A Mother’s silent battles

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The baby’s hysterical cries did not bother Sandra. She sat curled up on the bed, staring blankly into space as her baby wailed and turned.

The consistent cries of the baby jolted Ebuka out of the parlour to the bedroom. He was stupefied as he saw his wife sitting quietly and looking away while their three month old baby cried alone in his cot. He fumed in anger, started to say something at her, but stopped himself. He charged towards the cot instead, scooped the baby in his arms to the siting room. He picked up his phone and dialled his mother’s number, he had to tell her. She picked up at the third ring.

“Mama!” he blurted out angrily. “Can you imagine our baby was crying in the bed and my wife just sat there, she didn’t even touch him”

“Hei! chimoooo, again?!”

“Mama I don tire. To touch and feed her own child is a problem. I’ve even bought formula. Formula when my wife is at home all day and could have being breastfeeding this child”

“Ebuka I warned you not to marry that girl, I warned you”

“Mama I’m just tired, what kind of a mother cannot bond with her new born baby?” he asked rhetorically

“If not for this my leg that is paining me, I would have been there to take care of my grandson myself_”

“Mama don’t worry” Ebuka hissed. “Let me go and make food for him”

“Ndo o? Take it easy my son”

“Thank you mama, bye bye”.

He grabbed the baby swing to the kitchen, placed the crying child into it and began to turn already boiled water into his tommee tippee feeding bottle. He carefully measured six spoonfuls of SMA gold formula and added it into the feeder. He shook the bottle to dissolve the mixture. Turning on the tap, he cooled the bottle under the running water. He shook a few drops unto the inside of his wrist, satisfied with the temperature, he collected the baby from his chair and rocked him in his arms, humming to the wailing kid as he walked back to the sitting room. As soon as he held the feeder to the baby’s mouth, the baby hungrily latched unto it and began to suck fervently. He emptied the bottle in a matter of minutes. Ebuka placed the baby over his shoulders and began to rub his back gently. The baby let out a big belch, to which Ebuka smiled satisfactorily. He rose to his feet and began to stride back and forth, humming rhythms and continuously rubbing the little one’s back. It wasn’t long before the baby drifted off to sleep.

Ebuka strolled back into their bedroom, his wife was sitting in the same position, she hadn’t moved. He eyed her through the corners of his eyes with a scrowl on his face, then he proceeded to carefully placing the sleeping baby back into it’s cot. He made to bang the door loudly behind him then he remembered the sleeping baby and left it ajar instead, that too would vex his wife as she had a peculiar dislike for her door being left open.

“Where did you go to?” he asked the maid as he bumped into her in the hallway.

She bobbed a curtsy to him. “Sorry Sir, I go buy Oil”

“En ehn? well, I’m going out. Keep an eye on Junior. Check his diaper frequently and make sure he does not go hungry you hear?”

“Yes Sir” the maid bobbed both knees.

“I just fed him now, he is sleeping” He said began to make his way out of the sitting room.

“Thank you Sir” The maid called after him.

*****

He sat at the bar, sipping on a chilled bottle of Hero. He watched with disinterest as people trooped in and out of the lounge. He thought about how his life with Sandra had gotten to this point. His mind went back to two years before, when they were just lovers. They had talked about having a family someday and Sandra in particular dreamt of the day she would become a mother. Even while she was pregnant, she shopped endlessly for the expectant child, buying both the things she needed and the ones the baby would probably never use. She was eager and happy, now that the baby was here, she barely wanted anything to do with it.

Ebuka was confused, but he was more angry than every other fretful feeling he felt towards his wife.

He raised a hand beckoning to the Bar tender for another drink, he had downed four bottles of beer in less than an hour, and he wasn’t done yet.

He imagined his wife still sitting in the position he had seen her, he wouldn’t be surprised if he got back home to the same sight.

He hated what his life had become. The birth of a baby brought happiness into the family of other’s but his home was gloomy and filled with unusual calmness. The bartender arrived with his drink, opened and poured it into his glass. He nodded thankfully at him, wondering where next he could go to from there, he really did not want to go back home, but he had to, for the sake of his baby.

He emptied the bottle, payed his bill and feebled to his feet. He clomped towards the door and out of the building, he got into his car which had been parked outside.

***

The maid sat cradling the baby in her arms. Her eyes gazed at the Television screen as Lies Of The Heart played on Zeeworld chanel. “Welcome Sir” she greeted, hastily standing to her feet.

He grunted a response. “How is the baby?”

“He is fine Sir. I give am milk just now now sef, him wan soon start to the sleep”

Ebuka examined his son who was lying peacefully in the maids arms, satisfied, he pressed forward towards his bedroom.

His wife had changed her position, at least. She was lying down now, staring at the ceiling. Her hair was a mess. He wasn’t sure she had brushed it in the past month. Her clothes had stains on them and she oozed of breast milk and dried sweat.

“Are you at least going to have your bath?” He felt repulsed.

She raised her eyes to his face. “Welcome” she said.

“Sandra what is going on with you? ” He had asked her that question several times before.

“I don’t know ” She answered in her usual manner. “I’m just tired”

“Can I take you out? Let’s go and see a movie, get out of here. You like cinema’s, let’s go there or let’s go have ice cream, let’s do something, anything” he suggested eagerly.

“I don’t feel like it” She sounded disturbed and that irked Ebuka even more. Here he was trying, yet she was not willing to meet him even halfway.

He stayed in his position, feeling utterly hopeless at his wife. He rose to his feet and plodded towards the bathroom. He needed a cold shower and some warm food after wards.

***

The sounds of plates clinking against each other forced Ebuka out of his sleep. He had fallen asleep on the couch in the parlour, but it was deliberate, he couldn’t bear sleeping next to his wife who had refused to take a shower.

He squinted his eyes open and reached out for his phone, the clock read 3.am. Pots jangled loudly and he sprung to his feet, trailing the noise to the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” He peered at his wife who was washing dishes in the sink. “Didn’t Rejoice wash those dishes before she went to bed ?”

“I can’t sleep. I’m restless, I needed something to do”

“You can go and attend to our baby, your child” He emphasized. “When was the last time you even breastfed him?”

She paused as if considering his question, then without a response, continued washing.

“That’s what I thought” He didn’t know how much longer he could cope with her nonchalant behavior, he was fast loosing his patience. “Tone the noise down at least.” He turned around to head back into the parlour then paused as a thought struck his mind. “Since you are feeling up to it, you might as well have a shower when you are done.”

He shut the kitchen door and flopped into the couch. He didn’t feel sleepy anymore. In search of what to do with his time, he turned on his Data and browsed through his Whatsapp App. A tiny dot of notification for new status update reflected at the top of the app page. He slid his finger across to it, his eyes came in contact with the beautiful photo of Erhie, posing stylishly against a wall.

“Nice picture” He wrote, in reply to the update.

“Newest daddy! what are you doing up this late?” She replied almost immediately.

“Lolz, I should be asking you”

“Can’t sleep. I have this work presentation tommorow…. I’m nervous. Plus, straightening out rough edges”

“Don’t sweat it too much, you’ll be fine. You’ve always being the smartest in a room..”

“???? See? You say the sweetest things, now I get to miss out on all that cause you married another ????”

“Lolz. My dear, the whole marriage thing is even over rated”

“Ah ahn, why did you say so?”

“I’m not a happy man. But don’t worry about it”

“Nooo oooo, you can’t tell me something like this then expect me not to worry. You know I still care about you”

“Yeah, thanks. But I would rather not talk about it, even me don’t understand what is going on. What I need is some distraction, something to lift my spirits, since the booze is not doing much of that anymore”

“…I will be getting off tomorrow by 5pm, why don’t we meet up at my place ????”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah ????????”

“I should be off around the same time. Will call you”

“Can’t wait ????”

“Lolz, me too. Goodnight….. morning rather”.

****

For the first time in a long while, Ebuka had something exciting to look forward to. Memories of the relationship he once had with Erhie mulled over his mind as he went about his day at the office. He kept glancing at his watch, he couldn’t wait to get off.

As soon as it clocked 4:pm, he texted her to make sure they were still on for 5.pm. She replied with a, “Definitely ????”.

He laughed. The emoji’s though.

***

Ebuka sat basking in the euphoria of the evening he had with Erhie, he couldn’t stop smiling to himself. He slid further into the car seat, relaxing his head against the head rest. For the first time in his two Year marriage, he cheated, but he did not feel guilty about it. He had stayed out late into the night but that too did not hang on his conscience, heck! he did not even want to go inside. A sad unkept and introverted wife was what awaited him on the other side of that door and he really did not want to face her, not tonight. But he had to see his son, and make sure the maid had followed through on the instructions he had given her earlier on over the phone. He loathingly dragged himself out of the car and walked on into the duplex building.

He pulled the door to their bedroom open and stepped into the well air conditioned room. His wife was leaning against the bed, knees hugged to her chest, crying. Two overalls dangled freely through her fingers. Lying on the floor besides her was Junior, in his diapers. Petrified, Ebuka dropped his briefcase to the floor and charged towards the baby, scooping him into his arms. “Rejoice!” He yelled out the maids name. “Rejoice!!!”

“Sir!” she came running into the master bedroom.

“Why was Junior lying naked on the floor?” He spat angrily at the teenager. “How long had he been lying there?” He hastily peeled off the wrapper that lay carelessly on the bed and quickly swaddled the baby in it.

The girl kept boobing a curtsey apologetically, itching her hair at the same time.

“Are you deaf?!” His eyebrows pulled down together in annoyance.

“Madam say make I leave am, say she go wear am cloth” Her knees bobbed at every minute, a frightened frown creasing her forehead.

“Take!” Ebuka handed the baby to her. He snatched the cloths dangling through his wife’s fingers and handed them to the maid. “Go and dress him up” He was so angry.

“I can’t do this anymore” Sandra cooed.

“What was that?” His eyebrow shot up in disbelief. He leaned towards her as if daring her to repeat her words. The maid impulsively left the room with the baby.

“I’m tired” Fresh tears pared down Sandra’s cheeks.

“She is tired” he scoffed to himself, shrugging his shoulders. He let out a short laugh that spelt of sarcasm and pain.

“You told me you wanted to have babies” He yelled, not caring if the neighbors could hear him. “You! You talked about how you couldn’t wait to be a mother. You would spend hours flipping through every Motherhood magazine there was, e books, hard copies, you read them all! I thought you wanted this! You made me believe that you wanted this.” He stressed. “I would have waited, I didn’t have mind, because I didn’t marry you because I was desperate for kids, I just wanted you! To wake up to you, spend every moment of my life with you. Be a team, be happy! but a year into the marriage you won’t let me be because you wanted a child. It was what you said you wanted”

“I wanted kids!” She yelled, defending herself. Veins stuck out through her neck and her eyes glared sideways at her husband.

“So what happened?!” He clapped back in a higher tone. “Because ever since Junior came, all I’m faced with is a wife I can barely even recognize anymore! You have become a complete shadow of yourself – we don’t talk anymore, you stay up in this room all day, crying or simply mopping into the air. We don’t do the things you used to love to do, we don’t do anything at all, and God forbid I get sex from you, who I’m I kidding? I would be lucky to get as much as a kiss from you. Three months Sandra_” He held out three fingers. “Three months without sex, that is excluding the last three months of your pregnancy that you won’t let me touch you because you were never in the mood, but I didn’t complain, I waited, patiently!” He stressed. “It’s being six months. Do you know what that has done to me? what that can do to any man? But you don’t care, do you?” He began to count his fingers “Not about me, not about Junior, you don’t even care about yourself! And it gets worse every damn day. You let our son lie naked under the A.C, 18degrees! 18 freaking degrees! and you dare sit there and talk to me about being tired? You must be the joker of the Year_” He paused, sighing wearily. “But you know what? I’m done,” He raised his hands up defensively and turned around.

“Are you going to leave me?” Her voice filled with terror.

“I’m going to take a shower since I’m the only one that seems to need it around here”

He stepped into the bathroom, banging the door loudly behind him. He unclad himself and turned on the shower, shutting his eyes as the cold water splashed on his head, and ran down his tall frame.

He held his face still under the water. It was soothing, at least. Memories of him driving himself ecstatically through Erhie flashed through his mind. He had stayed faithful to Sandra up until that evening and he still didn’t feel bad about it. He needed Erhie, and he was going to keep her. He would enjoy her company, her vivaciousness, her soft tender skin, and read more of her funny emoji’s. That way he figured, it won’t be so terrible coming back everyday to the mess he called a home.

He thought about whom his wife used to be – fun loving, ever smiling, up for anything, spontaneous! He didn’t know why that had changed. His mum said she was possessed but he knew that couldn’t be. He couldn’t even tell his friends about it, his mum being in the know was bad enough, he was going to try to shield what was left of his marriage with the hopes that someday, he would have his wife back. But until then, Erhie would do in lifting his spirit’s anytime he needed it, which would pretty much be all the time.

He got out of the shower and stepped into the room. She was still sitting on the floor, same position. He felt sorry for her. Grudgingly, he carried her in his arms like a sick child and placed her carefully on the bed. He pulled the duvet over her, tucking her in properly. He collected a pillow and blanket for himself and paused at the door to switch off the light.

“I’m so sorry Emeka” he heard her say. He nodded slightly. Turned off the light and left the room. He walked to the maid’s room, his son was fast asleep besides the young girl, both snoozing away under the mosquito net. He put off the light in their room and pressed forward towards the parlour. It wasn’t long after he flopped into the couch that sleep took over him.

****

The cries of the baby woke him up. He scrambled around for his phone and glanced at it’s screen, the time showed 5.am, the baby usually would still be asleep by that time. Confused as to why he was up and crying, he got up and charged towards the maid’s room. He found her pacing the floor, rocking him relentlessly. “I don give am food, change him diaper, I don do everything” She explained exhaustingly.

“Bring him” he took the baby from her to the parlour.

He rocked back and forth, singing the soothing rhythms and making the faces that always worked, but none was working this time, not even his swing which he adored. Out of ideas, he decided to take the baby to his mother, he was going to make sure she held him this time, he was probably missing her warmth. As he approached the bedroom, the baby’s crying intensified. Emeka turned the door knob, eager to hand the child to his mother. He stepped into the room and the sight that met his eyes made him stagger backwards in shock. He hit his back against the door, the sound of the bang alarmed the maid who ran into the room asking “Oga are you oka___” Then she saw her. “Jesus!!! Jesus!!!!! Aunty nooooo” she ran towards her aunty’s bed but stopped in her tracks, afraid to go any further. She collapsed to the ground, her hands on top of her head as she wailed without holding back.

Emeka staggered up to his feet, dropped the baby into his cot and took his wife’s lifeless body into his arms. An empty bottle of sniper lay next to her on the bed, foam dripping out of the side of her mouth. He let out a loud cry, holding unto her tightly.

The baby won’t stop crying and the maid was too inconsolable to attend to him.

“Oga!!” the gate man banged at the door. “Oga wetin happen?”

“Take the baby out of here” he ordered Rejoice “And open the door for Mohammed. Go!!!!!”

The maid scrambled to her feet, scooped the baby with shaky hands and ran out of the room.

Mohammed burst through the open door “Hai!!!!” he held up his shoulders in shock.

“Come help me” Emeka said, “hold her leg” The gateman obeyed and together, they carried her body into the car.

The gateman went around and pulled the gate open.

“Stay with Rejoice and the pikin” Emeka charged him, then he sped out into the morning, to the nearest hospital.

A stretcher was wheeled to his car at his arrival, the nurses carried Sandra unto it and pushed her to the theater. Emeka paced the floor of the waiting room. His forehead dripped of sweat and his eyes won’t stop shedding tears. He waited impatiently for the Doctor to open that door and walk up to him with the news that he had somehow resuscitated her. Sandra couldn’t be dead, not like that, not now.

The doctor emerged from the ward and regretfully pronounced his wife dead. Emeka sank to the chair behind him despairingly. It was a news he had somehow hoped he would not hear. A news he would never hear.

“Get up” the doctor tugged his arm upwards. Ebuka didn’t move, he was beside himself with grief. “Let’s go to into my office” The Doctor insisted. Reluctantly, Ebuka obeyed, following lead into the office.

“I know you are grieving but I just need to ask you a few questions. An autopsy is going to be conducted on her, but from what you said when you brought her here, you said she drank sniper?”

He nodded, still in shock

“Why do you think she did that? Was something upsetting her? what exactly do you think could have pushed her to that?”

“Doctor” He managed to gather his voice. “My wife had a baby three months ago, ever since then she had not being herself. She was always moody, crying for no particular reason. Bonding with the baby was a problem, I and the maid are the ones raising the boy. My wife won’t even take a shower and none of these is who she was before, it was like, she disconnected from everything and everyone, even her own child__”

“Was she finding it difficult to sleep?”

“Yes!” He was surprised at the Doctor’s accurate guess.

“Did she experience any panic attacks? and probably had difficulty in making decisions? Loss of interest in usual activities?”

“Doctor, exactly! I came home the other day and she couldn’t even decide on which shirt to wear the baby”

“She was depressed”

“Depressed?”

“Yes, but a more severe type of Depression. It’s called Postpartum depression, It happens in 10 to 20percent of new mother’s. All the things you mentioned are the signs of a PPD. A mother experiencing a PPD would also have thoughts of harming her baby and herself, which is what happened here. You should have brought her to the hospital the moment she started showing all these signs”

“I didn’t know. ” He spread out his palms helplessly. “This is the first time I’m even hearing of this”

The Doctor nodded understandably. “Many people are unaware of it, especially here in Nigeria”

Ebuka dropped his head into his palms.

“I’m so sorry for your loss”.

THE END.

WRITTEN BY OGBUGOH TERUNDU JOY ESQ.

 

Note: Struggling with depression or anxiety is not sinful or embarrassing – it is a health issue that can be addressed. If you have just had a baby and don’t feel right please speak to someone.

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    • You got me,didnt realise was reading a scricpt,damn….u good!!!!! Realistic, reaching out for help isnt a sin