In 2015 when I completed SHS, I moved from my mum’s place in our hometown. I wanted to get out of the village and explore the world. When I left home, I went to live with my stepfather in Ashaiman. During my stay there I met a guy with a beautiful smile and honey-coated lips. He whispered sweet nothings into my ears and I gave him my heart.
I fell in love with him before he even proposed to me. So when he proposed I said yes to him without batting an eye. Where there is love, there is no time to waste. I was green in the art of lovemaking. I didn’t have knowledge of protection or contraceptives. Because of this, I got pregnant after our first time together. When I told him about it he asked me to keep it. I was an eighteen-year-old girl who wasn’t ready for the responsibility of motherhood. I thought about it carefully and realized that I was too afraid to even think of getting rid of it.
I decided to keep the baby even though I was scared of what my family would do to me. My boyfriend did his best to support me financially and I kept the pregnancy to myself. Of course, it was a silly thing to do. How can anyone keep a pregnancy a secret? As time went on my body started growing into its new phase. That was when my stepdad found out that I was pregnant. He got angry, “How can you live under the same roof with me and hide something as delicate as pregnancy from me? Your mother entrusted you into my care, and look what you’ve done.”
He insulted me day and night, and I bore it all. I felt he was justified in his anger. He told me he wouldn’t be the one to tell my mother and that I would have to tell her myself and bear the brunt of her disappointment. I thought eventually he would get over his anger but I was wrong. One day he woke up and asked me to move out. He said my presence in the house was bad for his blood pressure. I didn’t have anywhere to go so I went to live with my boyfriend. I stayed with him till my eighth month. That was when I gathered courage and went to my hometown.
I didn’t have to tell my mother anything then, everything was out in the open. To my surprise, she didn’t get angry or act disappointed. She supported me in every way I needed her to. My father was also supportive and they helped me until I delivered a beautiful baby boy. My baby daddy did his best to take care of me and the baby. When the baby was old enough for me to take care of him without my mother’s help, he suggested that I return to live with him. He came to perform the knocking rites and gave me hope that eventually we would get married.
I lived with him for five years. Those five years were full of quarrels, and fights. When I say fights, I mean physical ones. He used to beat me up at the least provocation. We could be having a normal conversation, making jokes, and laughing in one moment but the next minute he would be angry. If I said something offensive the next minute, even as a joke, this guy would hit me. If I tried to question him, he would proceed to beat me up. I spent most of the five years covered in bruises. My eyes were swollen shut most of the time. I endured that for five years, convinced that he would change.
When I realized that it was only getting worse, I walked away. He also decided to withdraw his financial support when I left him. I comforted myself; “He is abusive but he took care of me. He helped me to learn a trade and that’s a good thing. He should keep his money, I will work for mine.”
I took my son to my mum in my hometown and returned to Ashaiman. I worked with my skills and saved some money and rented a single-room apartment. My plan was to go for my son after I settled into my new place but I fell ill. I suffered from severe pain from my waist down. I couldn’t walk properly. When I went to the hospital I took an X-ray. The doctor said I need a hip replacement. They advised me to limit my physical movements until I got the surgery. I could no longer work so I couldn’t afford to go for my son.
One Monday I got a call from DOVVSU. My baby daddy had gone to report me to them. He said I stole his child so they asked me to report to their office. I met him when I got there. I explained my reasons for having our son stay with my mum. The DOVVSU officials told me; “The father of the child says he wants to be close to his son, so you have to go and bring him to live with either of you.” Then they told my baby daddy to pay an amount of money every month for child support if the child stays with me. He agreed to the terms so I went for our boy. At the end of the month when I asked him for child support he said, “If you can’t take care of the child then let him stay with me.” I always declined his offer. Because of this, he wouldn’t send us the money.
Last year on my birthday my baby daddy came to visit us. When he was leaving he told me, “The boy said he feels bored staying with you. You don’t have a TV for him to watch. He told me he wants to live with me so I’m taking him home.” I knew it was his idea but I didn’t have the strength to fight him on it. I was in a lot of pain because of my hip injury (which I suspect is an aftereffect of his abuse). I watched him take my son away. I couldn’t do anything to stop him.
When I miss him I go and visit him in school. And every time I see him my heart breaks. He is always unkempt and he has a bad body odour. When I complained to my baby daddy he told me the boy bathes himself. How can you allow a five- year old child to bathe himself? I suggested that he let the child stay with me during the weekends so that he can have him during weekdays. He refused my suggestion. I am feeling better now even though I walk with a limp. I am ready to start working again so I should be able to take care of the child even if he refuses to send money.
The problem now is that my baby daddy doesn’t want me to go anywhere near our son. He has blocked all access I have to my son, though he’s not taking very good care of him. I want to know the legal steps I can take to get my child back. DOVVSU said he can live with either of us but I want to get full custody of him. Please what should I do?