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.
*Names have been initialed to protect third party privacy.
I continued to dote on my son. I couldn't get enough of him. I breast fed him exclusively. I spent every dollar I had on his clothes, his books, and his toys. I started to read to him before he was 4 months old, and David could read by the time he was 4 years old. I also, of course, had to go back to work at the Surrey Tax Centre, after he was 4 months old. My maternity employment insurance benefits were not very much, and I had to think about the baby as well. I was breastfeeding, but we lived only about a 5-minute drive from the Tax Centre, so on my breaks (I had two half-hour breaks), I would run home and feed him. I did not know at that point about expressing breast milk. I was on my own. I had no friends with whom I could discuss things like expressing milk.
C and Mary got even more close at this point, and after C had prevented me from going to bury my father, I did not want to stick around the house and watch he and Mary carrying on in front of me, so I figured I better go back to work – and I did.
Mary then started to spend whole days at my house. She was working as a support worker at the Community Living Society, and she would have about one or two of her charges in my house. I would leave for work at about 7:45 to start at 8:00 am. I would come for my first break at 10:30 am to feed my child, and when I arrived, she would be there, and when I came home for the 1:30 pm break, she would still be there. I would come home from work at about 4:10 pm, actually, and she would be there still. I always ignored her. I would just wash up and take my son from C in order to feed him and bathe him and spend time with him. This continued until David was about 8 months old. He stopped breastfeeding on his own. He was well into his first solids supplemented by formula. So I was okay with his stopping breastfeeding, although I felt abandoned. It was very hard for me. It was as though we lost a certain connection – just a certain closeness – by his stopping breastfeeding.
I remember once I came home in the morning at about 10:00 am, just before my break, C and Mary were on the couch – he was sitting down at one end and she was asleep with her head on his lap. My baby was in his car seat on the floor. I stood outside and I watched them for about 5 minutes. If it was in these days with cellphones with cameras, I would have got a picture of them. She sat up when I entered the house and I said to her, “Mary, I'm tired of seeing you here. You have been here every day for almost a year now. Please do not come here again.” And that was the start of C taking my baby and spending the whole day at Mary's. I would return from work and start to call for my baby to be brought home – he was, after all, all that I had – and C would keep saying, “I'll be home soon. I'll be back in one hour.” Well, sometimes by 10:30 pm I would not have seen my child.
We had just huge fights whenever he would show up, and I got beaten with anything that he could find. I tried myself to fight him back. I mostly called him names like 'devil' and 'deceiver' and 'liar' and 'evil', and I would say, “I know you killed Lindsay, and God will expose you one day!” I also told him that the innocent people that came to the church and spent their hard-earned money, that God would judge him – the true God, the father of Jesus Christ, and not the idols that he worshipped. Sometimes when I called Mary to have my son brought home, she would shout at me as well. I was just really affronted. I told her that she lacked respect for herself and for her children, and she could have C – I did not want him. I told her I was not interested in him, and that I just wanted my son. I told her that she knew my work schedule, that if she sent C back with David just to drop the baby off, that I would make sure he came back to her, and strangely enough, she heeded my request. When I returned from work, C would bring David home and then he would take off again. I did not really care when he showed up, as long as I had the baby.
Now David and I had a little evening routine. We would bathe and then we would watch my recordings of Ellen DeGeneres while we had dinner, and then we would watch Jeopardy, after which we would clean the house. We would go around and pick up his toys and whatever needed to be cleaned up, and I would tell him about my day. We also read our books. We would read his books first of all, and then we would read my books. It was really a funny sight – him toddling everywhere around me while I did chores and I talked to him. David is really well spoken and intelligent today, and I put it down to all the time we spent reading and watching Jeopardy. He also likes jokes and funny stuff.
It's funny, I distinctly remember one awful evening – I was watching Ellen DeGeneres on TV, I was pregnant with my daughter at the time, and I had David in my lap as we ate our dinner. C and Mary came by. I have no idea what they came for, but they soon left. Then, about a week after that, C came by again, and at the time David and I were sitting and eating dinner and watching Ellen. I had been laughing at something she said when he came in. He stood by the door for a while, then came over and he turned the TV off. I had a bowl of okra soup in one hand with David in my lap. We had both been eating and watching TV as we usually did. I looked up at C and I said, “What's the problem?” He said, “I heard that that woman is a homosexual. You are watching a homosexual show with my son. I don't want my son to get any demons of homosexuality by watching this rubbish.” I continued to feed David. I didn't say anything. I looked at him, and finally I said, “You...you are in adultery, and you have him all the time – the demon of adultery has not got into him. You watch porn – the demon of porn has not got into him. So is it from watching a TV show that a demon of homosexuality is going to get into him?” I said, “The demon is already here! You are the demon!” He grabbed the bowl of soup from my hand and he hit me in the face with it.
David was screaming by then, and I jumped for the bathroom to wash my face. The soup had quite a lot of hot pepper in it, and I just started to cry and wash my face. I was really lucky that although the soup had some hot pepper in it, it wasn't too much so that David could eat as well, and that's what helped my eyes. If it was the time prior to my having David, I certainly would have had a very serious eye injury, because I would have had a lot more hot pepper in that soup. Anyway, by the time I had washed my face, he was gone with David, and he brought him back at about 11:30 pm. I am confident that it was Mary Stacey who told C that Ellen is gay. There is no other way he would have known.
We fought on a few more occasions about my watching my Ellen show recordings, and he would take David away from me if he stopped by and we were watching. So, I gave it up entirely and we would only watch Jeopardy. I tried to tape Oprah for a while, but a lot of the topics that Oprah dealt with were too close to home for me – they were difficult topics; they were serious topics, usually about people who were undergoing abuse and a lot of other things that I was also going through. A lot of those issues really mirrored my life, and I saw my sorrow and my pain in the lives of others, and I just could not deal with this, so I did not record Oprah. Even until she went off air, I didn't really watch her a lot. Although, I did admire and I do admire her greatly, and I identified with her eating problem. I told myself, she probably had suffered like me and that was why she ate. Once I saw her in an interview saying that breakfast was her favourite meal, and I laughed because breakfast is my favourite meal too.
Even today, I find it really hard to believe that C could be so evil that he would beat me for watching a TV show. Once I asked him about it at a time that we were not fighting, and he told me that it is called ‘transference of spirits’, and that I or David could get the spirit of homosexuality by watching a gay person. I just thought it was rot – I thought it was clap-trap – because it was a daytime show and there was nothing gay about it. The woman is a comedian, and at that point in my life, really, anything that could possibly make me laugh and forget my pain for even a minute, was a very welcome thing. And I remember Ellen DeGeneres, she had the most incredibly beautiful eyes – I don't know if they are blue or green or whatever – but she had very nice eyes, and she had the most mischievous smile. She had this look in her eyes when she was going to say something really funny or she was going to give a punch line or she was just going to be naughty. I would always be able to tell by this big twinkle and the naughty look that came into her eyes, and I would say to my baby, David, “Oh, look out, here it comes!” And when I laughed, my baby would also laugh right along with me as though he understood what Ellen was saying.
I did give up watching the TV show, as I couldn't afford to lose my son, and C stuck around for a couple of weeks when I returned from work, just to make sure that I didn't watch Ellen. And, like I said, I couldn't afford not to have David, so I stopped watching anything but Jeopardy, and David enjoys Jeopardy until now, just from the beginnings that we had.
I will always remember 2004 as the year of living hell with C as he continued in the thick of his relationship with Mary Stacey. There was the day I returned from work early, I was newly pregnant with my daughter, and I had just started to feel sick. I came home, and called C and Mary to bring David back, and C brought David back home. I fed and bathed him and I was just about to have a bath myself, so I was already in my robe, when the front door opened and C and Mary came in.
I had actually let out a scream when the door opened because I was not expecting anyone, seeing as David had already been dropped off. So it was Mary, and as they walked in she said, “Why are you screaming?” C said, “Yes, why are you screaming?” I said, “Well, I wasn't expecting anyone to just open the door and walk in.” And Mary said, “Well, we came to cook our dinner as my oven is not working.” And what transpired shortly afterwards will never ever cease to amaze me, even if I live to be 100. That I could be so badly treated that my supposed husband and his girlfriend would not only carry on their affair in front of me, but that a woman who had been married and who had children of her own, could be so callous towards another woman. It beggared belief, honestly.
C and Mary carried in their shopping bags and headed to the kitchen of the suite, for which I worked daily to pay the rent, and they proceeded to make fish in the oven. They chatted as they cooked. I just watched them. They made a Ghanaian pepper sauce with the fish, and they brought out KenKey, which is a Ghanaian corn meal. I sat there in my robe just continuing to watch them because I could not really believe what I was seeing. As I sat and watched, David fell asleep in my arms. So I went to put him down and then I went to have a bath. After I had gotten dressed, I came out of my room.
By then, C and Mary had finished their cooking, and they were now sitting on the floor in the living room and eating together from a big round bowl. I walked past them into the kitchen. The entire place was a disaster from the preparation of their dinner, so now I had no space to make my own much-delayed dinner. I was really upset. I was exhausted. I went into my room and I called a lady from church called Evelyn. I told her that I was really ill and I needed her to come immediately, and she said she would. So, I waited, but she eventually never showed up. I called another man, whose name was Sampson, and I asked him to please come immediately. He said he was in Downtown Vancouver, but that he would leave for Surrey at once.
I went back out to the living room, they had finished their dinner by then, and they were now watching a video on the TV. I looked at it, and it was me on the screen. It was a video recording from the church the previous Sunday, and it was showing me making half-hearted attempt to join the singing and dancing, and C said in their native language, “Look at her, she has eaten so much, and she is so fat she cannot even move!” And Mary, laughing, replied, “I am going to tell her what you said.” And he said, “Oh, please don't, I don't want crying and trouble this night.” I watched them and hated them both with all of me. I wished them both dead. The whole thing felt very unreal to me.
I couldn’t do anything, so I pull up a chair like the uninvited guest that I was at their dinner, and I sat right in front of the TV so that they could watch me live in person if they really wanted to watch me. When I did that, they were both silent for a couple of minutes. Then Mary stood up. She said, “Let's go.” So they both got up and they left.
Immediately the door closed behind them, I just broke down and I wept. I really just sat on the couch and I cried and cried about the horrible life that I was living. I didn't know how I was ever going to be able to escape it all. So I sat there and I wept, and as I sat down and cried, the door opened once more and C came in. I kept thinking, what did he come back for?. I looked at him. He saw me – I was obviously crying – and I keep saying until now that when a normal person comes in and sees another person crying, they would immediately ask, “What's wrong?” Or “What's the matter?” Or something to show some concern, but not C – never him. He simply took whatever it was that he had come for and he made to leave.
I now said to him, “Devil, demon, devil incarnate, monster...so after you messed up my whole kitchen with your fish, you and your girlfriend left without cleaning it up, and now I don't have any place to make something to eat for myself. You had the guts to make fun of me, even though I was sitting right there. You're really a devil. When you go out in the car with your girlfriend, both of you are going to have a car accident, and both of you are going to die!” And he grabbed me and he shoved me away, and then he left. I just sat there numbly. I called Evelyn again, and she didn't respond. I called Sampson, and he said, “I am nearly at your house.” Well in about 10 minutes, C came back again and went to grab my sleeping baby, then ran to the car with him. I realized then that it was my car keys that he had come for when he had come in earlier on. I ran after him. He had already started the car, so I jumped on the hood of the car in a bid to stop him from driving off with my baby, but he kept driving even with me on top of the car hanging onto the hood, and this was the scene that Sampson arrived to see.Now C is someone that never wants to be caught doing his evil deeds. He always creates a scene only when it can be his word against mine. No witnesses. Nobody to see. He stopped when he saw Sampson drive up and he came out of the car towards me, and I said, “Stop! Don't come near me. Don't you come near me!” And I went to the car, I took my baby, and I went inside. The police soon arrived. The landlord had called. One of the policemen came inside to talk to me and I told him what had happened. He looked around the whole place and he came out and sat with me at the kitchen table. He said to me – and I have thought about him many times over the years – he said, “Don't remain like this. You say you are pregnant?” I nodded mutely. “And he is the father?” Nod again. “And that's his girlfriend?” I kept nodding unable to speak due to his kindness, causing tears to flow down my face. He said, “I am talking to you as my sister, and as someone who has seen a lot of these kinds of things. You need to get away from a man that will treat you like this. Pack your bags, take your child, get away, go somewhere else. If you continue like this, you could get badly hurt or killed, or you could be pushed to the point where you would hurt or kill someone, and then where would your son be? And how about the new one that you're carrying? Where would they be? Leave now. Leave as soon as you can.”I remember that policeman. I will always remember him. It was almost 10 years ago, but I know that I will recognize him if I saw him. He was the first person that has shown me compassion in years. He said, “Look after yourself,” as he left. He then asked C to go away and not to return for 48 hours. I think he was probably offering me the 48 hours to get myself together and to run. And of course, I regret until now that I did not run. I should have.I really became sick after then. I called my work the next morning and I said I was pregnant and I was ill, and I would take my pregnancy sick leave effective immediately. I just stayed home. Mary Stacey came by the next evening with a bunch of flowers. She said, “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh at you on the video. It was C that made fun of you, and it was just so funny I had to laugh.” I took the flowers from her, and as she stood there I said to her, “You are extremely lucky I am a patient person. Anybody but me would have done something really really horrible to you.” I took the flowers, I ripped them, and I threw them over her shoulders onto the grass behind her, and I said to her, “I promise you, if you ever step into my house again, I will not be responsible for what will happen to you.” Then I opened my mouth and screamed, “Now just get lost!” At the top of my voice, and she left and she never ever came to my house again.
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