Home Writers Creative Essays Unspoken Lines of Pain by Peace Habila

Unspoken Lines of Pain by Peace Habila



Of the many things she felt when the midwife handed her the baby, love was not among them. At first, it looked like her bones were too exhausted hence difficult for her to throw her hands over the infant but her defiance when the midwife forced her left hand over the baby suggested otherwise.

Resisting their efforts, she threw her face to the right with disgust beaming through her eyes balls. She crossed her legs and hissed each time the hand of the nurse touched her as though she was irritated by the idea of womanhood.

It was difficult to understand, interpret or comprehend this disposition from someone who had waited 10 years for this baby.

Throughout that day, she didn’t say a word to a soul. She kept a long face and getting her to breastfeed the newborn was like a trip to war-torn Ukraine.

But that was the genesis of the untold and unspoken pains.

“Hold that child well”, her mother cautioned and yelled at her on the second day after leaving the hospital .

She had fell asleep after bathing so her mother thought it wise to place the newborn next to his sleeping mother with the hope of igniting the mother-baby bond. It was the wailing of the infant, which if caution wasn’t called to order would have ruptured the infant’s lungs, that drew the attention of her mother who was busy in the kitchen at the time.

Her mother rushed in only to find the baby wailing next to his mother who was fully awake but void of emotions and compassion: she fixed her gaze on the infant and only God could tell the shade of disgust running through her heart at that moment.

As soon as her mother picked the infant to pacify him, she rolled over to the other side of the bed and dozed off.

“Wake up, you need to feed him now, wake up”,

her mother insisted as she poked her shoulder with her left hand while clutching the pacified baby resting on her shoulder and scaffolding him with her right hand.

She sat up grudgingly, ripped the buttons on her loose shirt, pulled out her large breast and redirected her stares at her mother who stood there helplessly. She didn’t say a word but her mother knew exactly what to do to save the day.

“Rest your back against the pillow and close your legs, her mother instructed.

She waited for her to carry out the instructions before placing the baby in her wet bosom occasioned by the breast milk that found its way helplessly down her body as a result of the delay.

When her behaviour didn’t change, her mother intervened by forcing her to allow the baby suckle comfortably.

Her mother dashed out to check the food on the stove only to return to a crying mother and a wailing infant. She pulled the baby away, handed her a piece of clean clothe to change and moved the baby to the sitting room.

She woke up moments later to get a glass of water. She made her way downstairs only to be greeted by friends and well wishers who were waiting for her to wake up from her nap. Out of sheer excitement, a woman started singing and soon other joined as they wagged their tails in excitement. Their song and dance irritated her and though she tried to hide it behind the fake smiles, mama, her mother, figured her out and motioned the women to keep it low.

“Thank you”, she said as she hurried back to the room without getting the glass of water. Mama handed the baby to one of the women and rushed upstairs to save the day, once more.

“Tell them to leave”, she snapped as soon as mama entered the room.

“You need to calm down. This your own is getting out of hand. I had four of you without stressing the whole village. What is this na?”, Mama queried.

The awkward silence that followed seconds later forced mama to sue for peace.

“Do you want pepper soup?”, mama asked.

“Yes, but just a little and a glass of water”, she replied.

“Ok”, mama said as she made her way out.

“Thank you”, she replied lazily.

“Good evening, mama”, her husband greeted mama who was half asleep in the sitting room.

“Welcome, my son! How was work?”, she replied.

“Fine, ma. How is my wife and the baby? , he asked with his eyes glued to mama’s forehead like a child waiting for ice-cream to be served.

“She spoke today”, mama announced.

“Glory, he said tossing his briefcase in the air as he rushed upstairs hoping to meet a pleasant wife.

“Baby, I miss you”, he said as he rushed to plant a kiss on her forehead.

“What are you trying to do?”, She said before bursting into tears.

He was so confused and couldn’t identify his offense. He dashed out of the room without even dropping his briefcase.

“Mama, she is crying and won’t even let me come close”, he announced.

“Don’t worry she will be fine. Some women go through this kind of thing. She will get through it”, mama admonished.

“I want to get a househelp. She was against it all these years but I think she needs one now. I have spoken to the agency to get us an older woman, not a live-in house help”, he added.

“That will be great”, mama replied.

“Let me fix something to eat”, he said as he made his way to the kitchen.

“My bad, I forgot completely, I made palm oil rice. Let me serve you”, she insisted.

As he settled to eat the plate of well garnished palm oil rice, his phone beeped. It was his mother calling from the village. He had not spoken to her in a long while because she had threatened to get him a new wife due to his wife’s inability to conceive but their cold war didn’t stop him from sending monthly allowance and gifts to her. Although it created a rift in his marriage and almost folded up his marriage, deep within, he knew he was in love with both women.

When his wife conceived, he didn’t alert his mother for fear of arousing and dashing her hopes should anything go wrong with the pregnancy. All through the period his wife was pregnant, he didn’t mention a word to her. He decided to send a text message to her the day the bundle of joy arrived, hoping that would grease their already broken relationship.

“My son, congratulations. You know the network in the village is not very good. I just noticed that letter sign hanging on top of my phone. I had to call Ebeh, your cousin, to help me check. He said my phone was full. He removed some letters and then this your own entered. He was even the one that read it first because my reading glasses were not close”, she thundered from the other side of the phone.

“Ok, thank you, mama”, he replied.

“How is my daughter-in-law and the newborn? I called her since but she didn’t pick. Is she still angry with me? Eh, Emma? I was just an old woman who was desperate for a grandchild ”, she added.

“But mama, you said you just read my message. Which one is this you have been calling her since?

“Ok, they are fine”, he replied with a pinch of anger in his voice.

“Ok, send me transport money. I will be on my way tomorrow, first bus”, his mother announced.

“Hold on, mama. I will need to sort some things out before you arrive. In fact, I will send someone to pick you”, he said.

“Ah! You don’t even want me in your house. It has gotten that bad. Oh God! See what they have turned my son into! I will look for my money and come. Chase me when I arrive and prove to the whole world that you didn’t suckle on this breast”, she said in a teary voice.

“Ok, mama. I have heard. I will send the money right away. Go to the POS guy with your card and withdraw. Don’t go there now o. Wait for like 20minutes”, he said.

“Ok, Thank you. See you tomorrow”, she interrupted him and hung up.

After eating, he decided to catch some sleep in the sitting room. When he woke up it was dark and no one was there. He must have slept off the stress of labour runs heaped on his shoulders. The thought of his wife and what she was going through occupied his mind. He kept replaying her emotionless face, her near empty heart, her sensitivity and irritability over and over until sleep snatched him the second time.


When she woke up the next morning, she accused her husband of abandoning her and the baby. Her words were fierce and direct. She didn’t allow him put up a defense before the tears started dropping. He kept apologizing for nothing. When she had saturated her heart with so much pains, she rushed to the bathroom, locked the door and continued sobbing.

Mama rushed in as soon as she heard voices and smelled the stench of tantrums. She picked the baby from the cradle and encouraged him to be strong.

He also didn’t hesitate to thank mama for keeping an eye on the baby throughout the night notwithstanding his wife’s overbearing attitude.

He grabbed a shirt, trouser and few other items, rushed go the other guest room to fix himself up for work.

When he was ready to leave, he dashed into the room to his sobbing wife who was still behind the door of the bathroom.

“Sophia, baby”, he called as he gently tapped the door, hoping she would open for him to plant a kiss on her forehead.

“I’m off to work”, he added before walking out disappointed.

“Emma, eat something before leaving”, mama insisted.

“I don’t have appetite. I will be fine. The househelp will arrive any moment. My mother should join us 5.p.m all things being equal. Thank you so much mama for all you do”, he said before walking out.

When he returned that evening, his mother had arrived and the new househelp was ready to leave. The househelp looked like someone in her late thirties, organized but a little unkempt. He didn’t allow that to bother him much. He was more worried about his wife.

“Welcome, mother”, he greeted bending his head, a demeanor to show honour.

His salutation was greeted by an awkward silence and that threw him off balance.

He rushed upstairs and to his surprise, his wife threw her arms around him and wouldn’t let him go. He felt the wetness of her breast milk on his skin through his shirt. He felt so blessed to share in her pains. As they sat down on the bed to talk, she went on and on narrating how much she has missed him.

It felt so good to have his wife back to her normal state. He looked at her now pale skin and wondered if she needed medical attention. He was careful to ask if she felt any pains. When he eventually summoned the courage to ask, she shared about the sadness lurking in her heart.

It was at that moment that he felt a surge of deep love for her rushing to his forehead.

Then it happened.

She went mute and cold and was twice removed from reality.

Slowly, hopelessness crawled into his heart, once more.

He sat next to her as the awkward silence grew causing pains to both of them. When he couldn’t bear the sight of her wasting away in such manner, he left the room with the intention of calling the family doctor for counsel.

“Emma, we need to talk”, his mother intercepted, motioning him to the kitchen. “Your wife refused to talk to me when I greeted her. She kept looking at me like a Mamiwater. Her mother who feels she knows it all kept covering up for her daughter’s nasty attitude. I warned you not to marry from that tribe and family but you refused. See her eyes na… like a demon. That girl is not normal”, she said while tapping her legs to register her disapproval.

“Ok, mama. I have heard you. I know you never liked my wife. You tied it to our inability to conceive but now we have a child, you should be happy”, he snapped.

“Can’t you see? There is something wrong with your wife”, his mother added.

As his mother’s voice climaxed in teary sound, a shout from the room interrupted them.

The shout was from his wife and it wasn’t a cry for help. It was pure disgust rushing through her throat.

The baby’s nagging cry was piercing her eardrums for that, and in anger, she threw a pillow over the baby’s face. Baby was now gasping for air.

Mama had placed the sleeping baby next to his mother again to ‘bond’. She had just stepped out to pick the towels from the line.

She was gone for only few minutes before the event.

“I told you, she is evil but you won’t believe”, his mother snapped once more with so much determination in her voice as they heard the sad event from a traumatized mother and daughter .

Without saying a word to any of them, he picked the baby whose breathe was already faint and rushed to the car.

Mama followed him, they were joined also by his mother. He however insisted they drag his wife with them. She didn’t say a word or form any resistance to the request to see a doctor.

“Hi, Doctor Kamsi. There is an emergency. We are on our way to the hospital”, he said as he sped off to the hospital.

His mother held on to the baby with all shades of love as she sang melodiously. Mama held onto his wife who was in tears, maybe the song got to her soul.

At the hospital, the two grandmothers stayed with the baby at the Emergency Pediatrics Unit while he dragged his wife to see Dr Kamsi who was already waiting.

After cross-examination, Dr Kamsi squeezed her face and began to write on the blank sheet before her.

When she lifted her head she asked,

“Mr. Emmanuel, did you attend any of your wife’s antenatal sessions”.

“No, it’s for pregnant women. She had insisted I follow her but I didn’t see the need. I’m a busy man”, he answered.

“Has this her condition affected you in any way?”, the doctor asked again .

“Yes, greatly. It has affected my performance at work. I can’t even concentrate. I mean, what’s your point, Doc?”, he asked registering his frustration.

“Well, your wife is going through Post Partum Depression also known as PPD. From what I have heard and seen, hers is acute. Most women go through this after birth but because most experiences are mild, we as a people trivialise it. In extreme cases, it can lead to self harm and harm on the baby. To overcome this, the patient needs a lot of attention and care. It takes two to three weeks for this fatal phase to be over. Although the symptoms may last up to 8months.Don’t panic, it is totally manageable. If you had attended the antenatal with her, this wouldn’t have taken you by surprise”, the doctor explained.

“Wow, I will read about it”, he added.

“You should”, the doctor replied.

“Mrs Emmanuel , you may need to rest on this bed”, the doctor continued as she led her to the examination bed in her office.

“Let me check on them and the baby”, he said as he left the consulting room.

“I pray my baby is alright, he said tossing his hands in the air hoping to relief himself of the hollow feeling in his stomach.







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