If I begin to write about my mother-in-law, I will write to overflowing and the sheets will not be enough to accommodate the outpour of my emotions and love for that great woman.
While my husband and I were preparing to get married, I had my fears just like any average lady would about my mother-in-law. I feared I might fall into the wrong hands and join the narrative of terrible mother-in-laws. It got so bad at a time I had to tell Bayonle, my husband about my fears.
Though he was annoyed that I could think in such manner about his mother, he assured me that I would have no issues with her. I had my reservations, thinking he was only trying to paint his mother in a good light. The many tales of woe had really messed up with my mind, so, I was finding it hard believing my mother-in-law was who my husband said she was.
While I held my fears in my heart, I walked on egg shells anytime I went to her place with my husband while we were still courting. I can’t say she was the nicest woman in the world because I’ve not met all women, but she is one of the nicest women I’ve met in my sojourn on this earth. She was a mother per excellence who did not just see me as a daughter-in-law, but as a daughter of her womb.
When my husband, Bayonle and I, got married we had delay in child birth for five years, and the true colour of my mother-in-law came to manifestation. I couldn’t imagine the attitude. It was beyond my mind could comprehend.
“Sweetheart,” my husband called one cool evening. I had just come back from work and was trying to get dinner set for us. “Mummy will be coming next weekend.” He said.
An alert rang off in my head. I didn’t know why, but fear kind of engulfed my heart, but I tried to suppress it. “Ok, dear.” I said, stifling the fear rising in my heart.
“You don’t sound bright, honey. Hope nothing,” he said. My husband knows when anything is wrong with me. He moved closer, and looked into my eye. “Babe, what’s wrong. It seems the news doesn’t sit well with you.”
“Nothing. It’s just… never mind.”
“I mind. You can’t sound this way and expect me to ignore. It’s not done.”
“Sweetheart, it’s been five years, and we’ve not had kids, and now you said mummy is coming. I’m just scared she is coming to put pressure on me, and all those stories have heard may just be-”
“Babe! Stop it! Why are you talking this way. Let her come first and we’ll know where to go from there.”
“All right, love. I’m sorry I thought about mummy in that manner. I’m just scared.” I said, trying to justify my fears.
“I understand, love. Your fears are quite valid and I appreciate the fact that you opened up. But, you know we can pray about this, right?”
“Sure, I know. Thank you. I love you.”
“I love you too.” He said.
We ate, had a little chit chat, said our family night prayer and went to bed.
My mother-in-law came just as my husband said, and I did all I could to ensure I didn’t get in her way. She tried getting close to me, but I was treading with caution so as to avoid any conversation on children.
“Bisi, I’ll love to have a discussion with you later in the evening.” My mother-in-law said while I was serving her breakfast before going to work.
“All right, ma’am. I said. Fear. Anxiety. Bitterness, and all other emotions consumed my heart at the same time. I was in emotional turmoil all through the time I spent in the office.
“Good evening, mummy.” I greeted as soon as I got into the house. “How was your day?”
“My daughter, it was fine. Hope your day was not stressful?” She asked.
“No, ma. How about our discussion, ma?” I asked. Anxiety was already getting the better part of me.
“Haba! My daughter. You’re just getting back from work, and you need to freshen up and have some rest. In fact, I was bored and since I had nothing to do, I decided to cook something for us to eat.
“Ha! Mummy. You did not have to bother. I was already planning to prepare something as soon as I got back because I knew you would be hungry. Thank you, ma. I appreciate. Let me go inside and freshen up before I join you, ma.” I said, genuflecting.
This woman is only trying to make things more difficult for me. I thought within myself as I helped myself into my bedroom.
Minutes later, I joined my mother-in-law in the sitting room where she had taken her position. She was watching a Christian channel on the TV when I joined her which she put off immediately I sat.
“I don’t want you to think I’m prying into your private life and your marriage. I know it’s been five years you’ve been married to my son, and kids are not forth coming.”
“Err… Yes, ma. We are working on it ma, and the doctor said we are fit to have children ma.”
“That’s a good one. My daughter, don’t put yourself under any pressure whatsoever. I want you to know that children are God’s heritage and He gives them to us when He wills. In fact, I’ll advice you and your husband use this time to enjoy yourselves because when the children start rolling in, they’ll encroach into you and your husband’s ‘we’ time. I’m not pressuring you, don’t put yourself under pressure, and don’t let anyone put you under pressure. The Lord bless the fruit of your womb. That’s all I have to say my daughter.”
I was gobsmacked, dumbfounded, overwhelmed, just name it. I couldn’t believe my ears. Her words were like cold water that quenched every heat in me. All the emotions in me died a natural death and a special kind of love filled my heart. This woman was a gem. She had just carved for herself a special place in my heart.
“Thank you, mum.” I said, kneeling and hugging her at the same time. “You have just erased all my fears and pressure. I love you, mum.”
“You’re my daughter, and I desire the best for you.” She said, helping me to my feet.
We spoke at length all through the evening while we waited for my husband. As soon as we retired to bed, I narrated every single thing that happened to him.
“You see. I told you there was no need for worries.” He said. “When I told you I know the kind of mother I have, you thought I was just trying to protect her. You can now see for yourself.”
“Ehn. I’ve seen for myself. I thank God for her life. I so love her now ehn. Well, I know where you got your nature from. Like mother like son.” I said, tickling him.
“You can say that again.” He said with every form of pride. “Well, we all know that it is only Christ that makes the difference.”
Two years later, I had woken up feeling so weak and tired which kept me in bed a little longer. Suddenly, a wave of nausea hit me and I rushed to the toilet to puke. My husband noticed and he prepared something for me to eat before he kissed me goodbye.
He had a presentation that morning, so, he had to go to the office early enough. By noon, things got worse and I had to call him. He rushed down from work and took me to our family hospital. Series of test were conducted, and the results showed I had malaria, and I was also three weeks pregnant. That was the beginning of a new unexpected phase in my life.
Two months into the pregnancy, I began to notice my husband’s cold attitude towards me. This was not the man I married. What could have happened, I thought within myself. By this time, mother-in-law had come to stay with us. I kept wondering why a lovey dovey husband grew cold within the space of months.
The one that really got at me was when I initiated any form of physical intimacy, he turned me down and just withdrew to himself. This was so unlike him because he always loved and appreciated it anytime I initiate.
Worry ate me up, but I tried to move on with life. I did not inform my mother-in-law because I was waiting for a time my husband and I would trash out the issues between us. Things got worse. I had a terrible morning sickness and I was always cranky.
This got at him and he was always snappy at the slightest thing I did. It was as if my presence irritated him, and he was almost regretting why I got pregnant.
During one of our usual arguments, his mother heard us, but pretended not to know what was going on. It was a Saturday morning, so we left our room to the sitting room for our family devotion with her.
Later in the evening, she called us for a word with her. She started talking to both of us, and at a time, she told me to excuse her so she could have a word with her son. I left, but I stayed behind the door so I could eavesdrop on their conversation.
“Bayonle, I’m very disappointed in you.” She said.
“Mum, what have I done again?” My husband responded.
“My son, under no circumstance should you treat your wife or talk to her in a rough manner. It’s not right and what is wrong is wrong.
“No buts, Bayo. Listen and learn. She’s a woman, and you have to deal with her according to understanding and knowledge. In her condition, expect some change in behaviour because her hormones are getting the better part of her.
“That shouldn’t be an excuse for her acting like a spoilt brat. She has even become so rude and unsubmissive.” Bayo said.
“Will you keep quiet! Imagine the rubbish you’re saying. In fact, when last did you massage her back or rub her feet, or relieve her of the stress she’s going through? When last did you pamper her? Ehn. When last? Have you forgotten what the doctor said? You were the one who told me that the doctor said she had to be careful and not go through unnecessary stress else she would have to be placed on bed rest in the hospital. Now, you are the one stressing her out and putting unnecessary pressure on her. You should know better, Bayo.”
“Erm. That’s true, mum but you know-”
“You haven’t done well. You have to change your attitude towards her. I noticed you have become irritable and you get annoyed at the slightest provocation. Change your ways if you want your wife to change hers and be happy with you.” She said. “Go and call her, I’ll also want to speak with her.”
Hearing this, I tip-toed to my room which was not so far away from the living room and pretended as if nothing was amiss.
“Sweetheart,” he said when he entered the room. “Mummy is calling you.”
“All right.” I walked pass him feigning anger, and shut the door of the room.
“Mum, I’m here.”
“My daughter, I do not mean to separate you from your husband, I just wanted to have a one on one discussion with the two of you.”
“No problem, mum. I understand.”
“My daughter,” she said, looking me straight in the eye. “I understand you’re pregnant. I’ve been in your shoes once and I know how it feels.”
“Thank you, mum.”
“But you haven’t done so well. Under no provocation whatsoever should you disrespect your husband or be rude to him. There is nothing that turns off a man more like disrespect. I understand your condition, but I want you to know that you can master your emotions and not allow your hormones have the better part of you. Respect your husband regardless. Have you heard?”
“Yes, mum.” I said, remorseful.
My mother-in-law called my husband and she made us apologise to each other. Though she did not interfere in our family matter, she gave us counsel when we needed it. Things got better between my husband and I, and we were the couple we used to be.
My husband suggested I worked from home since it was my personal work and it was flexible. I obliged. He took over some of the activities in the home and made it a point of duty to massage my swollen feet anytime he wasn’t too tired from the day’s work.
Weeks rolled into months, and in the eight month, I put to bed. Since vaginal delivery wasn’t possible, I gave birth through CS after much complications. It was of the Lord’s mercies I did not pass on at child birth. My mother-in-law and husband practically took over everything in the house. All I had to do was breastfeed, eat and sleep for a good period of time.
My mother-in-law’s counsel on parenting is one I can write a book on. One of her principles and counsel I hold dear is “spare the rod and spoil the child.” She wasn’t referring to the rod of cane alone, but also the rod of the Word and prayers in training my children. She also helped me strike a balance between the time I spent with my children and my husband because it got to a time I was pouring out all of my energy on my children while I neglected my husband. I owe a lot of the things I share with other women to her.
This was meant to be a tribute to a rare gem, but I’ve ended up writing a story. Just some days back, one of my twin asked after her, and I don’t know how to explain to the five year old boy that his lovely granny is no more. Her death about a month ago was a huge blow to every member of my family.
My only consolation is that hers was a life well spent and she’s resting in the bosom of our Lord. That woman had a heart of gold, and she knew how well to share of her treasures.