Today is World Sickle Cell Day, as such, I decided to repost this piece I published years ago.
Ever gotten to that point where you start to wish misfortune upon the very child you lovingly carried in your womb and looked with so much love and fulfillment upon on delivery and in raising him/her up? That point where you do not have the strength to personally carry out your wishes upon your child and thus can only nurture a burning hope and desire that some natural death could perhaps visit your child and take you out of your misery?
Well, that’s close to a real situation in the life of one beautiful bubbly woman I was shown whose life was going perfectly well until that decision to knowingly or unknowingly marry an AS genotype man, being herself an AS genotype woman. Now she’s lost everything including that “adorable” prince charming that all hell was to break loose for years ago, had anyone tried to quench their love. That sweet man could just not bear it anymore and so left her to her fate to as it is, figure it all out by herself what to do with a sickle cell anaemia child. Perhaps because he thinks or knows that a woman can handle more pain than a man?
Well, I think we should never assume to know very well or inside out, beyond all reasonable doubt, our partners or spouses. That’s because the true test of a person’s character is not when he/she is in love but when he/she is tested beyond his limit by a life situation.
So as it were, her husband was just not who she thought he was in the entirety of his character.
The troubles of having a child with sickle cell disease she could not imagine and she wouldn’t have believed it if it had not happened to her. Almost everyone has run out of pity for her and the burden she carries and she has run out of pity for her own baby. If even her own husband could give up on her, why not her employer considering all the million times she had to be excused from her very good and secure job in order to make all those countless trips to the hospital for one thing or the other. What a cross to carry, seeing how the disease strikes suddenly without warning and making it almost impossible to make plans for any given day! She has also now concluded that prayer is also not an alternative because how much has she not prayed. Of course, she finds strength through it sometimes to carry the burden but if only she can find the strength to “kill” her own child, she can begin to pick up the broken pieces of her life. But can she ever live with that conscience? The murder of her own child? Well, with that child still stuck with her, life’s suddenly lost all the hopes and beautiful times she foresaw with her then “crazily in love with” boyfriend and husband.
“Love conquers all things” but it didn’t for her on this one important thing. She can only continue to wonder if her story and life would have been any different if she hadn’t focused all her attention on the fact that love alone was enough.
Of course, YES! Her life would have been way different! Though only God is the absolute decider of the health status of the children He chooses to bless us with, having done all our best, we must never be ignorant of the parts we have to play.
For many others too, their story is somewhat like this: they were so consumed by love and unable to control their passions for each other and allowed it to blaze on until unfortunately she gets pregnant; and to avoid the “Christian shame”, they decided to get married quickly before any of the “over-religious Christian critics” see signs of it. And then, it is only after the baby comes…perhaps with troubling symptoms, that they begin to hang their passions on the wall and do the all important background health and family history checks that they should have done way back.
Situations of this nature in love relationships are what a good friend of mine describes as “jumping the steps”. Of course, it’s a simple principle in relationships/marriage that when you jump the steps, you risk a great fall that either leaves perpetual damage or a big scar for the entire life of that relationship/marriage union. The exception to the rule is only by Grace.
Now back to the fulcrum of writing this article.
It is sad the number of people we observe who are in relationships leading to marriage and yet are clueless about their partner’s status or some very critical things that must be known ahead of time. To them, love alone is enough and so, they invest blindly all their resources into the relationship for as long as it lasts, only to discover way too late the inevitable. Sometimes it takes the strict recommendation of some churches during pre-marriage counseling that some tests be conducted before some would-be couples even get to find out their partner’s sickling status after all the years that they might have dated. Most counselors report being surprised when they ask would-be partners during pre-marriage counseling sessions whether or not they know their partner’s sickling status and they get a “no” answer and they begin to imagine what the two lovers have been concentrating on all the length of their relationship. Though a “yes” answer does not stop counselors requesting further test to be conducted, many admit that they often appreciate partner’s who make the effort to know each other’s status before reaching that point in their relationship.
We have always advised those in or starting relationships to as a matter of urgency know for a fact (not just asking about) the sickling status of their partners way early into the relationship before things get too serious and they start getting blinded by love or “over-spirituality” to think that it is not important or God can turn things around through prayer in case the two are not medically or genetically “compatible”.
If not for anything, we must be proactive in this aspect of our relationships with the right kind of thinking that, marital love must not be limited only to the spouse but goes way beyond to the offsprings from the union and their impact on society. If you limit it to only you (the partners) and you take certain things for granted, you will only have yourselves to blame in the end.
Many of us were only lucky enough to not have been born carriers of the sickling trait because I do not in my wildest imagination think my parents took their time to know their status before getting married and making babies (us). It’s one of the blessings I thank God for and I do not entirely blame them (whatever way they got to know each other) because that was a long time ago in a country where information is not widespread on this important issue. With no compulsory newborn screening in a country like ours, I was left to only know my status way later in life because my parents couldn’t tell me. And though not a carrier by God’s grace and could have relaxed and taken for granted the status of the woman I marry because working out the “maths” I wouldn’t end up with a sickle cell anemia child even if my wife is a sickle cell patient, I had to be proactive with knowing her status.
It is always a very difficult decision to make, breaking things off with one’s lover of God knows how many years into the relationship before being hit with the inevitable ugly situation of not being “medically compatible” per your sickle cell genotypes. And I recall the bitter experience of two dear friends (who have gone years into their relationship) and who I had to counsel to break it off or face the risk. I sincerely wished these ones didn’t have to face this fate and wished they had known earlier on in the relationship. I don’t know if they found the strength to break it off but I hope they do, and don’t go on acting all over-spiritual about it that it will change through prayers.
Don’t get me wrong yet. We know of many cases where two carrier (AS) couples have had many children without a single sicklier among them. So, you can risk it if you want but what if you’re not so lucky like them and end up with a sickle cell child? Can you forgive yourself, knowing you are putting that child through a hell of agony which you could have easily avoided? Don’t take it lightly what sickle cell disease can do!
So here’s the thing. As much as depends on you, strive to know your partner’s sickling status before setting out on the love journey or before you get way too deep to risk being blinded by it. It is one of the foundations you must lay early enough and save yourself a lot of midway heartbreaks. Love alone is not enough; faith and spirituality is not an antidote either. The only solution is to know and act; bearing in mind God’s word that “for lack of knowledge my people perish”.
I can only leave you with the question: is your genotype, blood group and Rhesus factor compatible with the person you’re considering marrying? Well, I’m sure you will soon realize this is a much more important consideration than just love. Just hope you don’t realize too late.
Perhaps you should do me a favour; take a moment and google real life testimonies of sickle cell parents and children and then…whatever you decide to do with your life is up to you!
©Mark Gadogbe (McApple)