessed and that he would bring oil and anoint it and that he was casting out devils from it. I would say in front of him (to the car), “Connie Tru, you are not possessed, you're a good girl!”
In 2009, I remember I was in hospital with a very unstable pregnancy and severe hyperemesis gravidarum, and he brought transfer papers for the car for me to sign, saying that there was a new pastor in his church called Bruce, and he wanted to give my Connie-Tru to Bruce. I refused. I said, “No way! Forget it! Never!” I was in hospital, it was in public, so I was confident that he would not be able to do anything to me, and I was right. He just went away, and he was very upset of course. However, after about a week, I was home from the hospital, I was still bleeding more and more, and I was in bed. I was also still vomiting greatly. The Diclectin, Ondansetrol, and other medication I was getting was barely keeping me from vomiting. I will also admit to smelling not too fresh, because I remember my baby Ctine, who was only about four at the time, coming to hug and cuddle in bed and then running away saying, “Mommy, I don't like your smell, it doesn't smell like mommy.”
Again, C came with the same transfer forms. He had already promised the car to Bruce, he insisted that I sign, and I still refused. The next day, he brought Bruce and his wife to the house. I was in my sick state, I was bleeding, I was vomiting, I was just sick, and Bruce and his wife joined their voices to the pressure. They promised that they would return the car to me if I let them have it. Bruce insisted that they were only here for three months, that they were from the US, and that I could have my car back when they were leaving. So there were three people pressurizing me to sign over my vehicle. I did not have much of a choice. I reluctantly signed the transfer papers under such duress, and my car was taken from me. C also savagely slapped and raped me that night for disgracing him in front of Bruce and his wife by refusing to give the car after he had said that they could have it. I told him that if he could rape me the way he did while I was bleeding and in pain, then there was no hope for him, that he would burn in hell. That meant, of course, many more slaps.
I went back to the hospital the next day. I was in so much pain, and I completely miscarried the day after that. I had to get cleaned out after the miscarriage, and I had a Mirena contraceptive IUD inserted. I never wanted to be pregnant again, and I still don't. I told myself that it was for the best anyway, as it would be too difficult. I did not want to introduce yet another child into the very bad situation that I already was in.
When I returned from the hospital, C came with the woman he was now hanging out with – her name was Sharon, I think, and another Sudanese man. I have no idea who that one was. He said that I was a baby killer and a murderer, and that I needed deliverance, so they were going to have a deliverance session on me. I refused. I grabbed the phone and I asked them all to leave. I told them I would call the police if anybody touched me – they had to leave. The woman said all kinds of rude things to me as they left. I was still very ill. I called my friend Rachel. I asked her to come by every day and to check up on me and also to help clean the house and help with the children.
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