The Dire story of a Child Bride

When I tell my story, most people think of me to be Halima or Fatima from the far north of Nigeria where child brides are most common but I am not. My name is Dedelolia Dinma-fiberesima – nee Egbema. I am from an impoverished fishing community in Ogbia by the delta of the Niger River; sitting directly on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria.

I am the oldest of five children. I was just 7 years old when my mother died shortly after giving birth to my youngest brother Boma.  Not long after, my father was killed in a communal clash. 

Suddenly orphans, my four young siblings and I had to leave the place where we grew up, and move in with our grandmother in a village nearby. Our grandmother struggled to look after us. She sold vegetables from her small farm to sustain us. She was only able to provide a single meal for us and most times we went to bed hungry. Caring for us became unsustainable when grandma’s small farm got submerged in flood and her produce washed away. She felt she had no choice but to arrange a marriage for me. 

I was 11 when I got married. My husband was 36 years old. He was a hardworking fisherman who traded with big city merchants. He took up the responsibility of taking care of my siblings and grandma.  He paid my siblings school fees but he didn’t think I should go to school. He made me join his other workers to smoke and dry the tons of fish he brought home. Then he took some to the local market to sell and most of it he sold in the city.  Selling was easy because he had ready off-takers. The money made was use for our well-being.

My husband was mostly at sea. Whenever he got back; he made me to perform my wifely duties. He was never gentle. As a child bride, I endured the terror and pain of an unwanted physical relationship. After some months, I discovered I had inflamed skin around my vagina and an abscess – a swollen clump of infected tissue that made me cry when it was time to pee. I was taken to a specialist hospital in another town. After some test, the doctor told me I had Vesico-vaginal Fistula disease and I was also 4 months pregnant.

I was traumatized by my latest discovery; terrified and alone. I was preparing to raise a child while I was a child myself, I didn’t know how I was going to manage. I had no idea about pregnancy or childbirth, all I knew was that I was far too young to be having a baby. The pain and uneasiness I felt between my thighs was a proof that everything was wrong; I could barely walk. My husband wasn’t around he wasn’t going to be back till the next week. He had travelled to the city. I was scheduled for an emergency catheter placement surgery that evening. It was so frightening.

The surgery was successful. I was still in bed when the news of my husband’s demise got to me.  On his way back from the city, he was involved in a car accident. I was devastated. The news passed through me like a hurricane. I wasn’t sure of my fate anymore.

After the funeral, his brother and successor to his land and property, inherited me. I was more of a slave than a bride. He tortured me for his pleasures.

One day, I asked him if I could give my siblings a little money I made from my cassava sells. He didn’t let me finish my sentence. He pounced on me like an angry cat. He squeezed my shoulders and started screaming at me, “Any money you make is mine and no one else.” Then he slapped me and he shoved me to the ground not minding I was pregnant. I fell to my back and began to feel intense pain than anything I had ever imagined. Nothing could be more brutal, not whips or chains. My husband looked at me in total disgust and left me there. My screams and wails attracted neighbours who rallied round to help me.

Unknown to me I was in labour. Each contraction came with a pain that dominated my entire being. In those moments, for those seconds that stretched into infinity, there was nothing else I could see. I could only hear female voices telling me that it was time, time to push. With a guttural grunt I did so and stopped to catch my breath. I felt the baby crowning; the baby’s head was visible from my vaginal opening. Without any further effort the baby slid into the hands of one of the women. There was elation, it’s a girl, and in seconds she was there, nascent eyes opening.  At this point, my life as a child was over. Though I was only 12 years, I was a mother, a widow and was in my second marriage. The sad realities of my life had made me grow into adulthood. I gained the consciousness that I was now responsible for another, and my ultimate success depended on the choices I made. My evolutionary decision to leave my village gave me mental freedom to hold unto the last string of hope. My mind was filled with  vary of thoughts, all with branching questions and no correct answers. I braced myself as the eldest woman laid my newborn in my  hands. Time stood still then. There was no memory of the past (not even of the pain i was in) no thoughts about the future. I stared at her in awe and she looked at me, her eyes wide open, I knew I had my world in my arms! Right then I made a promise to her of a better life.

Who should wear the Diamond Ring?

diamond Ring

Our lives are full of countless distractions which interfere with opportunities for good family time. It is challenging to find meaningful, trans-generational experiences that bring family and friends together to create wonderful memories.

Bengina and I spent three nights with some of our friends at Lebombo Lodge, and in this beautiful environment we shared the most perfect times together. We did special things apart from the more obvious routine of game drives in open vehicles. Most memorable was a walk at dawn that started along the top of a ridge that extends from the edges of the Lebombo mountain range, from there a clamber down the rocks to the N’wanetsi River  bank and then under the canopy of the riverine forest beside the river. With the early morning sun rising over the trees and under the expert direction of our accompanying guide and tracker, we saw signs of the nocturnal activities of the night before. The track of a civet, the hop marks of a grey tree frog, fresh elephant dung and the distinctive shuffle tracks of hippos.

We had the excitement of seeing two uncommon species of bird and listened to many different bird calls in the fresh morning air. Our walk took us past caves in the cliffs along the river where white-rumped swifts were returning from their annual intra-African migration and we watched them swoop in and out the caves as they check out and lay claim to last year’s nests.

 While we were watching the swifts we realized that there was a constant hissing noise in the background and further investigation revealed a pit filled with the most colorful but venomous vipers we had ever seen. Emilia felt panic begin like a cluster of spark plugs in her abdomen. Emilia Spice was ophidiophobic; she had a morbid fear for snakes. Tension grew in her face and limbs, in her bid to take flight wriggling her fingers in disgust; her 23 carat white gold solitaire engagement ring fell from into the pit.  Clipper her fiancé was devastated; he didn’t know which to go for; his 15,000 dollar or his beloved Emilia.  Suddenly Colette – a lady who had joined our morning hike because she missed her trip a day before jumped into pit.

Everyone went quiet and took steps backwards unconsciously. She landed in between more than a dozen snakes. She was still for a few seconds evaluating the state of the snakes. Then she slowly eases away from them, making no sudden movements. She tiptoed in between the slithering vipers to get to pick up the ring. Suddenly, she mistakenly alerted three vipers gliding on their bellies over parched soil and stones. One of the snakes drew its head and body back in an S curve. It seemed ready to strike. There was another snake stretched out to her side; its gaze was fixed on Colette, a dark tongue flitting into the air every few seconds, tasting the fear, the cologne, and the sweat. In those heads the size of a hand like thin fangs, they were ready to inject a fatal amount of venom deep into her muscles. Emilia found her escape route through a couple of other vipers slinking away from the intruding scent towards a dry twig. She hurriedly climbed up a boulder and pushed upward gaining a foot hold on the sandy pit wall; she pitched forward and tumbling over her back. She gave the ring back to the Emilia; Clipper was stunned – first by her bravery then by her beauty even though she was covered in dust.

“Thank you so much” Clipper said warmly with a smile.” That was a brave thing you did down there.”

 We applauded, celebrating the hero.  We were glad everyone was safe. It was a terrifying scene to watch.

We were  quiet as we walked pass the natural spring nearby where fresh water bubbles directly from the earth flows down to create a life sustaining pool in the otherwise dry river bed. It was a beautiful sight but we were already exhausted from the life show Colette had put up.

Hours later, while we were having dinner under the stars I sat numb in an array of thoughts. I breathed the fresh air, torn between my loyalty and my desire to tell the truth.  Emila has been cheating on Clipper with Paul – my colleague at the fire station for over three years now. She even recently got an abortion for him. All these years I was hoping Clipper would see the signs but he was just too blinded by his love for Emila; his first love.

I stared at the diamond ring seated upon Emilia’s finger, welded to a strangling band of the purest gold. “Should that ring belong to Emila? She has done nothing to deserve it. Colette risked her life to get the ring; I guess she would make a better owner,” I thought – maybe not as a band of love but as spoils for a warlord. I wrapped my arms around Bengina in a moment and I let my head rest upon her chest. I wished to clear my head and not terminate the cheer in the air.   

Messy Massage: The Thai Experience

Messy massage

I am going to tell this story because my husband Ugokwe Uzoma has told this same story ten times over. It has become a story to tell to lighten up any room. And he’d bite the edge of a smile to start the story; in a vain attempt to keep his creeping grin at bay. The intention behind his perking lips isn’t something that could easily be ensured. But today it’s my story to tell.

We were in Bangkok for a holiday trip after several persuasions from me that we needed to take some time off the family business. It was a humid afternoon, so we decided to treat ourselves to a satisfying lunch. After walking around some of the street markets, we decided to go for a traditional Thai massage. I was ready to take solace from the stresses of modern life in an exciting and powerful mind/body healing experience. The massage parlor was an open concept; consisting of two huge communal halls, one side for males and the other for females, with a walkway in the middle. There were no rooms or curtains, and the massages were performed on mats.

We changed into the garments provided by the spa – loose cotton tops and baggy drawstring pants. My husband was very uncomfortable with the idea of another man touching my body but he was ok with the lady therapist for himself. A five minutes argument began and again I was able to convince my husband that it wasn’t a big deal. I was not taking my garment off because it was a Thai massage.

“Unlike most massage modalities that utilize massage oils and require you to disrobe and climb under a sheet on a massage table, Thai massage is performed while you are fully clothed, usually on a padded mat on the floor.” I explained.

“Are you sure? Isn’t it same as the ones we see in movies?” he asked.

“Relax, dim oma (my dearest husband) Even if… there are strict protocols for draping during massages. I began to praise him with some fancy Igbo titles to help me win this war and it worked. At the sound of “Odu’m” (my lion) he agreed with a little smile

“Please don’t fail to alert me when….” I cut him short.

“Nothing out of the ordinary would happen – my love,” I reaffirmed him.

The therapist noticed we were arguing and offered him a space by my side. I was so glad he did. Our massage began simultaneously. We were beginning to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere in the room —soft spa music was playing in the background, a trickling waterfall perched in the corner, and the sweet smells of lemongrass and jasmine wafted in the air. My husband laid still enjoying his incredibly relaxing rub down of his neck and shoulders while I was battling something different.

He became fully alert when his masseuse stretched and bent his knees and arms at awkward angles. She grabbed his hands from behind and positions her knee behind his back; sketching his muscles to relieve tension and enhance flexibility instead of the relaxing gliding and kneading motions he was expecting.

 “Chi mu! (Good God)” He exclaimed in disbelief.

Halfway through my own massage, I felt a huge fart coming. I held it in for what felt like forever, until my entire body stiffened up and I felt as if I was turning blue. My therapist, thinking that my stiffness meant that I needed more loosening up, proceeded to stretch my body with renewed zest, basically forcing all the air out. Against my will, I let rip the loudest fart which echoed in the open halls, every other person on the other side heard it loud and clear.

There was a stunned silence for five seconds then everyone burst out laughing in surprise (and disgust, I’m sure). My husband who was beside me screamed with laughter and announced that the fart came from me. After we left Thai my husband replayed the scenario constantly about eating Thai food and going for Thai massage; it became the climax of our travel experience.