One look at the stick, and Tessa’s heart flipped several times. She felt as if she was mull kicked in the gut; she was instantly nauseous and fought hard to hold down the breakfast she had not too long ago. How could this be happening to her? She tried to clear the fog in her head and think clearly. To think of the next line of action now that the stick she was looking at had double lines.
Tessa wasn’t crying, but she felt this overwhelming tightness in her throat that almost choked her. She desperately wished it was a nightmare that would end as soon as she opened her eyes. She pinched herself several times to be certain it was happening and that she was not dreaming. This was her first semester at the University. How will she explain to her parents and to everyone that cared to listen that she only did it once? That she did it out of curiosity because she had heard so much about it from friends and wanted to explore it. She wanted to be a part of the moving train and didn’t want to be left behind because she felt as though she was the only girl in the university who was yet to do it and it made her feel odd.
She met Dede barely two months after she resumed school, and they kicked it off instantly. Just four months in school and she was holding the stick that would steer the course of her life in what direction? She couldn’t tell.
Dede came around to see her at noon and she told him about the pregnancy. He knew he was responsible and didn’t try to deny the glaring fact. But he felt that at 19 years, he was too young to be a father and she, at 17 years might not even survive the woes that come with childbirth. The only option was to “flush it”. It was barely a month old and was not yet a human being and it should be flushed out before it eventually became a human being.
They agreed she would find out the cost of the abortion, and Dede would give her part of the money; she would complete whatever was left with her money and go for it. Her conscience kept judging her; she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She kept contemplating for over a week and had finally resolved to just do it so that she would get it done with and face her studies. A sigh came from her broken heart, a sigh filled with fear about what was coming grew with every passing hour, every passing day and so was the baby inside her womb.
She was on her way to the clinic to make inquiries when she passed by a book stand and a book caught her attention. She moved closer and picked it up to take a closer look at it. The title was The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. Out of curiosity, she purchased the book. She read the first page and found it intriguing and turned round and went back to the hostel to read the book. The desire to eat or do anything else faded as soon as she started reading the book.
Her roommate, Dona returned from lectures in the afternoon and noticed how Tessa was engrossed with the book but refrained from asking since Tessa had built an impenetrable wall around her for the past few days, and Dona had decided to keep her distance.
When Dona woke up in the morning, she met a smiling Tessa, “Good morning, Dona. Sorry for my behavior lately.”
A bewildered Dona could only stare. She was awed at the instant transformation.
“I think I have found the solution to my problem,” An elated Tessa told Dona.
“Where? What problem?”
“In the book I started reading yesterday morning right into this morning”
“What was the book about?” Dona asked, still not sure what Tessa was talking about
“The book centers on unwanted pregnancy and abortion. The character Dynah, a young Bible college student got pregnant when she was raped. Family and friends wanted her to abort, even her fiancé. Her school threatened to expel her unless she looked for a way of getting rid of the pregnancy. She later got to know that her mother, too, had an abortion before conceiving her and even her grandmother. She resolved to have her baby come what may because every child is a gift and has a purpose in life. The circumstances of conception might be wrong, but the child is innocent.”
Dona listened raptly as Tessa told her about the book.
“I want to keep my baby too, Dona”
That was how Dona who had no idea Tessa was pregnant got to know about Tessa’s predicament.
Dede did not want to have anything to do with neither the baby nor Tessa. He turned to a complete stranger overnight one Tessa didn’t recognise at all and Tessa was left to fight the battle alone. She summoned courage and told her parents about the pregnancy and they were very disappointed. Her father threatened to disown her for bringing such humiliation to the family, but her mother pleaded and stood by her until she had her son. It was strenuous combining school, pregnancy, plus blows thrown at her from her course mates through words that made her lose her self-esteem. Almost everyone thought she was foolish for accepting to have a child out of wedlock and at such a tender age when she could simply “flush it out” and concentrate on her studies.
The arrangement she had with her parents was for her to give up the child for adoption as soon as she was delivered of the child. She fell in love with the baby who was dark-skinned, weighed 3.5kg with a head filled with the blackest hair she had ever seen, the moment she had him. She just couldn’t give him up just like that.
Thankfully, her parents and sibling assisted her and she was able to still have her law degree and attended law school as a single mother. Her son, Vinci became the centre of her being and was the catalyst that made her want to be a better person in life. She didn’t want to disappoint her parents again and wanted her son to be proud of her.
She was so busy putting her life together that she didn’t notice when days morphed into months and months into years. Her 22-year-old son who had just graduated as one of the best graduating students from law school had been assisting his mother in her law firm. 39-year-old Tessa was doing very well too. She had relocated her aged parents to the USA and had decided a long time ago that she might not marry at all. She was yet to recover from the betrayal of Dede 21 years ago. She had not set her eyes on him since after graduation and don’t care. Dede’s betrayal was a jagged wound that will never heal.
She would forever remain grateful for stumbling on the book The Atonement Child, and at the right time, which had changed the story of her life. She wouldn’t have been the proud mother of one of the smartest lawyers in the country who had done nothing but made her smile ever since she decided to keep him.
Apart from being a lawyer, Tessa was also a pro-life activist who through her NGO had advocated for “unwanted babies” by encouraging young people not to abort unplanned pregnancies, and had also encouraged them to abstain from pre-marital sex; to focus on their studies and make some positive impact in the society.
Roselyn Sho – Olajide works with an Audit Firm in Jos, Plateau State. She loves reading and writing and can be reached via email@example.com