Horizontal Sisterhood. Sisterhood amongst my age-mates. Firm, thick bonds that even exist in silence but cannot be broken once wheels have been set in motion.
My husband has a son. It was before I came along. I knew of the possibility of his existence when we were friends and now that we are entwined, he is my son too. That is just how it is. I first met this son when I was 6 months pregnant, he was two and a half. His mother, Diana, came to our gate trying to create a stir. I invited her in to sit down, but not inside my one room ‘house’. On nice chairs, under the summer hut. She refused and my husband yelled at her and sent her to his father because traditionally she should not have come to him first.
‘Nothing can come between me and my wife! You think she doesn’t know about you? She knows everything.’ he yelled. I guess I did.
That was the first time my husband saw his son and really the first time his existence was confirmed.
It took me a long time to come to terms with how children born outside of marriage exist in northern Ghana. When I talk about it to my Australian friends I feel I have to explain this because it’s so different.
The boy lives with his maternal grandparents. The mother married again and could not take him to her new house. When we went back at Christmas we paid a cow, sheep etc. to have him come and join us at our family house. The official acknowledgement that my husband was ready to claim him. Diana and I both lost twins in 2012. She has another boy now. I have her oldest son. Well, I will….
The second time we saw our boy our daughter was 1. We were living in the capital and went home for Christmas. We stayed 20 minutes and gave him gifts – a new pair of shoes, a suit. We took photos. Our daughter has always known she has a brother.
The third time we saw him he was 6, our daughter was 4. It was then we paid the cow and he came to be with us for several weeks. Immediately I was Ma and Malemna, our daughter, was a sister. The two of them – peas in pod, fish in water, pigs in muck. Hilarious. Protecting each other during over-emotional games with the house and community kids, fighting over who is going to shower first, hogging the iPad.
We have applied for him to come and live with us in Australia. I am doing it for my daughter. She needs a sibling and he is her brother. My husband needs his son to have more than he had and since he is here, well, perhaps here, in Australia, will give that to him. As for me? I don’t really know. There was a time I was more fearful than confident about the whole thing. But honestly… I need a son too.
What’s interesting is that in January Diana had to come and sign a statutory declaration stating that she knew about Malemna, myself and my husbands wish to bring their son to Australia. She had to sign that she was okay with it. She signed. I explained it to her, she does not read, and I asked, ‘Are you really okay with this?’ She nodded. When I watched them interacting I saw a very stilted relationship. They hardly said a word aside from greeting. I know his grandmother loves him dearly because he is such a good child – honest, faithful, respectful. It seems the mother has had little hand in this.
So our boy wants to come and be with us and we want him to come and be with us too. And everyone back in Ghana is happy for this to happen.
I am under no illusions as to how easy it will be. In Accra I had to teach him to not just throw rubbish on the ground and to never open the car door into oncoming traffic. There are simple life things he will not know. It is those that will be the shock to his system. The way children play, the way people talk to each other. I hope he is not lonely. He is used to playing, sleeping and living with the crowd. We are just three.
Diana and I have nothing in common aside from that we both slept with the same man and now have a son together. However this also means we are, and always will be, sisters too.