DON’T SPONSOR SICKLE CELL | You can let go now!

You may not understand the feeling of being in a relationship with someone, building emotions around that person and suddenly realizing that both of you aren’t meant to be together because of genotype incompatibility. Mine was a little bit different case, I knew she has the AS genotype just as me but I felt something somehow must be done about it, I believed there would be a means to work around it and defy all odds to stay together. I remember the day we both went to the hospital to check our genotype and the nurse happened to know who I was. She called me by the side and said: “she is AS and if you are AS, just be aware that both of you can’t be together.” I smiled worriedly.

When we were outside the gates of the hospital, I looked at her, she was staring at the result and I asked her “does it mean anything to you?” She smiled and responded “I don’t know about you but for me, these things don’t matter. It means nothing to me.” Emotions were flowing mutually and we were a bit blinded by it and therefore we never thought about the decisions we wanted to take. Our relationship continued even stronger.

I didn’t let it be anyway, I also felt we would do something. I had watched so many testimonies where people testified of praying and having their genotypes changed from SS or AS to AA and I believed my own case wouldn’t be any different. We started a daily night prayer routine together. We didn’t make mention of the genotype barrier as a reason for that prayers but deep inside of my heart, it was a major reason. We had it running for one month but there was no conviction anywhere for me that this was God’s will for me.

I started making certain researches to ensure we had a plan b if the miracle doesn’t happen. I started asking questions from health professionals and I remember being given some options which included testing the baby while few weeks or months old in the womb and aborting him or her if they happen to have the sickle cell anaemia. My faith has been against abortion and I knew there would be several emotional trauma that would follow if we decide to follow that path. Some tried convincing me that it is only one in four of my children that would possibly have the anaemia and therefore I would intelligently know how to go about it but I looked at my family and got scared at what I found out.

My Mum had the AA genotype while Dad is AS. It happened that out of five children, only one person had the AA genotype. What if Mum was AS and they decided to go ahead and marry because they felt they couldn’t let go of each other? There would be chances that only one of us would survive! This reality shocked me to the bones! I saw another option and this option is about bone marrow transplant! It didn’t go down well with me because it is very expensive with lots of things attached! Why bring a child into the world to subject him or her to such treatment in the first place? I let that pass too.

Then, there were three remaining options. One was gene selection which is done through IVF, it is very expensive and technical. Aside from the unknown success rates, we may never truly afford it to have the number of kids we want. Although this option looked promising at first, I had to tell myself the truth and face reality. How do I start saving up millions of naira just to have a kid? Will there still be money to raise that child?

“Why bring a child into the world to subject him or her to such treatment in the first place?”

The second option was adoption. I had always advocated for adoption anyway but there is always this thing in us that makes us want to have our own biological children who have our own genes, features, traits and all of that! I knew I might not have an overly happy family if we ended up only on adoption. The children would grow up later to still demand their biological parents.

The last option was the one nobody wanted! It was to let go! Letting go was very difficult and the more we shared times together and did certain things together, the more the bond got stronger and the more we seem inseparable. We were even willing to lie about our genotype and present false hospital results if the marriage had come up in the plan. It was hard to let go, it was difficult to leave all those beautiful moments we had together.

One certain new year, I was in the sitting room thinking out loud and I was worried about going for options or starting a fresh new slate for myself. I am a young man and she is a young woman. We still had age on our side, we are still acceptable and loveable by others and I wondered why we should be clinging so much to ourselves as though we can’t have a beautiful relationship apart from ourselves. There are still awesome people out there who would fill the vacuum we would leave in ourselves and there are people with whom we wouldn’t worry about rigorous and unreliable options. Why go for less when we can have more?

“We may never know how stormy the weather would be until we find ourselves in it”

Then I started thinking why we wanted to stay together despite the barrier, I started thinking why we must let what we feel take priority over our unborn children and then I realized I was very selfish, I realized it isn’t worth it at all to make a decision that would hurt my unborn children just to satisfy what I felt at that moment. I realized that the well-being of my unborn children should have a say too in whatever step I was going to make towards marriage and I told myself “love is not enough.” Would it have been a sweet sacrifice to lay the health of my kids on the altar of love feelings? No, it would have been greed and gross stupidity. I realized how dangerous it was to take that step just because I felt I couldn’t live without her.

I looked back at who I was without her. I was a happy fellow, my emotional needs never revolved around anyone and without anyone I was still able to satisfy myself. I walked to the mirror, looked at myself and said “George, be strong. This too will pass.” I was about taking a very major decision, it was going to hurt me but it was going to be the best decision I ever took in my life. I picked up my phone, called her, asked some questions and somehow, God made our breakup easy.

It took me several months to get over her, sometimes I would want to work hard to get her back and then I’d remind myself what I was delivered from and I’d chose to stick to my victory. For me, it was a major victory because if I had mounted pressure and insisted, we’d still get married and we would expose ourselves to a battle we may never win. Sometimes, out of burning emotions, we think we can handle all the options available, we think we can go through all the processes easily but when we eventually walk that path, we realize we really never knew it was going to be so bad. We may never know how stormy the weather would be until we find ourselves in it. Sometimes, these options are for people who have made the mistake already and would want to seek corrective measures.

Why get sick and start looking for treatment when you would have avoided it altogether? Why bring a child into this world to suffer just because of your own selfish interest? Why give birth to a child and hand him or her over to a disease? Many times, what we thought was love fades with time and when the weight of the problem associated with having SS children hits you, you will never remember the spelling of “love”. Stop building emotions around people if you do not know their genotype and even if you have done so, let go now! Let’s help fight against sickle cell anaemia! It is deadly and no one deserves it! A broken relationship is better than a sickle cell infested marriage!

~ George O.N

UNMASKING DEPRESSION | By George O.N