At 20, Mirabel* had made a string of bad decisions and found herself a single mother of two boys. Due to a fear of being judged, she hid her kids from her husband for three years. She talks about eventually telling him the truth, almost losing her marriage and learning how to mother her children after staying away for over a decade.
This is Mirabel’s story, as told to Boluwatife
I know what it sounds like. I didn’t think I was capable of that level of deception, but push came to shove, and I chose myself.
Thankfully, I can look back now and smile.
I had a rough childhood. I grew up in Mushin in the early 90s and was raised by a single mother. Up until her death in 2020, she claimed my father was dead. I suspect she didn’t really know where he was.
Dead people have grave sites, right? I learnt quickly to stop digging into my paternity. She wouldn’t say anything, and I had no choice but to let it go.
I was my mother’s only child and was mostly alone after school when she had to hustle for us to survive. My mum took on as many odd jobs as possible — from cleaning and washing to selling food at canteens. During the weekends, I’d join her to work wherever she was working that week.
When I finished secondary school in 2006, I knew we couldn’t afford university, so I put my efforts into hustling.
I got my first job as a salesgirl in an electronic store when I was 17. Not long after, I entered a rebellious phase. Most nights, I didn’t go home to the one-room apartment I shared with my mother, choosing to stay with friends instead. She didn’t bother too much about me. It was Mushin; everyone was pretty wild. Now, I wish she did.
Around this time, I met my baby daddy, Kunle*. He owned an electronic store in the same market. And I started dating him, moving in with him almost immediately without my mother’s knowledge.
Three months into our relationship, I was pregnant. Now my mother needed to know. He went with his brother to tell my mother he wanted to marry me. My mother couldn’t do anything because I was already independent and was now pregnant. There was no “marriage”. I just kept living with him till I had my son.
And that’s when the trouble started.
I couldn’t work anymore because I had to take care of my son, so Kunle took care of all our expenses. But he soon got frustrated — I’m not sure why — and started acting out and beating me at night.
My mother got wind of his abuse and made me return to our one-room with my son, so Kunle wouldn’t beat me to death. We stayed with her for about a year before she started grumbling about feeding and clothing us. I really don’t blame her. It was tough managing herself already without worrying about two extra mouths.
By my son’s first birthday, my relationship with my mum was getting strained. I was open to other possibilities. So I listened to Kunle when he came back to beg me to return home with him. I figured he’d had enough time to change. Besides, I badly needed to leave my mum’s place.
I moved back in with Kunle in 2008 and was pregnant again within six months. When I was close to delivery, Kunle suggested I move back in with my mum to have my child so I’d have someone to take care of me, promising to send money regularly. I listened to him and went back to my mum’s.
Do you know this man sent money only once and then disappeared? He must have planned it for some time — I went to look for him at his shop some weeks after I had my second son and was told he’d packed out. I haven’t seen him since that time.
There I was, a single mother of two at 20 years old. I wanted to die.
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For weeks, I was in shock. I thought my life was over. My mum noticed I was battling depression and surprisingly stepped up. She encouraged me to focus on doing something with my life. She didn’t want me to continue the cycle she was in.
With her watching the kids, I enrolled into a polytechnic in 2010. It was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done. I’d shuttle between school and use any available time to do anything I could to make money. I started doing hair and selling cheap data to support my fees and send money home to my mother since I mostly lived in school.
God must’ve decided to show me mercy because one of my fellow students, also a hair client, carried my matter on her head. She didn’t know about my struggles or my kids — no one knew — but she noticed I was always hustling and would disturb me to follow her to the school fellowship.
I eventually did one day in my second year, and my life changed. I gave my life to Christ and became fairly active in the fellowship. They had something called “indigene support”, which was financial support for struggling students, and I got the allowance with the help of my client-turned-friend. It was a lifeline and helped pay part of my tuition for the rest of the time I was in school.
I also met the man I’d marry, George*, at the fellowship. He was a senior friend of the fellowship — he graduated years before and only came to worship with us occasionally. I don’t know what he saw in me, but we became close friends in my final year. He even followed me to my mum’s house once. There, he met my kids but just assumed they were my siblings. It didn’t help that my kids weren’t used to me — I was hardly around — They knew I was their mum, but they called me Mimi, as my mother did, and called my mother, mummy. I didn’t see a reason to explain to George because I didn’t think it was important. Frankly, I just didn’t want to be judged.
George was so good to me. So when he eventually told me of his feelings after I graduated in 2015, I was too scared to tell him the truth. I thought he’d run the other way, and I didn’t want to lose the only good thing that’d happened to me in a long time. I told my mother, and she also suggested keeping it to myself, since the children wouldn’t live with me.
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We got married that same year but didn’t have children immediately. George wasn’t worried about it, and never pressured me. But three years in, I started getting worried and made him visit the doctor with me. Maybe I shouldn’t have.
One of the first questions the doctor asked us was if I’d ever been pregnant.
George didn’t notice and immediately answered no, but my conscience kept pricking me. It felt like God was telling me it was time to tell my husband the truth. I struggled with it for about a week before I mustered the courage to do it.
I spoke to our pastor and his wife and told them about it. Then they called him to set up a meeting at our house. My husband thought they wanted to pray for us.
Soon as they arrived on the day we set, I went on my knees before my husband. He was extremely confused, but our pastor explained what I’d told him. I’d never seen my husband so disappointed. I was expecting anger, but nothing could have prepared me for the heartbreak I saw in his eyes. He didn’t utter a word for about an hour. Then he told me to stand up and that he’d forgiven me. I was shocked. Our pastor prayed for us and left.
It wasn’t over, though. He didn’t talk to me or say anything about the revelation for weeks after that meeting. We greeted each other, ate together and slept on the same bed, but the tension was so thick I could touch it.
I begged and begged, but he said he needed time to process it. I could literally see my marriage falling apart, so I fasted and prayed like never before.
One day, I knelt to beg him again, and this one did it. I eventually broke through to him. It was a long healing process, but I’m thankful we overcame it. He made sure we became closer with my sons and even insisted they move in with us when my mother died two years later in 2020. It was when they moved in I realised that they thought my husband didn’t want them around and made me abandon them with their grandmother.
I’m still learning how to be a mother to them — I was practically absent for more than a decade of their lives — but George treats them like his own. I don’t know why I ever thought he wouldn’t accept them. He’s become closer to them than I might ever be, which warms my heart daily. Recently, I’ve started working with Christian single mothers to encourage them and share my testimony. Your life isn’t over simply because you made a mistake.
If I could have a happy ending regardless of my countless mistakes, you can too.
*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.