He was 24 and I was 22, we had been engaged for 2 years. I left my Ms degree to join him for his PhD, holding his hand in marriage to face the challenges of life together.
Challenges of love
The first year of our marriage started with bumpy student life of my husband's PhD. His supervisor professor left him and now he had to do everything on his own, continue his research and look for a new professor and also support his family.
In the beginning, I started looking for work but soon I got pregnant and the pregnancy came with nightmares of its own. The pregnancy started with me having chickenpox. I had to go through several tests to find out if the infection had effects on the baby. By the grace of God, our baby was well but I suffered from pre-eclampsia and required hospitalization.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects some pregnant women. Signs of pre-eclampsia include having high blood pressure (hypertension) and protein in your urine (proteinuria). The condition can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby if it's not monitored and treated.
In my case, the condition kept getting worse and I had to go under an emergency cesarean and gave birth to a premature baby girl just at 27 weeks. Our tiny baby weighed 1kg. She was in the neonatal unit for months. Bringing the tiny baby home was another challenge.
Meanwhile, the social media Facebook and Instagram were flashing with friends and colleagues getting married to well-settled husbands. Showing off their picture-perfect love lives with a new couple picture every day and elaborated Valentine's days and occasional surprises.
Being different is never easy in this fake social media world. I had nothing to share. I had been through some challenging times during pregnancy and looking after a premature baby was no fun and games either but I was contented at heart.
Where I found it
As a young girl, I was also looking for those love-filled fantasies but I found love in a very different place.
I found it in our struggles together. When we took turns to look after our tiny baby. When we went together on all her appointments and found she was doing well.
When I travelled back home alone to live with my husband's parents so that he could concentrate on his studies. I found love in the emails he wrote to me while we were apart. Then he finished his PhD and we got back together again.
The struggles did not end neither did our love
In the early years of our marriage, we lost two tiny babies before they were born. Later I was diagnosed with Lupus.
Lupus is a long-term condition that causes joint pain, skin rashes and tiredness. There's no cure for lupus. It is an autoimmune disease. This means the body's natural defence system (immune system) attacks healthy parts of your body.
With years that followed, I had several lupus flares, a stroke, a hip replacement, and an ASD closure. I prefer not to go in detail of these because they do not define my life, me, or my relationship.
What defines us is that we were never alone in our ordeal.
No matter what hardships came in our lives we were there for each other and that is exactly what love is all about.
Now as we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this year with our 2 beautiful kids I look at our life spent together like a dream worth living.
“Those who overcome great challenges will be changed, and often in unexpected ways. For our struggles enter our lives as unwelcome guests, but they bring valuable gifts. And once the pain subsides, the gifts remain. These gifts are life's true treasures, bought at great price, but cannot be acquired in any other way.”
― Steve Goodier