This piece is based on a true story submitted to us by a lovely lady who wishes to remain anonymous.
When I named her, I was sure of my happiness for her birth. I named her Nkechiyerem, a verbal equivalent for the devoted acceptance of whatever God has given me. It was the best amplification of my emotions at her birth- happy that she was born. And despite all the things that followed from when she was born, nothing changed that feeling- the feeling of the warmth that flooded my body, the feeling that I held in the palm of my hand, a joyful life together.
The doctors decided her fate. She was autistic.
And then my husband decided my fate.
You are responsible for it, he said.
You ate fish when you were pregnant, he shouted, Fish has mercury in it and you killed the potential for our baby to be anything normal!
I knew it was not my fault. Nobody from the line of my family has autism. I wanted, at one point, to blame the doctor who advised that we give the child a vaccine. I wanted to lash out, to point fingers, to shout at the world and to paint everything black. Doctors are not to be blamed. And my in-laws’ ignorance knows nothing else. I resolved to myself that I would not blame anybody but accept my faith and take care of my child.
But his mother decided that I was the reason for Nkechiyerem’s autism. She ran to a herbalist, in the hope of “curing” me and the bad omen that I was for the family. The herbalist was the exact dose of salt those wounds needed to sear and roar in red hot pain and anger. Get rid of her, immediately! He warned. She is a bad force for your family! His sister decided that I had caused Nkechiyerem's autism by opting for an epidural. Lazy woman! She couldn't give birth without it and now see what it has cost? And she had never, ever given birth herself.
Within hours of the auguring herbalist’s ominous warnings, I was chastised for something I had never done. I was given barbs with words and beatings for being the vilest dark force to have ever touched their family. They cursed me. They cursed the day I got married to their son. They cursed the devil that I was, for tricking their poor, innocent son into believing he had fallen in love with me. The Black Soul, they called me. Bad luck I brought him, they said. I had to be gotten rid of, or else I would drain his money.
It wasn’t long before he divorced me.
When I married him, he was then the man I loved, the man who I believed, didn’t have this side to him. I kept house for him, worked two jobs with my graduate degree in tow to keep money flowing, while he attended school. When I left him, I still had to keep two jobs with my graduate degree in tow, to keep money flowing.
I see Nkechiyerem sitting before me. A sweet angelic face. She is my daughter, and I will always love her. I will always be there for her, and take care of her, no matter what. I sing to her. I know somewhere that we will be happy. I wait for that day.