For almost an hour, she kept staring at her phone. Her chest heaving heavily as she breathed. She sat there on the chair, dumb to the bones and deaf to the world. Yet, her mind was loaded with thoughts.
She hadn’t called Anita because she did not want to be told to stop being unnecessarily worried. She had lied to Louis that she needed to share some information with Anita; whose line was not reachable. Her son-in-law had replied that Anita was in good health but tired and resting. Probably, she had switched off her phone so she could enjoy her sleep. He had sounded quite assuring.
As she sat still, looking at her phone, considering her options; to call Annie or not to, to pay them an ‘over abused’ impromptu visit or…
Her phone rang.
Dear Lord! Annie!
She said aloud as she accepted the call, her red eyes looking troubled.
Annie! How is it? Your husband said you were feeling tired? I ehm…I was just…
Anita’s voice came up loud and lively;
Haaa! Maami! It is well. I am fine. We went grocery shopping, so…maybe the traffic, you know now… I’m fine and I’ll always be.
All glory is God’s. My Lord! I know you’ll be fine. Just tell me if there’s anything I can do. She replies cheerily.
Maami! It is well. I need nothing. I know you’ve surely worried your heart out. Worry is the last thing that godly heart of yours deserves. Don’t you worry no more…Her mother cuts in;
You’re right. It is well my Lord.
To Mama Anita, God was God, The Almighty and her three children were Lords.
As she said those words, she knews she was not being truthful to herself. Annie is not right. And for truth’s sake, nothing is well. How can she ever believe that everything is well? As long as Annie suffers from the sickle cell disorder, nothing is well.
What is wellness? Birthing a sickler child or seeing her suffer through every episodes of pain? Is it her marriage which is denying her the first hand monitoring and care giving that is well, or the fact that marriage leads to procreation.
A child is the proceed of every marriage they say. Every mother, mother-in-law, in fact, everybody expects a child as soon as deliverable. Not in her case. She dreads the moment she would be told Anita is pregnant. Poor Anita! What would she do? The fatigue and discomforts of pregnancy. Ha! What does a 21 year old know about coping with husband’s family? Who can care for a child like it’s mother?
As she asks herself these questions, her soul replies with more dreadful others. She is completely overwhelmed by these thoughts.
A burning smell which had enveloped the room jolted her back to her senses as her thoughts abruptly returns to the very present.
Her kettle must have boiled the water until it started getting itself burnt. She reasoned as she hurried to the kitchen speaking aloud for the first time since the call.
Not so soon… Annie! You can’t be pregnant!
****A week Later****
She was wrong. Annie was 6 weeks pregnant. Louis had called to tell her Annie was admitted at the Angelic Home; a gynecologist specialist hospital in their city. She had not inquired further as she was sure it was Annie’s first crises in her matrimonial home.
She had insisted on meeting with the Doctor in charge of Anita’s case. From their discussion, she had discovered the dreaded tale with her own ears.
“There is nothing serious or new” the doctor explained. “As you might have known, pregnancy especially in early stages can make some women less active, needing to sleep more often and being too relaxed. You know her sickle condition is sensitive to inactivity. This very crisis is triggered by the inactivity. But we’re managing the situation well. She would be fine. She only needs to be under constant medical observation and care. Everything is under control” said the doctor had explained.
She continuously shook her head in a manner that said ‘I understand’ while the doctor spoke. She really understood him, even to the extent of which he hadn’t spoken. One of the wizardry of being a sickler’s mother is that you understand the doctor’s words easier than expected.
She stepped into Anita’s ward, a private one specially requested by her husband, it was small, sparsely lit, well ventilated and hidden from the busy hallway of the hospital. Anita needed this peace. Whenever she was in crises, a beep doubled her woes and no door must creek. “I pray the doctors are the best” mama Anita muttered to herself. She observed her daughter then planted a kiss on her head.
Anita who was facing the wall turned her head to face her mother as she coolly said:
Maami! It is well. I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you would be sick with worries..hunnn
Anita made a throaty groan as she felt the ringing in her knee becoming more pronounced. Her mother stiffened, looking at Anita’s elbow while holding her fingers.
Maami! I am fine! And I will be fine. I am trusting on God the Creator. I only need you to be strong…hmmn?
She smiles as she continues;
This pain is not something that would last forever. Maami! You know this.
Yes, I do my Lord!
Her mother was saying rather too fast. Anita smiled as she pressed the nurse-call button on the wall. A piercing voice answered from the other end;
Yes Mrs. Andrew? Are you alright.
“I was wondering if the time is right to take another dose. My knee rings so so…”
“…badly.” Her mother completes the sentence.
She knew just how bad the ringing could be. It was the kind that kept Anita begging for death and made her heart plead to take Anita’s pain on her behalf. What surprised her was the level of control her daughter was either feigning or having. She had said she would be fine. Maybe she was right after all. Mama Anita resigned.
While Mama Anita was carried away in thoughts, the nurse had replied. She promised to check the doctor’s instructions and do the needful.
Few minutes later, almost like a ghost, a nurse walks in, neither her strides nor her steps made a sound.
“Your doctor says we should keep you on the iv fluid. Your next dose of painkiller is due in two hours time. But if you think the pain is unbearable, she says to give you a suppository.”
Anita calmly requested for the suppository which she insisted on inserting herself. Before long, she was sleeping like a baby. Her mother roamed her eyes all over her, pulling the beads of her rosary one after the other as she slowly recited some inaudible words.
****Five Months Later****
“Maami! I’m sorry to say…but you seem more like the problem than Annie! She’s a married adult for crying out loud! How long will it take you to realise this? You’ve labored on her since childhood as though the world…”
Mama Anita sat upright, looking at her son straight in the eyes even as her expression remained unchanged.
“... well I’m sorry Maami. But you need to stop worrying so much” Alfred said. “We love you, I mean; we need you.”
He continued “It was her decision to get married at 21…and it is not your doing she got pregnant despite their awareness of her condition. But…well.. She’s got a new family now. And thank God her husband’s people are good. Maami! Please spare some time for us.”
Alfred concluded as he searched aimlessly with his hand for an imaginary lost item on the sofa.
Mama Anita had been listening as Alfred pleaded. She raised her cup to her mouth, gulping down her tea.
Alfred The man! You have always acted like the brother I never had. She begins slowly and imploringly.
I appreciate you just like I do, Harry and Anita your only sister.
She paused to refill her tea cup from the flask before resuming;
You see! As a mother I love you all and no sacrifice I can ever make will be enough for your Lordships’ sake.
That word again! ‘Lordship’ his mother is the only woman he knows who refers to her children as Lords! He smiled as he remembered how indulging and influential that appellation had been in their growing up years. But his mother was speaking and she needed his full attention.
It is not Annie’s fault that she was born as a sickler. It could have been you or Harry!
Myself and your father; God bless his soul were too in love to listen to advice. It was not as though we were ignorant of these issues and what may go wrong. In fact, we were aware, but we believed that love conquered all.
Though we were blessed to have you both, our wish to have a girl-child prompted us to seek one more child. Neither you nor Harry have the trait but here is our poor Anita bearing the brunt of fate.
Tears began to form in her eyes as she wriggled her fingers.
What should a mother do? It is not Anita’s fault either that she insisted on marriage. She was in love, Louis is a great man. Dear son! Would you have married a girl knowing the consequences of her sickle cell condition? Be sincere!
Alfred looked sober to hear his mother narrate a tale of love and pain which he already knew.
His mother continues “Child bearing is not a bad thing after all. Both Louis and Annie deserves a child. It would not be bad if I became a grandmother too. I can’t wait forever for you and your wife who are both healthy yet preventing a child for enjoyment’s sake.”
He was saying but his mother won’t permit the intrusion.
Don’t Maami Mi! Just as I have not interfered in your decisions, I can’t question Annie’s too. Being sickle cellshouldn’t mean being deprived of your adult rights. So?
She stops talking, rubs her palms together then resumes;
“Now she is in her last trimester. Though the journey has not been easy with three crises session within five months, a chronic anaemia that is being managed and symptoms of high blood pressure that just surfaced last week, do you expect me to leave her at the mercy of others? You expect your mother to spend the weekends at your place while your sister is languishing in a painful sentence? No good mother does that. If I have stood by her nights and day since her infancy when she was diagnosed with the sickle cell disorder, now is not the time to let her be an ‘adult’ simply because she’s married.”
“I get to hear the news of Harry’s feats in the national team. I am proud of you both. I really wish to be among the cheering VIPs among the spectators but Annie’s case is more pressing. “
“You speak with Harry and explain to him in a manner he would understand. I will do same too. I love you boys! Just as I love your sister too but she is indeed suffering…”
She breaks down in tears as Alfred knelt beside her. He held her hands and wiped her streaming tears with the back of his hand.
“Maami! We love you. Please don’t cry. I’m sorry we bother you so much by seeking more attention. I do understand you Maami, our love for you makes us seek more attention. Please forgive us.” Alfred said softly. “We love you, we love Annie and we would do anything to help her. Please be strong for us, for Annie. Please cry no more. I am sure everything will be alright.”
****Two Months Later****
Ma! Ehm..ehm ehn ehn..
Louis began as the impatient mother urged him to speak up.
“Please talk! When did you start stammering? How’s Annie? What? Tell me! What is wrong with Victor?”
Louis’ sweat had mixed so well with his tears that it was difficult to tell which was what.
He was shaky all over as he effortlessly avoided his mother-in-law’s eyes.
“Ma! Victor is fine. The doctor! The Doctor says…Victor is Victor…no Victor is fine I…”
He turned his back to the visibly alarmed woman and made to take a step when Mama Anita’s strong grip took hold of his collar. She was screaming, looking insane and out of the world. The grip had began to choke him.
“Ochay.” He manages to say as the woman loosened her hold of him. He slipped to the floor looking perplexed as he burst in a narrative wailing.
“The Doctor…mother …the doctor… said Annie’s heart her… heart… Annie’s heart suffered a failure. And.. and they tried but…they tried he said, but her heart despite the monitoring and intensive care couldn’t survive the rigours. The rigours of labour. Annie is no mooooooore.”
He screamed as his voice echoed throughout the hospital building.
Anniiiiiiiiiiiii! Mama Anita calls.
Mama Anita’s strength failed her as she slumped on Louis who was already seated on the bare cold floor of the ward.
Written by Kaffi Adenike Bushrah