What do you say to a married couple of the AS genotype, yet none of their four children is SS? Congratulations; you are lucky; God is faithful; you took a risk; and more.

Well, if you say either of them, you are in order. The couple is me and my wife Jane. Our bid to marry 18 years ago was almost marred because we are both AS.

“You are likely to get sickle cell children, relations told Jane.

That would be traumatic for you, and your husband can abandon you. Remember what happened to your aunty. A sickle cell child caused the break up of her marriage.”

This counsel almost stopped our marriage. But we dared the genotype odd and married; trusted God not to give us any sickle cell child. God honoured our faith with four healthy children. For this blessing, we are eternally grateful to almighty God, the author and finisher of our faith. How did it happen? This is our story.

Shortly after I proposed marriage, Jane asked me: “What is your genotype? The question threw me off balance because I never expected it.

“Well, I don’t really know,” I replied hesitantly. “I will have to do a blood test to confirm. I did one many years ago, in college, and I can’t really remember the result.”

She noticed my hesitation and advised me to do it quickly.

Her apprehension worried me.  “What is the big deal about genotype,” I charged. “The important thing is that I love you and I want to marry you. That is what matters to me. Any other issue is secondary.”

“You have a point there, Eric,” she countered. Twenty years ago, love was the sole determinant for a solid marriage. No longer. Times have changed, and intending marriage partners now have to consider other matters. In today’s marriage, love is not the only issue at stake. Genotype, blood group, and HIV status come in.”

Her apprehension disturbed me. Why should genotype compatibility arise? I had a vague understanding of genotype from my study of Biology in college, but I never thought it was a big deal in marriage relationships.

It was obvious Jane understood genotype and its implications for marriage. That may be the reason for her apprehension. I had to understand too, else we may break up.

“She can go to her hell, for all I care. Maybe she has another lover and is now using genotype as an exit strategy from our relationship,” I thought.

“Don’t be so macho,” Eric, another thought popped up.

“Swallow your pride. Probe her for explanations. She may even have a real live story to back up her apprehension.”

“So what is your genotype?” I asked her. “AS” she replied.

“And what does that mean to our relationship if the test shows I am AA or AS?  I know I am not a sickle cell person,” I countered.

Jane explained: “If you are AA, then there is zero possibility of our having a sickle cell child. But if you are AS like me, there is chance of a sickle cell child. And this can cause emotional traumas for us and possible break-up of our marriage.”

“My aunty (junior sister of my dad) is a victim of the genotype interplay. She had three sickle cell children for her husband. It generated a chain of conflicts that led to their separation. She has since returned to our family house causing plenty of friction with my mom and other married women in the family. My dad is not happy about this and has advised the single girls in our family to find out the genotypes of our fiancés to avoid heartbreak”

“Is that so?” I muttered. “Now I understand. I will do the genotype test.”

I did. Behold, the result showed AS. I called Jane to break the news on phone. She was silent. “Are you there?” I bellowed through the line.

“Ye-e-e-es. Her broken voice betrayed her fears. I did not give up. I had to re-assure her of my determination to marry her.

“Where is your faith? I queried. “God will not give us any sickle cell child. My bible tells me in Proverbs that: “He finds who finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains the favour of the Lord.” Another scripture also tells me that: “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and adds no sorrow to it. With these divine promises we cannot have sickle cell children.”

I told Jane that as a born again Christian, she should believe God’s word and hang on to His promises.

My confidence in God’s word lifted her spirit. She asked me to break the news to her parents who were also apprehensive. When I told her mom, she bowed her in silence for a few minutes, and then spoke softly. “Eric, please put it in prayers.” I assured her I would.

But Jane was under pressure to pull out because I am AS. At a stage I gave her an ultimatum to make up her mind on the marriage or I will pull out. She travelled from her base in Jos, North- Central Nigeria, to Lagos , South – West Nigeria to douse her family’s apprehension.  She enlisted the help of her elder sister, a gynaecologist, who extracted assurances from me that I will not abandon Jane in the event of our having any sickle cell child.

My position all through was this: God will not give us any sickle cell child. I am confident of His promises. And God honoured our faith.

On November 30, 1991 , we wedded. Shortly after, Jane became pregnant. I did not take chances. Several times, through the duration of the pregnancy, I laid my hands on her protruding tummy, declaring God’s promises concerning us and decreeing that the genotype of the unborn baby is AA.

Our first baby arrived, August 1, 1992 , a boy. We named him Chidubem, an Igbo name in Nigeria which means, God is leading me. His genotype is AA. Jane got pregnant again, and I did the laying of hands again.  Our second boy arrived two years later. We named him, Chibuzor, meaning God is in front. He is AA. Five years later, another pregnancy and laying of hands, we had a third boy. We named him Chikaodinaka, meaning, he is in God’s hands. Chika is AA.

Great victory. We celebrate the boys and their genotypes always, glorifying God. We have given testimonies in many churches in Lagos, Nigeria, to encourage other couples facing marital challenges.  Friends advised us to stop having more children.

But I desired a daughter. My wife disagreed, still afraid of an SS child, saying she is content with our three AA boys. Again, friends said we should not try God.

I convinced her. We prayed fervently for a baby girl but I forgot to lay hands during the pregnancy. Five years after the last boy, a beautiful baby girl arrived. We named her Kamsiyochukwu, meaning God has answered our prayers. Kamsi is AS. Wow! We roared in joy. Three AA boys, and one AS girl. Our gratitude to God  is immeasurable.

Whenever Jane and I count our blessings, the genotype of our children come tops.

Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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