Here’s why I stayed with my abusive wife

Mr Stephen Mbiri spruces his wife Margaret Nyambura at their home in Maili Moja, Olkalau during the interview. Photo/SULEIMAN MBATIAH

Mr Stephen Mbiri spruces his wife Margaret Nyambura at their home in Maili Moja, Olkalau during the interview. Photo/SULEIMAN MBATIAH

By KINUTHIA MBURU kinuthiamburu@gmail.com
Posted  Wednesday, March 14  2012 at  00:00

It is a relatively sunny Thursday afternoon in Maili Moja village, in Ol Kalou. Fluffy clouds lay scattered about the breath-taking blue sky like balls of cotton wool.

 As we approach the quiet home, a dog runs towards us, barking, and momentarily stops us in our tracks.

Just then, her master, Stephen Mbiri, comes along and commands her back to her kennel. Stephen’s wife, Margaret Nyambura, is outside their home tending to their sheep.

“Ah, you’ve visited, you are very welcome,” she says jovially as she extends a hand to greet us. On the ground beside her is a toddler playing with a small bundle of grass.

“This is my grandson, he is named after my husband,” she informs us. Margaret looks no different from any other woman. It is only when you talk to her for some time that you realize that her speech is somewhat disjointed, making it difficult to have a long conversation with her.

Stormy marriage

You see, Margaret has a mental disorder that interferes with her speech, and memory. She sometimes has a difficulty recalling people, and easily gets distracted.

Many people in the Maili Moja village know this, but what most of them do not know is that Stephen and Margaret’s 25 year marriage has gone through a very stormy period due to Margaret’s condition, a stormy period that just recently came to an end.

With his 44-year-old wife by his side, Stephen, 49, opens up their world of love, hurt, forgiveness and acceptance.

“Our first three years together were problem-free,” he begins. This, however, changed in 1990 when they were blessed with their first-born daughter, Teresia Njoki, who is now 22 years.

Margaret had a long and difficult labour, and according to Stephen, this is when she begun to lose it, failing to even recognise him.

She finally delivered through cesarean section after many hours at Ol Kalou District Hospital on June 23, 1990. Unfortunately, her life was never the same again.

“She never quite recovered, and was ordered to see a doctor regularly and take medication,” Stephen explains. Apart from the poor memory, her speech would also get jumbled up, such that having a normal conversation with her became almost impossible.

In 1992, her health got worse when she got pregnant again. Worse still, she went into labour while at home alone. By the time Stephen returned from work late in the evening, her water had broken and she lay in bed writhing in pain.

“I called some neighbours and we rushed her to the hospital. We were later informed that had she arrived a moment later, she and the baby would not have survived.”

After this birth, her condition, which doctors are yet to identify, got worse. Her doctor advised the couple not to have any more children, since another pregnancy could just take away her life. Afraid of losing this woman that he loved dearly, Stephen took the doctor’s advice to heart. There would be no more children for them.

Cursed?

A year later, the village begun to whisper. Stephen and his wife became the talk of the village. Word was that his wife had a “mental problem” and would never be able to conceive again.

In this village and its environs, it was unheard of for a couple to have just two children. They were convinced that Margaret’s “inability” to have more would break the marriage, sooner than later.

This hurt Stephen, particularly when it came from close friends. The two had stayed childless for three years after their 1987 wedding, and that alone had been a challenge, in setting where a woman is expected to give birth immediately after marriage.

To make matters worse, Stephen’s younger brother had a mental problem and therefore, it was claimed that the family was either bewitched or cursed. At some point, Stephen began to think that in deed they might have been bewitched. “There was no other reason I could find for my streak of misfortunes,” he explains.

In 1997, Stephen left his stone masonry job after taking a short course in electrical wiring. But starting off as an electrician in Ol Kalou town was tough, since there were many other established businesses. His daily income plummeted.

His wife began to miss her hospital appointments. Her condition deteriorated and she became withdrawn and would sometimes erupt into fits of anger. Stephen says that even though he tried all he could to seek financial help, no help was forthcoming, and so his wife’s condition got worse.

That was when the battery began. Stephen recalls that on the day his wife first hit him, he had just returned home after another fruitless day at work.

“It was on a Saturday evening and I was sitting across from her. She muttered something and without warning, slapped me hard across the face,” Stephen recalls.

Hell at home

The vehemence with which the slap landed on his face was so overwhelming, that Stephen was too shocked to react. She then grabbed him by the shoulders and threatened to continue slapping him if he failed to work as diligently as she was doing in their shamba and bring money home.

“She was much stronger and healthy than she is now,” says Stephen, casting a glance at Margaret, who is seated beside him.

At the time, their children were eight and six years old. He says that the thought of hitting her back did cross his mind, but he was afraid of the outcome, and so he quelled the urge.

He convinced himself that this incident was motivated by lack of medication which she had been used to, and he decided to keep it under wraps. In any case, it would have been too shameful to admit that he had been beaten by his wife.

The next day, he managed to borrow money to buy her medication to see if the violent outbursts would stop, but they did not. The beating continued, growing more intense even after his job begun to pick up.

As he had feared, Stephen became the laughing stock in Maili Moja.

 “People laughed at me and called me foolish for going back to a woman who beat me – maybe I was foolish,” he says.

Though the beatings continued, they were not as frequent as they had been, and it is not until early 2010 when they completely stopped. Asked why he went back, Stephen says that deep down, he still loved his wife, and was convinced that her behaviour was motivated by her illness.

“I was hopeful that someday things would get better,” he says, and adds that he does not regret going back home.

He explains that he vowed to stand by his wife through good and bad times, and that by that vow, her problems became his. He says that he is aware that many people who know his story think he is weak, but he says that he is not losing sleep over this.

“I know the girl that I married, and I know that were it not for this illness, she would still be the same person she was all those years ago,” he says.

Today, their home is a haven of peace; the two no longer fight. His wife’s health has also weakened, and she depends on him for almost everything.

Though Margaret still does the housework, Stephen does the bulk of it. He explains that due to her memory lapses, she may forget that she is cooking or washing clothes halfway through and move to something else.

He also bathes her every morning, changes and washes her clothes and ensures that she is well-fed, and that she has medication.

“I don’t care about what people say, she is my wife, and the mother of my children, and will take care of her as long as I’m alive.

 Normally, she would throw objects such as pieces of firewood at him, and once in a while, us her fists. Stephen was at a loss of what to do. He could have fought back, but he knew this wouldn’t be the solution, but he also knew that he was about to reach his breaking point.

“I felt so helpless, so ashamed. What kind of man gets beaten up by his wife?”

His siblings began to suspect that something was amiss when they heard his daughters tell other children that their mother had thrown a cooking spoon at their father.

When he was confronted him, Stephen denied that he was getting battered. By then, the beatings had gotten so bad, he began to contemplate suicide.

Sometime in October 2008, he finally attempted to take his life by swallowing a fistful of malaria tablets, which he ended up vomiting a few seconds later. That same year, he tried to take his life again by lighting a jiko and placing it in their bedroom.

His wife had gone to bed earlier, but a few minutes after Stephen had gotten into bed, she woke up, complaining that the room was too hot and stuffy.

She immediately spotted the jiko, which she hurriedly took outside. When she came back, she was livid with anger, and set upon her husband, beating him like she had never done before.

Starting afresh

The next morning, afraid that his wife would kill him, Stephen packed his clothes and rented a house in Ol Kalou town.

As is wont to happen, news that Stephen had run away from home after getting beaten by his wife spread like bush fire. His family and friends felt vindicated. After all, they had advised him to leave her countless times but he had ignored them.

Stephen was determined to cut ties with his wife for good, and start afresh. But his daughters looked for him until they traced his new house.

“I found them waiting for me at the door. They begged me to come back home, saying that their mother was sorry.”

But he was determined to stick by his decision. Unfortunately, his children kept coming to beg him to go back home every day until, finally, he gave in and quietly returned home.

Their first born, Teresia Njoki, was 17 then, while second born, Gladys Wambui, was 15.

As he had feared, Stephen became the laughing stock in Maili Moja.

“People laughed at me and called me foolish for going back to a woman who beat me – maybe I was foolish,” he says.

Though the beatings continued, they were not as frequent as they had been, and it is not until early 2010 when they completely stopped. Asked why he went back, Stephen says that deep down, he still loved his wife, and was convinced that her behaviour was motivated by her illness.

“I was hopeful that someday things would get better,” he says, and adds that he does not regret going back home.

He explains that he vowed to stand by his wife through good and bad times, and that by that vow, her problems became his. He says that he is aware that many people who know his story think he is weak, but he says that he is not losing sleep over this.

“I know the girl that I married, and I know that were it not for this illness, she would still be the same person she was all those years ago,” he says.

Today, their home is a haven of peace; the two no longer fight. His wife’s health has also weakened, and she depends on him for almost everything.

Though Margaret still does the housework, Stephen does the bulk of it. He explains that due to her memory lapses, she may forget that she is cooking or washing clothes halfway through and move to something else.

He also bathes her every morning, changes and washes her clothes and ensures that she is well-fed, and that she has medication.

“I don’t care about what people say, she is my wife, and the mother of my children, and will take care of her as long as I’m alive.

http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/Living/Heres+why+I+stayed+with+my+abusive+wife+/-/1218/1365488/-/item/0/-/10lly7t/-/index.html

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie Heath
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 07:44:10

    God Bless Stephen! 🙂 …And Lord, please take extra care of his much loved and cared for wife! Bring them both more peace, reward Stephen for his big generous loving heart! Unite them for eternity, and bless them for staying committed to their marriage 🙂

    Like

    Reply

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