Of the many things she felt when the midwife handed her the baby, love was not among them.
Anyone could tell by the strokes of indifference painted on Adaeze’s face or the reluctance in receiving the water-coated prize she had just shot out.
The midwife told her that her unusual unhappiness could be due to Postpartum depression.
“It occurs in some women after labor,” she’d said, “but in two to six weeks or so you should be better.”
Adaeze didn’t care what medical issue it was called; all she knew was that the problem was not her but the “thing” that came out of her.
If the midwife wasn’t so short she would have looked just like Adaeze’s mother — the long arms that quivered like a polybag that contained only groundnut oil. She was beautiful, dark tanned with brown hairs that seemed like a short waterfall on her head. Adaeze could guess she was in her late thirties. And unlike other midwives, she didn’t try to advise her to resist opening her 17-year-old legs to men next time — if there would even be a next time. Unlike the nurses that came by, the look of so-you’ve-started-doing-what-adults-do-in-secret wasn’t shining from her countenance. The midwife was more concerned about Adaeze’s recovery. Adaeze’s daughter, Kachi, didn’t even come out normally. The Caesarean section had left marks on her previously immaculate belly.
At night, Kachi’s cry would wake up the other patients in nearby wards but when the nurses rushed into her ward, they would find her staring with intense focus at the ceiling as though someone up there was telling her the exact sequence of numbers she must play to win an american lottery.
Sometimes, her round left breast would be hanging outside while the head of her child would be tilted down crying and trying to grasp what she so craved for.
Some nurses called her a heartless witch. The more religious ones gave her sermons on how children are gifts from God and should be valued.
Adaeze could only stare at them because there wasn’t any other thing to do. Although there was light, to her surprise, the television in front of her was never turned on — she wondered if it got spoiled the very day it was mounted on the wall.
Every day in the clinic was as white as the wall. She wondered if a prison cell with inmates would even be less monotonous.
The day she was discharged, she could only think of joy, freedom and a perfect time to get rid of her two-eyed nuisance.
When she got to her compound, the young children just looked at her wrinkled, sun-slapped face. Her countenance somehow spoke to them: lips, be sealed!
And it came to pass.
Bisi, the youngest girl, however, summoned the courage to do the needful.
“G-good afternoon, ma.”
Adaeze gave a weak nod as she walked past as though a cast encased her neck.
She went into the dark corridor. Her room door was the third one by the left row — the one that had the Me-I-no-go-suffer-I-no-go-beg-for-food sticker from her church.
Her netted door creaked open in bits like the sound a mini generator would make as it draws up the last drops of fuel.
She used her right foot to hold the netted door in position as she searched for the key to the main door in her handbag. The baby in white shawl on her back moaned and Adaeze bounced gingerly on her left leg to pacify the child. She found the key and in a few seconds, she pushed in while the net returned to its initial position with a slam.
She wondered where the dust that had dominated her plastic chair came from — she was away for just a few days.
The baby released a peculiar screech that irked Adaeze.
“You better behave yourself,” she raises her palm, “unless I will slap you.”
She loosened up the shawl from the baby and dropped her carefully on the bed. She searched her bag. The bottle.
It contained just a little breast milk in it — what remained since 4am.
She stuffs it in Kachi’s mouth. Kachi spits it out, gearing up her cry.
“What is the matter with you?!” Adaeze yells, making the child cry loudest.
“Why are you such a…”
Adaeze wanted to say “child” but stopped her lips because that was obvious already.
The cry pulled at the ears of resting neighbors — the crowd she dreaded.
“Ahn ah… student, which time you come born?” Pa Adeleke, the landlord’s brother, asked.
“That one is not important, let’s calm the crying child first,” mummy Tolu, from the sixth room on the right, said.
Adaeze knew she was in for disturbance from the neighbors she barely spoke with. Welcome to motherhood.
Adaeze was so lost. Even if she was to start showing love and care to the child, she just didn’t know how to. She had watched a couple of YouTube videos on how omugwo was carried out — what Igbo mother’s or grandmother’s do for their daughter who was just introduced into motherhood. It’s a culture of pampering and providing extensive care for both the first-time mother and her baby for up to three months as the tradition demands.
Adaeze’s mum should have done omugwo for her but she had been hospitalised ever since she heard that her daughter was pregnant before even completing her 100 level. She had a shock as she was asking, “What has my baby engineer done to herself? Nwa agbọghọ a emebiela m. This child has killed me!”
Adaeze loved her mother so much. And she would hate and resist anyone or thing that stressed her mother. Her getting pregnant ruined everything.
She can’t continue her mechanical engineering degree. She can’t host the next Christmas carol in her church this year — how would she do it? Carrying her out-of-wedlock child on the sacred altar? She’d lose her scholarship from a reputable Oil company because she can’t provide a letter from HOD stating that she’s still of sound academic standing when she has not even been in school for nearly seven months.
Worse, she can’t even visit her comatose mother for fear that her mother would completely pass away on seeing her.
Adaeze still loved Daniel — the planter of Kachi. And no matter what people say and how they curse the cause of her mishap, she believes the planted, not the planter is to be blamed. He used protection, she did likewise. This made her conclude that the misfortune had just manipulated the unnatural nature to find expression by all means.
Daniel still called. He still visited. But the frequency of his visits as well as his sweet text had dwindled since five months ago. Exams or IT, he’d said. Adaeze felt another girl had begun to get closer and she could do nothing about it. Daniel was in 400 level petroleum engineering and she felt it would be odd if she, as a mother, followed him around the University of Ibadan campus. Another reason to hate Kachi.
If not for her former roommate and friend, Onyinyechi, Kachi would have never been named, talkless of still breathing air by now.
Adaeze had told Onyinyechi her plans of getting rid of the child and feigning that sickness was a child theft for some days before she resumed whatever remained of her normal life.
Onyinyechi had rebuked the plan stating that it was clearly murder and that God would not be happy about that. Onyinyechi had even offered to take her up to train Kachi herself since Adaeze did not yet value the gift of motherhood. It was then that it dawned on Adaeze that she should act more like a responsible mother.
Three years later…
Daniel had graduated with a first class in petroleum engineering and was probably doing his NYSC, or working with Shell petroleum company or whatever he chose to do with his life.
Mum had recovered and was getting adapted to the reality she never thought she would dream of.
Dad had reversed his disowning her due to the pleadings of a thousand and one kinsmen.
Adaeze got herself a shop — she sold handmade bags alongside pastries; she fried snacks when she’s not actively making bags. She thinks it’s a strategy to attract more customers to see her bags displayed in her shop. And it seemed to work for her.
Kachi, the compound’s most playful and jovial child, had started nursery school and made some tiny friends.
Adaeze saw her reflection in Kachi’s face. She was as dark as Daniel and possessed his tiny nose and joviality. Kachi’s eyes, hairy skin, slenderness and thin lips belonged to her.
Kachi was a wonderful girl, and no matter how her mother tried to be indifferent to her, she still embraced and loved her mother — innocent child, what does she know? This softened Adaeze’s heart and she had grown to embrace the very one that is hers. They worked together in the shop. Adaeze would be adding a bead-designed finish to her bags while Kachi jumped at every fallen bead, without waiting for it to stop bouncing, and returned it to her mother.
“Mammy tay,” Kachi would say.
Once again, she would correct her “mummy take,” emphasizing the k sound in “take” so Kachi would pronounce it correctly.
But when Kachi was handing her another fallen bead, she’d still spit out her “mammy tay.”
Their shop was just in front of their house and so Kachi can shuttle from house to shop with the permission of her mom.
Somehow, Adaeze was beginning to like the independent life she was living: making her own money, paying her own bills and taking care of her singular responsibility. She’d taken some business and financial courses and was making plans to scale up her brand. Adaeze had got to the level where she could employ two staff — Abel who is in charge of distribution and delivery of bags and Taiwo who’d assist in the production of more bags. In this way, she scaled her handbag business. During her spare moments, she read financial books, books on parenting and helped Kachi with her homework.
She spoke with mothers like her and she then understood what it meant when she heard other mother’s complain about how much they pumped into diapers alone. If it were to be when she was still in secondary school, she would have burst into an uncontrollable laughter but now that she wears the same shoe that pinches them, she knows better.
Some days, she had to let her employees do it all, especially when she had to take Kachi to the hospital for immunization or medical treatment from a sickness or when she had to visit Kachi during her school’s open day. She’d smile at the scribbles and palm printing with paints and how Kachi draws crooked strokes and circles and all those basics that nursery school encompassed. She often got shot by nostalgia when she heard a person ring the school bell shouting “break over” or whatever accompanied the ringing bell.
Mama was going to visit. Adaeze didn’t expect to hear the words over the phone while she was in another town sourcing for raw materials for her bag production.
“Your father and I are in front of the U.I. first gate. How can we get your location?”
Mama should have told her earlier, like a day or two before.
She would have taken her time to buy some ingredients and transform those ingredients into something that would wow her parent’s taste buds. Her heart pricked her: did she spread her pants on the chair? Was the bed made this morning before she rushed out to take Kachi to school? Had she washed the dishes of yesterday or were they still soaked up in a container of water that had bones sticking up like little brown islands and a sea of red oil droplets afloat on it?
She couldn’t delay her parents; she wondered if they were standing in the sun and how long they did. She had to order an Uber to convey her load, pick up her parents at the same time and get Kachi from school as well. The thought of that plan smelled hectic already.
Dad was impressed by her business accomplishment, and Adaeze perceived it. But as usual, he always hide his emotions; he thinks that’s what makes him a strong man. But mum? She was all over her daughter. Adaeze promised to send them money to pay her younger brother’s WAEC fees as soon as she fully secures the contract she had with a new modelling agency who admired her fancy bags.
“Mama, pray for me, oh!” she gently squeezed her mother’s fingers, “so that village people will not scatter plans ohhh.”
“Nwa m, I am always praying for you and your younger brother, you know both of you are all I have.”
“A’hem,” dad cleared his throat.
“Oh, and I have you too, Obi m,” she quickly added.
Everyone bursted into laughter, including Kachi, who they thought was still fast asleep after her school’s sports day that day. It made mama intensify her laughter.
When mama said Obi m, which in English meant “my heart,” Adaeze remembered the afternoon she and Daniel made Kachi. She remembered his weight on her young chest, she recalled how her heart raced so furiously that she was grateful for her rib cage — a barricade against an escaping heart.
It was a Friday and her parents spent the weekend with her before they left for Anambra state on Sunday morning.
He looked familiar. Kachi, to everyone’s surprise, ran to imprison him within her arms. It was funny because Kachi was conscious of strangers; this one, however, seemed like she had known him all her life.
He had grown solid beards around his dark brown face. His shoulder was wider than an elephant’s ears and his arms were a sturdy construction. He claimed that he wanted to buy handbags for his mother.
Adaeze stared at him.
He stared back.
He paced softly towards her as though he wanted to avoid stepping on broken pieces of glass. And in front of every pair of eyes they grabbed the other and locked lips. It was as though the kissing was their singular oxygen supply, reliving the blazing passion of yesteryears. His cologne was way above the standard of what the Abokis sold. He smelled like a senator.
She could feel his chest — a solid wall with paddings of silky feathers. And he could feel hers, too — the heaven he had missed.
Come inside naughty boy.
“But boys can’t have these,” he fingered his beards.
They both chuckled.
She pulls him inwards as Kachi hops excitedly along with them.
She had never in her wildest dreams thought Daniel would come back for her. Well, somehow Kachi had already welcomed her father even without seeing him.
Dear discerning Holy spirit, teach me what you taught my beloved daughter!
Adaeze prayed silently as she smiled at Kachi.
About the Writer
Ezeadum Sixtus Ebube is a medical student of the University of Ibadan. He’s a lover of creative writings and an active listener who enjoys connecting with people. Sixtus can be reached via his blog at smarterthunder.com