Brandi Gilkes (Picture by Dominique Bonnett.)
When it comes to strong and resilient women, Brandi Gilkes is up there with the best of them. The fashion designer, in her mid-20s, has been through the unimaginable at a very young age, but she has always come out of her situations stronger, with a testimony to tell.
Gilkes, the owner of the clothing line Iman Estie, describes herself as “a very loving, caring and chill person”. And upon meeting her, those qualities are evident. Her smile is breathtaking, perhaps masking the pain that she has gone through in the last few years.
In the first half of 2013 Brandi was at her happiest. She had met the man of her dreams, Che Gilkes, and was preparing to marry him.
“We got married May 2014. So many people were, like, “Don’t do it . . . . You’re too young and so on, but I prayed about it and the entire thing was beautiful. I told God, ‘If this is the man I’m supposed to marry, show me’. I told God he knows I don’t have the finances to have everything I would like, but if this marriage is of Him, He would make it happen. And as God is my witness, the only thing we ended up paying for was his suit.
“The blessings starting flying in and we really couldn’t believe it. God showed up and showed off. I was blessed so much that I blessed people back with some of the money we got at the wedding,” Brandi recalled.
The start of the marriage was beautiful, but the honeymoon phase didn’t last very long for the happy couple. They were ready to live life and enjoy all that came along with being newlyweds. So much so that they were sure they were not ready to have children anytime soon. However, the beginning of Brandi’s troubles, and by extension her husband’s, started mere months later.
“We had a great honeymoon. Then unfortunately a few months after, the miscarriages started happening. We got married in May and then the first one came in October.”
“We have to be so mindful with words. When we first got married we were, like, we don’t want any children, we just want to enjoy each other in every way possible. We said for the first few years we would just build and get them after. I would always be, like, ‘Nah, we aint ‘bout that. We don’t want no children’. We always scoffed at people when they told us that we would soon get children and I would say, ‘Not my womb . . . .’, not realising that I was actually cursing myself,” Brandi said.
After the first miscarriage, Brandi said there was little emotion. But when the second one happened two months later, it rocked her world.
“. . . . It really hit me then. Even though I wasn’t mentally, emotionally and physically ready for children, the thought of losing the second child was hard. I wanted to know why it was happening to me and I was, like, I can’t go through this again. I cried and cried,” she recalled.
And just as she had gotten over that second one, the third one came, this time a near-death experience that Brandi said she would carry with her for the rest of her life.
“It happened in July 2015. I was feeling different and I took a pregnancy test. I saw two lines and I grabbed the test and ran to my husband and showed him. We took about six other tests just to confirm. We went to the doctor to further confirm it. Then I started spotting. I knew something was wrong. When the OBGYN did the ultrasound he said he wasn’t seeing the baby. I’ve never seen a doctor so worried. I had to go to the hospital right away. The baby was in my right fallopian tube. They said had I not got to the hospital at that time that I would have bled to death from internal bleeding,” Brandi said, while pausing to take a breath.
Sitting curled up on her couch in her St George home for the duration of the interview, the very bubbly young woman said what transpired in the coming weeks was a trying and emotional time for her entire family and said she knew they wouldn’t have got through it if they didn’t have each other.
“My husband couldn’t take it at all. Last time I saw him before the surgery he was crying and he left. When I woke up from surgery my family was there for me. Six weeks later I was back in the hospital. I had gone back to work the Thursday and the Saturday morning I started spotting. I told my husband I had to go back to the hospital.
“He told me just go home and relax because it was probably from the surgery. In the end we went to the hospital. We went to A&E and the nurse told me to go pass the urine sample. I did that. My husband took the sample back to the nurse, and then he came back and told me I was pregnant. I told him that made absolutely no sense.”
“I was admitted. One night I had to go to the bathroom. I remember sitting down and my stomach cramping. Pieces of the baby started to come out. I went out to the nurse screaming. She told me I had to get on the labour ward immediately. When I finally got on the labour ward, when he saw the mass again, he realised it was another pregnancy. So the time before I would have been pregnant with two babies. They took out the one in my tube but missed the other one,” she said.
Brandi said it was at this time she started to break down after everything started to take a toll on her. She said it felt like it was too much to bear.
“The hardest part for that fourth loss was when the doctor told me I’m going through another miscarriage. At the same time, another doctor was congratulating another lady, telling her it was a boy. That was tough. When they wheeled me out I told the same lady congrats because I could see how happy she was,” she recalled.
“At the time I just was, like, this is too much for anyone to go through, especially at such a young age. I feel like I always have to encounter the worst. I feel like Job. Every single time I take two steps forward I get hit ten steps back.”
Again, Brandi had to start building her life all over again and regaining her strength and trying her hardest to remain sane. But in July 2016, the unthinkable happened – a feeling that by now was all too familiar.
Another miscarriage, making it her fifth. This one she said was the one that rocked her marriage to a point where she thought it was over.
“That last time it was most hardest because the baby was due on my birthday in June. My husband’s birthday is the day after mine. So we were really looking forward to it. My husband was in so much shock when we left the doctor that when we got in the car my husband was asking me if the baby was good. I don’t know where his mind went because the doctor had just told us that we lost another baby.
“From there it was a quiet car ride home. As much as I didn’t want to admit it at first, I had to finally come to grips with the fact that all the miscarriages were starting to take a toll on the marriage. We started to drift apart. We got distracted and a lot of foolishness started to happen. We left too many cracks open. At one point I thought my marriage was over. We were living in the same space but were more like roommates than lovers. I thought he didn’t understand the pain I was going through, not realising that as a man he was battling with it in his own way,” Brandi openly stated.
However, the young couple fought for their love and through prayer and counselling, they are even stronger today.
“We realised we had to do it together. We realised that we needed each other. It’s not perfect but we are much better. I would never allow anybody or anything to ever come between us again,” she said.
Brandi told EASY it’s been almost an entire year they haven’t been pregnant and life was good for them. But she has not given up hope that she and her husband would one day be parents.
“Whenever God is ready He will send one. We are not going out of our way to get pregnant but we aren’t stopping it either and I know one day I will carry my baby full term. I know it’s going to happen. I still have crazy faith,” she said.
Brandi said if it wasn’t for her strong Christian faith she probably wouldn’t be here today to share her story.
“All I can ever say is but God! God gets me through this. There is a song by Travis Greene called You Made A Way and that gets me through the rough days. I know I have to remain positive through it all. Women from all around the world who have heard my story would ask me how I remain so strong and I’m glad that I can share and help encourage other ladies through their rough time. I know I went through what I went through for a greater purpose,” Brandi added. (DB)