How To Fight About Money And Stay Madly In Love

Sometimes my patients come with their children, and in true child-like nature, some will sit in their chairs and never move their eyes out of whatever screen they have in front of them, some will go mental, screaming and crying and trashing the place, some will look at me like I’m some kind of entertainer (I am pretty funny though), and some will behave in such peculiar ways that you won’t be able to forget them.

I remember this one child who wanted to do what I did. So she would willingly come with her mother and beg whoever was seeing her if she could help. She knew normal blood values by heart, and she could manage a nose-bleed with an efficiency that was unprecedented for her age.

She was 6… Well, almost 7. She was very insistent on that when she told me.

I wasn’t her mother’s provider. I just happened to work at the clinic she went to with her entire family.

Because they were close, so incredibly close. You could sense the discomfort in her husband’s face, yet he was there. And you could see that, as excited as my profession was to her daughter, she was still a child with a short attention span, and she would be very vocal about it once the appointment passed the 15-minute mark, but she was also there, and would constantly ask her mother if she needed her hand held as she held hers when they went to the doctor.

The first time I saw her, she peeked into the office I was working in to ask for her regular midwife, who was my boss and rarely saw patients. I was told she was coming, I was also told to be around because she loved to have students and new midwives in her consultations. In the words of my boss:

“She just has a lot to say, and a lot to teach”

Since she was a regular, she immediately spotted me not just as the new midwife in the place, but a recent graduate, which was true. And so she very kindly requested if I felt like observing her consultation and listening to an interesting story afterwards, one she told me as her daughter was watching a movie (with headphones) while playing with a needleless syringe and some saline.

And so the story went like this.

She met her husband when she was poor and he was even poorer, and they fell in love, madly in love, senselessly in love. They actually lived out of love for a while, since none of them had a job, and they had to stay with her family in her childhood room for a while. But they wanted more. More independence, more privacy, more family for themselves. A friend of the family was the answer. There was this amazing job opportunity in a mining company. And sure, that meant e had to travel to another side of the country, but he would only have to work 14 days a month, and then he could come back home. They would even pay for his plane tickets.

And so, he took it, mostly because he had never travelled before, much less in a plane, and he wanted to know how that felt.

And in a few months, they were out of her parent’s house.

And in a year, they were married.

And in a year and a half, she was pregnant.

And they were happy, so happy.

Until one day, while she was at home, she received a call. This call was from a planned parenthood clinic where she had her prenatal appointments. Protocol mandated a bunch of check-up tests, and of course she accepted. They were a trimester thing. She had had it before and it was all fine, and now, in her last trimester, she was too focused on the birth to worry about it.

But then they told her one of the tests required an extra sample because the results were inconclusive. And so she gave them more blood. But then they called again and asked to see her as soon as possible.

She went as soon as possible. She dropped everything she was doing and that very same day, they sat her down, closed the door, showed her some papers, and explained it all to her.

She was HIV positive, and since they had a sample from her first and second trimester, they knew she had contracted it recently.

She said she felt nothing, just numb. She understood the words and followed all the steps. She was going to begin therapy to prevent vertical transmission to the fetus, and she was going to be seen in this specialized clinic, the same we were in when I met her, once a week until delivery, but she couldn’t find the emotions until she went home and all came pouring out when she saw him.

Her husband wasn’t having an affair, nothing like that. He didn’t consider it as such, because he loved her. He truly, truly loved her. But he had had sex with someone that worked in the mine he was working in.

And it meant nothing, to him, it meant nothing. But it did.

Because he was tested and diagnosed.

And after her birth, the child was tested and diagnosed.

Her viral load was too high, and it wasn’t caught on time, so the virus passed to the fetus, and stayed there and made a home regardless of all the protocols we had to prevent it, and regardless of all the prophylactic antiretrovirals their midwives and doctors gave her immediately after birth, and all the appointments she had during the first two years of her life to monitor her progress, and regardless of all the pleading and begging and praying.

When their daughter turned two, they confirmed it.

if only he had come clean and told the truth, they would have been able to do more.

If only he had been faithful…

Funny thing is, she had her own definition of fidelity… To her, fidelity meant loyalty. She was faithful to her husband by caring for his body and soothing his mind.

And he hadn’t extended the same respect to her, because when the time came to protect her body and sooth her mind, he chose himself.

And when the time came to protect his daughter’s body and soothe her mind, he still chose himself.

“He gave our daughter a life sentence just so he could avoid a fight”, she said, then she smiled at her, and came back to me. “You can ask. Everyone does”

I looked at my boss and she nodded.

“Why did you stay?”

She sighed. And then she told me about how much she had hated him, and how much he had resented him, and how she felt like she was being stabbed every time she saw him. And then she told me about the small pharmacy he built in the house so his daughter could learn about the importance of taking her meds while playing, and how he educated the entire family and kicked out everyone who showed the slightest reticence to be around her, and how they would play doctor and all consultations would be HIV controls, like the ones she had every week, and her mom and dad had every month, just so she could stop fearing and dreading something that had to become a part of her everyday.

“Nothing I say, and nothing I do, will cause him more pain than looking at her child while she’s living with this illness we caused her. When she got her diagnosis, he wanted to die. He was ready to do kill himself, and if I had taken my child and left him no one could have blamed me. But I am faithful to the people I love, and I love him. That’s my flaw. I will force him to come to his medical appointments so he can care for his body even when he doesn’t want to, and I will soothe his mind when I find him crying outside her bedroom door because guilt and the pain won’t let him sleep.”

Fidelity is important because dishonouring it condemned a family to a life they didn’t choose. And Fidelity is important because honouring it kept a man’s guilt, a woman’s hate, and a child’s diagnosis from consuming their lives.

The problem is, fidelity means something different to everyone, but ever since she told me this story, I’ve been using her definition: To be faithful is to care, to soothe, and protect the mind and the body of those you love.

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