Counting My Blessings

I left home with tears rolling down my face in December 2003. When you leave home (Eritrea) for further fields you leave a great part of you behind. From the minute I embarked on this new journey, my mind was already preoccupied with the thought that someday, and hopefully not in the too distant future, I will return home to be met with the open arms of my mother. It not knowing what to expect going to a foreign land where all things from culture to language would become foreign to me was daunting, the thought of breaking the chains of psychological bondage and doing away with the fear of getting rounded up for no other apparent crime other than that you are an Eritrean exercising your freedom of movement in Eritrea put my mind to rest.

I met the love of my life in 2001, and after two years of courtship we decided to tie the knot. In the eyes of the law, we married in 2003, having signed at the Town Hall register. We decided to place the actually wedding ceremony on hold. The government had passed a law announcing that women whose spouses had “defected” from the country and gone abroad would not be granted an exit visa to be reunited with them. This was a law that meant my husband and I would not see each other indefinitely and this was something neither one of us would have been willing to contemplate. Relatives and friends alike did not make matters easy as they persistently keep inquiring about when the wedding would take place and that constantly left me in tears. I remember my father saying, “እንታይ መርዓ ኣሎ ሕጂ ደኣ ምስ ከደ ዘይተመለሰ” (“what wedding? He’s gone and he’s not coming back”). In response, my mother would say, “ኣምላኽ ይፈልጥ እቲ ኣምላኽ ዘጋጠሞ ሰብ ኣይፈልዮን እዩ” (“God knows. What God put together no one will separate”).

By the grace of God, I made it to Zimbabwe and this was the beginning of my journey into the unknown. Yet, this was also the beginning of God’s work in my life. His mercy endures forever, and His will will be done in my life. On the day I arrived in Zimbabwe, there was news of two migrants, an Ethiopian and a Pakistani, who were fatally shot presumably by South African border control officers while trying to cross the borders into South Africa. The fact that it could have been me puts life in perspective as well. It was therefore decided that crossing into South Africa would have to wait for another day until tensions along the borders eased off. Nevertheless, this was a journey that had to be overcome.

Going back was out of the question. The influx of youngsters making the same treacherous journey makes one wonder who is left behind. As if trying to dodge incoming bullets from the South African border control unit hadn’t made the journey hard enough, the Limpopo River had also welled up as we were well into the rainy season. The people smugglers had warned us to take caution as the river would be infested with crocodiles and to stay right behind them as they led the way. We were putting our lives on the line to get to South Africa. This was not even a journey into the UK or the USA. We were still in Africa and yet we were desperate enough to want to make this journey. Struck with pessimism, I thought to myself I would not stand a chance and that some lucky crocodile was in for a treat at my expense.

This was no easy journey for me to make seeing that I was taking medication for a catalogue of illnesses. For some strange reason, I did not even remember to pack my medication as I made this trip. Death was staring at me in the face in more ways than I could imagine, but I was still standing. Miraculously, we made it across the river, but now we had to make as little noise as possible to avoid attracting the attention of the border control units. We were thankful not to become the crocodile’s early Christmas present. Now we had to see if we could also avoid becoming sitting ducks for the border control units to sharpen up their target shooting skills. After all the heavy sacrifice that Eritrean martyrs paid to liberate my country from the grasps of colonialism, it is inconceivable that all that sacrifice only landed a worst administration that is now forcing young men and women in their tens of thousands to risk their lives in search for new and better opportunities elsewhere. I was so petrified by this short and unimaginable experience that I had passed out and the others also decided to leave me and carry on with their journey. But my God said He would never forsake me and I have a fellow female traveler called Hanna to thank. She told the others that they either carry me out or leave both of us behind. They decided it was best to heed her advice and I was carried until we got to the vehicle that would then transport us to Johannesburg.

Two days after making that horrible journey, the moment I had been desperately waiting for was here. Aman and I were finally reunited. Together we headed towards a small city called Kroonstad, where we went through so much together. The year 2004 was a particularly difficult year for us. Early on that year, I became sick and I am not particularly fond of going to the doctors or visiting hospitals. But then again, who is? After some check-ups and blood tests, the doctors were quick to congratulate us much to my shock at the time. Yes, this was an unplanned pregnancy and we were not prepared to welcome a little human being into this world with nothing to provide for it. ‘O ye of little faith!’ God had things under control and God would be there to provide. For someone going through the mood swings, the morning sickness and the rest of it for the first time, this was probably one of those moments having my mother by my side would have come in very handy. There was nobody to talk to. Aman and I were on our own.

Against all the odds, the pregnancy was still running its course as smooth as one can anticipate. On October 1, 2004, I jokingly remarked to friends that I would give birth on that day. That same Friday night, my waters broke and my hubby had to rush me to hospital. For the rest of the night, there was to be no breakthrough, but the cyclical labour pains did not seem to die down any time soon. By Saturday morning, the doctor said the baby’s heart beat was getting weak and that I would have to opt for a C-section delivery. I called Aman to tell him about what the doctor said. Aman said he was on his way. What I forgot to tell the doctor was that I was diabetic and that caused complicated with the healing process after delivering the baby. I laid there at the operating table while the doctor and his assistants prepared all the necessary surgical equipment. It was nerve-racking. The surgery went ahead successfully and at the end of it the doctor was happy to announce that both mother and child were safe and well

On 2 October 2004, our adorable little Mary came into our world and filled our lives with joy and a new found love so pure and irreplaceable. Unfortunately, Mary was born with a rare disease called Klippel–Feil syndrome as well as other complications and the doctors said there was a possibility that Mary may not be able to make it. We had spent most of 2005 going in and out of the hospital trying to do everything we can to save Mary’s life. In the end, it was not meant to be and our little bundle of joy had gone home to be with the Lord. On 30 August 2005, our little girl, Mariam Amanuel passed away. This was very painful and unbearably hard to accept. Being far away from home made the pain doubly unbearable. Thank goodness for family and friends though. To make matters worse, doctors warned that it was highly likely a second pregnancy any time soon would suffer similar complications. We were advised to put having a baby on hold for at least another five years or otherwise face the prospects of going through an abortion if we were to conceive any sooner.

Abortion was completely out of the question because it goes against my belief system, so we decided to stick to contraceptives. Late in 2006, I had a very bad gastric ulcer which lasted for almost four months. It was at this time that we found out I was pregnant again. I felt like a brick wall came down on me. Aman on the other hand felt this was a sign that God knows it all. It hadn’t even been three years since we lost Mariam and now I was not prepared physically nor psychologically to go through the same ordeal all over again. I asked God for divine intervention. I spoke to my sister about it and Eden said she would pray for me and for the baby to be perfect. Our friends at church began to intercede on our behalf. I was still suffering with gastric ulcer and had to continue to take medication for my condition, and yet, the very medication intended to heal me could have also become responsible for inducing my body into an abortion. The doctors had a tough decision to make: saving the mother or risking both lives. In the end, it was decided that I must continue to remain on the medication for another month, while continuing to have sonar every week to check on the baby’s progress and how he was reacting to the medication.

I was done with my medication and the baby was still doing well. The first four months of that pregnancy had been very difficult for us to endure, but God had been good to us throughout. The anxious wait of what the outcome could be had taken its toll on our lives. Then 20 weeks into the pregnancy, we received news that the pregnancy had running its course as normal as any natural pregnancy and that the baby was healthy. over joyed by this fantastic news, we gave our unreserved thanks and praise to God for seeing us through it.

At 10:15 on August 14, 2007 Senay Amanuel came into this world and into our life. God blessed us with a healthy baby boy. In the past, the month of August was one that had not been kind to us. Now, God had chosen August to turn our cries into happy tears and joyful cries. When we think of August now, we think of Senay and how through him, God has graced our lives with this abundant mercy and showers of blessings. God is good.