Droplets of water gathered at the aerator of our stainless steel tap, like a snail, it lingered loosely below the tip of the faucet. I watched from the toilet seat, eyes fixated, waiting as it hobbled its way out of the aerator. Almost triumphantly, it fell into the tub in a single drop, “Hoink!” the sound went.
Fresh drips of water began to form in its place, I hadn’t properly locked the tap, not by intention. But sitting here with my panties pulled up to my waist, body leaning forward, hands resting on my knees, I refused to get up and turn the valve to lock. I needed the sound. I needed to hear something apart from my heart thumping nervously in my ears. I needed a noise to fill the eerie quietness of the small bathroom, something, anything before fear went shattering my heart into a million pieces.
Yes, I was afraid. Afraid of the unknown.
Tears gathered in the corners of my eyes without shifting from the drizzling tap. I knew it was time, the strip said five minutes but I already knew that. I had checked forty eight times in the past four years and every time, every god forsaking time, one bold red line came staring back at me.
I couldn’t bear another singular line, it would destroy what was left of my already broken heart, and it would hurt Roy. He had been supportive, telling me it was okay but those were just words he said to make me feel better. I wonder if he said the same thing to himself every time he was around his brother’s kids. Did he tell himself it was okay in a bid to escape the longing I knew he felt in his heart, too?
I wanted to get up, to pick up that strip and read my fate, but fear kept me seated, so I went back in time instead, to how it all began…
I had just returned from CDS when my older sister asked that I take her son to his Saturday football practice.
“I have this headache” she explained from the sofa, fully covered in a blanket, “and I already promised his coach that he would come so biko, help me”
I was tired myself, but tiredness I knew did not compare to a headache. “Where is the place?” I asked. Having only lived at her house for two weeks, I was unaware of a lot of places, including my nephew’s school.
“It’s far small but the driver will take you” she responded, shifting uneasily under her covers. “Thank you ehn?”
“No problem. Hope you’ve taken something?”
“Sorry, you’ll be okay” I sympathized and walked away to find my nephew.
Minutes later, I was in the back seat with an excited nine year old Junior, headed to his school.
He almost could not wait. As soon as the driver pulled up in front of the school park, he eagerly flung the car door open, jumped down and began to run towards an already occupied park. I followed after him, leaving the driver to himself.
“Junior slow down!” I called out, almost hopping to keep up. The boy didn’t stop, he ran into the park scattered with children and a grown man standing with his back to me. I decided to quit the chase and take a seat amongst the other mums sitting on sloped stairs. I found a spot, away from the women but clearly overlooking the park. I could see the grown man ruffle Junior’s hair, he must have asked after my sister because Junior turned and pointed towards my direction. The man’s eyes followed his hands and I arched my brows as his handsome face looked at me.
He waved, smiling. I smiled back and waved too.
Suddenly, I was very glad that I came. My plan had been to pull out my phone and chat with my friends but not anymore. Before me was a fine young man in a blue tee shirt, neatly tucked in white shorts, chiseled legs that pulsated as he effortlessly jogged across the park, this was all the distraction I needed. With a satisfying smile playing across my lips, I leaned forward, locked my fingers together and held them up to my chin, really glad I came!
In admiration, I watched as he trained those little boys, patiently teaching them how to dribble, kick, catch a ball and run for the ball, taking positions himself so that they saw just how to do it. He was good.
When the practice was over, I climbed down to collect a sweaty Junior. I took his hand into mine and lingered in our spot, long enough for the grown man to notice me. And he did. Immediately his eyes glanced our way, he excused himself from the conversation he was having with one of the mums and came up to say hello.
“Hey” he said, smiling politely.
I smiled back, melting at the way his eyes squinted and his dimples deepened with his smile. “Good evening” I said, smiling gracefully myself.
“Evening, you’re Junior’s aunt right?”
I nodded, tightening my hold around my nephew’s hand.
“He said so, the resemblance is striking. Why didn’t she come?”
“She wasn’t feeling fine”
“Ow! I’m sorry to hear that. Please send my regards to her when you get home”
He nodded with that smile again. “I have to run along now, will you be here next Saturday?”
“I’ll see you again then” he said and turned to leave.
Disappointment rushed over me. I had expected him to ask for my number. I knew I was looking good, I had on a little white dress with gold metallic sandals to match, my auburn hair fell fully over my fair shoulders, how couldn’t he like what he had seen?.
“Let’s go” I muttered to Junior.
We turned around to leave.
“Hey!” his voice called, stopping us in our tracks. I beamed, gladly before turning back around to meet his beautiful dark face. “I didn’t catch your name” he said.
“I didn’t say”
He smiled, nodding his head. “I’m Roy” he said, extending his hand.
I shook it. “Elisabeth, with an s”
“Nice,” he nodded, seeming impressed. “I haven’t heard that one before”
I shrugged, feeling myself.
“I won’t forget it” he said.
“You better not”
We both laughed. He broke it off asking, “Can I have your number?”.
It’s about time I thought to myself, but chose to say, “Yes, you can”.
He pulled out his phone from his shorts and punched the numbers as I recited them.
He called later that night, what he had described as just checking on me led to us staying on the phone for over an hour. It was wonderful talking so seamlessly. He asked questions about me to which I gave answers, I asked back and he shared as well. He told me he was volunteering as the kid’s coach only because he loved kids so much. He worked in a firm which operated even on the weekends but he made sure to make it to the practice every evening. “I love kids” he concluded, “there’s a delight I feel just being around them. I’m probably my nieces and nephews favorite Uncle ” he laughed.
“Awwh. So how many would you like to have yourself, someday?”
“Wow!” I chuckled. “That’s a lot, but I’m sure you will”
“I hope I do”
We got married 15 months after that, he was thirty one and I was twenty six.
I could not wait to give him those kids he very much wanted. I wanted kids too but he had a desire that made mine look less enthusiastic. We started to try almost immediately, I made sure of it. But to my disappointment, my period came the next month. I wasn’t happy but brushed it off as a minor bump in my way.
The next month it came again, and the month after that. I talked myself out of anxiety, comforting myself that it was still quite soon, but the fourth month got me really worried. I was sad now, carrying a face.
“Baby, what is it?” Roy asked one evening as he returned home from work and found me sulking in the living room.
I was hesitant, not sure I wanted to tell him.
“Baby talk to me,” he encouraged, lowering himself to sit beside me on the sofa “If something is bothering you then I need to know so I can fix it”
I looked up from the floor into his sincere eyes, grateful for how he loved me. “What is it?” he demanded, staring intently at me.
“I’m not pregnant” I complained.
“What?” his face winced, confused.
“I’m not pregnant” I repeated. “I took a test and it came back negative”
He heaved, obviously relieved, then lifted his lips into an amused smile. “Babe, It’s only being four months”
I frowned, not saying anything.
“It’s too soon to be getting worried, we have a lot of time ahead of us, it will happen”
“Are you sure? Cause maybe we need to see a doctor”
He cackled with laughter, pulling me into his embrace so that my back was resting against him and his arms crossed below my neck. “You’re over thinking it,” he said. “this is our honeymoon period, we should focus on enjoying each other and not worrying about making babies”
“Yeah” I answered dryly, half agreeing with him.
“It will come my love” he said, turning his head sideways to plant a kiss on the hair above my ear “it will come”.
I rubbed my palm over his hand, appreciating him.
I took his advice and decided to stay off test strips for a while, I made up my mind to bask in my new role as a wife and just enjoy the time we spent together, devoid of baby plans.
I was staying home, running my wig business from the house while Roy had to go to the office every day and coach the kids’s football team on Saturdays.
We formed a routine. Every morning, I woke up by 6:30am, brushed my teeth, walked to the kitchen in nothing but his white oversized teeshirt, cooked him a meal, set the table, played some old country music on the stereo in reduced volume, ran his bath water and caressed him out of sleep. We made love, other times I just laid in his embrace for a few minutes before nudging him to go take a shower. He would walk on to the bathroom butt naked, have his bath, get dressed then stroll to the sitting room to have his breakfast. We ate in silence, enjoying the old songs playing on the stereo.
At the end of our meal, I picked up his brief case and walked him to the car, waving from my spot as he drove out of the house. I got back into the house, took a shower and sat down at my tall wooden table – sewing wigs, taking new orders and dispatching completed hairs which required driving down to the commercial parks.
Lunch was ready by the time Roy got home from work, we would eat and relax in the living room afterwards, talking about our day. In the evening when the sun had gone down, we drove around town, visiting places we knew held some fun for us. Sometimes it was a cinema, other times it was an outside bar, a visit to a family member, a lounge to watch his favorite team play, anywhere. He always had ideas of where we should go, he would call me from work and with the excitement of a little child, tell me about a spot he just found out and thought we should visit, it was fun! I was happy, and he seemed happy too.
We kept at our routine, oblivious of fleeting time until one sunny afternoon.
I was at my table, sewing hairs into wig caps when I powered my screen on to check what time it was, I wanted to know if it was time to start making Roy’s lunch. As I read the time, I noticed the date beside it, 15th Feb 2015 the app read. I paused, thinking of why the date gave me an all knowing feeling. I glared as I cracked my brain, trying to remember.
“15th February, 15th Febuary…” I repeated to myself, but the answer still didn’t come.
Hissing in frustration, I turned away from the phone and returned to the cap that sat on the mannequin wig head. I stitched a thread through the weave and into the cap when it hit me – I missed my period!
I gasped! jerking my head up at the revelation. I was almost four weeks late! My heart beat excitedly! I began to pace the floor uncertainly, thinking of what to do first, I couldn’t decide. Excitement was bursting through me, taking over all sense of reasoning.
Finally, I dashed into the house, snatched my car keys from the center table, appeared outside, snatched my cellphone, ran towards and into my car, jumped right out as I remembered to open the gate, swung the darn thing open then ran back into my car. I was over the moon! I drove out of the gate, climbed back down to lock it, ran back into the open car and sped my way through the tiled streets of the mainland. I was just giggling to myself, too excited to even text or call Roy. I needed to get to the hospital first.
“After a good one year, wow!” I muttered excitedly, honking at the car in front of me. I honked so persistently that it swerved off my path, giving me way to probably ‘pass and go’. I overtook without an iota of guilt, shooting out my thumb to say thank you.
I was so excited, I felt fresh out of college, it was exhilarating!
I was going to give Roy a baby, I was going to give my baby, a baby!
I drove the car through the open hospital gate, a private Clinic ran by our family doctor. Plunging the gear into park, I plummeted to the ground and briskly walked into the average sized building. Like most private hospitals, there was little to no crowd. I went straight to the receptionist who knew me all too well and in rapid breaths, asked to see the doctor.
“Good afternoon” the elderly woman smiled forgivingly, rising to her feet. I realized then that I had forgotten to greet when I marched in.
I hissed apologetically, following behind her. “I’m sorry ma!, I’m just so excited”
She smiled, knocked on his door then pushed it open. I stepped into the chilled room while she retracted, closing the door after herself.
“Chimoma!” the aged doctor called, obviously happy to see me. We had been visiting his hospital since I was ten.
“Doctor!” I cheered, walking round to his desk. I bent sideways to embrace him “good afternoon sir”
“Good afternoon!” he responded, gleefully staring me up and down “You are a big woman now o”
I laughed, retrieving my arm from his back then walked around the desk to the empty seat across his.
“Sir, how are you na?” I asked, lowering myself down to the leather chair.
“You’ve seen me na” He reclined in his seat, spreading out his hands, laughing. “This one you came to my hospital today, hope all is well?”
I rolled my head from side to side, smiling with lips closed. “Sir all is well o”
“En eh?” He locked his fingers across his stout stomach. “It’s showing on your face. Oya tell me, abi has God blessed your womb?”
I nodded rhythmically.
“Thank you, Sir”
“Eh heh!” he smiled happily. “When did you find out?”
“Today, this afternoon. I think I’m four weeks late.”
“Okay, so you want me to confirm?”
“Okay. Go let the nurse give you bottle water, drink, two if you can and as soon as you feel pressed, come lets take a look”
“Okay, thank you sir” I said, lifting my weight off the chair.
“You’re welcome my dear”
I strolled out of the office and back to the reception. I relayed the orders to the nurse who grabbed me a litre of Eva water from the fridge behind her.
“Thank you Ma” I said as I received the bottle. I uncorked it and immediately began to sip from the bottle, strolling towards the chairs lined up against the wall. I helped myself to one of the many empty seats and raised my eyes to the flat Tv screen hung on the wall. Zee world was on display.
Uninterested, I dropped my gaze down to my phone gripped in my right hand. Now was a good time to call Roy and inform him of all that had gone on so far, but on a second thought, I decided against it. I wanted to be looking into his eyes when I told him the great news. So I opened my Instagram application instead and entertained myself as I waited.
When I began to feel pressure against my abdomen, I knew it was time. I rose to my feet, walked to the doctor’s door, knocked and waited for him to respond before stepping into his space again.
“You’re ready ehn?” he asked, rising from the chair.
He walked round the table to where I was standing, “Lie down” he ordered, jerking his head towards the examination bed resting next to the window. I moved towards it, stepped on the stool beneath it and climbed onto the bed.
I laid flat on my back.
He sat on the tall stool in front of the ultrasound machine right next to the bed that carried me. He turned on the machine, adjusted its settings, brought out a container of gel and stood over me. “Raise your shirt” he said.
I pulled my top up to my breast and he squeezed the clear water based gel over my abdomen and pevic area. He pulled out a small transducer and pressed the probe to my still flat stomach, he moved it back, forth and round my stomach, eyes fixated on the small monitor of the ultrasound machine.
I laid still, muttering words of prayer under my breath.
“There!” he pointed, after what seemed to me like forever.
I lifted my upper body and followed his finger to the screen.
“It’s a heartbeat” he said.
I let out a breathy laugh, tears instantly streaking down my cheeks. I could see the little black and white image, pulsating.
“Congratulations!” he said, replacing the transducer with a cloth to wipe my stomach clean.
I dropped my head back to the bed and I just laughed, tears of joy streaming down my face.
I returned home that day and sat on the floor of our living room, knees folded to my chest, hands cupped over my mouth, indescribable joy bursting through my heart. It was all so surreal.
It wasn’t long before I heard Roy’s car pulling up into the compound.
I kept still.
A few minutes passed and I heard his footsteps approaching the door.
I braced myself.
“Babe!” he called as he stepped into the house. “What are you doing on the floor?”
I rolled my eyes up at him without giving away any emotions – I wasn’t laughing, I wasn’t crying, I was simply looking at my handsome husband.
“Babe, what is it this time?” He asked, looking down at me, briefcase clutched in between his fingers.
I rose from the floor and strolled to his front.
“Babe?” He called again, you could see the apprehension in his eyes.
I placed my hand over his, collected the briefcase from him, scooted to the floor without my eyes leaving his face and dropped the bag at our feet, straightened back up tall. All the while he was gazing confusedly, probably wondering if I had lost it all of a sudden.
I took his hand and placed it on my stomach. His brows pulled together in an attempt to understand, then shot upwards, eyes widening at once as he understood.
I couldn’t help but smile. I still had his hand to my stomach.
“Are you sure?!” he asked, eyes flickering with joy.
I nodded rhythmically.
“Yes!!!!!!!!!!!” he screamed, engulfing me into his arms. He spun me around screaming, “Yes! yes!!!! oooh yes!!!!!”
Everything seemed better after that. Where there had been joy, now lived ecstasy. Where there had been laughter, now dwelled belly laughs. The grass looked greener, my coffee tasted better, the nights felt warmer. I laughed for no reason, gave alms for the sake of it, I was happy, and so was he.
I kept my doctor’s appointments and registered for my ante natal classes. Roy thought it was too soon but there was no way in hell I was taking any chances. I attended my classes judiciously, taking my vitamins and eating right.
Three months later, the doctor booked me for a second scan. I went with Roy this time. He sat by the bed, holding my hand lovingly, God! how I loved him.
He kept giving me those sweet dimpled smiles, caressing the back of my hand tenderly. We just stared into each other’s eyes as the doctor moved his transducer over my stomach. As I stared at him dreamily, I said a prayer for our baby to look just like him.
“There’s no heartbeat,” I thought I heard the doctor say.
Roy’s hand instantly stopped moving over mine. He jerked to his feet. “What?!” That was how I knew I had heard the doctor right.
“There is no heartbeat” the doctor repeated sadly.
“How is that possible?” Roy spat. “What does that even mean?!”
“I’m sorry but your baby is dead…”
“Are you sure? How? We did everything right, how can this be?!….”
I watched both men converse as if I was in a trance, observing from the outside. I couldn’t bring myself to speak, I don’t think I even moved. My mouth felt parched, chills crawled over my skin. All I could hear was a distant ringing in my ear drum.
I felt my husband’s arms lift me off the bed. His lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I just darted my eyes between both men, silently. The doctor then went on to explain what my options were and suggested an evacuation as I was too far gone to let it happen naturally.
After about an hour of trying to gather my thoughts the doctor’s door swung open and a wheel chair was rolled inside. My husband carried me into the chair. Shaking his head at the boy who had wheeled it in, he got behind me and began to push me out of the office.
He pushed me to the theatre and there, he carried me to the bed. The doctor soon joined in, accompanied by two nurses.
I laid still, wincing occasionally as an evacuation was carried out.
The ringing in my ear continued.
That evening, Roy wheeled me out of the hospital, carried me like his baby that I was, into the car and wore the seat belt over me. He got into the driver’s seat and started the engine. He drove out of the hospital premises, glasses wound down, the night breeze blowing tenderly over my numb face.
The ringing continued.
We drove in silence until we got to our house. He said something, but I didn’t hear him, I couldn’t bring myself to speak either so we carried on in silence.
He took me into the tub and washed me clean. Patting me dry, he helped me out of the tub and held my hand back into our bedroom.
The ringing continued.
He rubbed some lotion on my body, wore a night dress over my naked skin, got into the bed with me and held me tightly against his chest.
We laid in silence until sleep overtook us.
I was awakened by my breaking heart. I could feel Roy’s arms resting heavily around me, fast asleep. Carefully, I withdrew out of his embrace and lumbered bare foot to the sitting room. The parlour was dark except for the light reflecting from the corridor. I traced my way to the big sofa, curled myself in its soft cushions, and for the first time since the hospital, I felt tears roll down my cheeks.
I grabbed a chair pillow, buried my mouth into it and let out a heart wrenching sob.
I wailed compulsively, a pain I never knew was possible, ripping through the walls of my chest.
It hurt so bad.
I sobbed until I became worn. My heart continued to cry but the tears refused to flow through any further, so I lay there, quietly, eyes swollen, chest hurting, staring into the empty darkness
The ringing stopped.
A week went by, then it became a month. The months passed into a year, and into another year, yet, there was still no cry of a baby in our house.
I took up orders, more than I could handle, I got involved in church activities, much more than I could keep up with, all in a bid to fill the longing I felt on the inside, but the fates choose to mock me instead, throwing birth stories to my face day in day out.
It was like everyone was having a baby except me. I couldn’t bring myself to be happy for them. I just wanted mine. I just wanted to be pregnant again so that people could see I was not barren. Left and right, everywhere I went, I heard the cries, read the news and saw the photos of new born babies. It was like a ghost constantly tormenting my spirit; the babies were just everywhere, everywhere but in my stomach.
Sex became a chore, an act to see if maybe this time, a baby would find its way in.
I stacked up on ovulation kits and pregnancy strips, checking every month. I was on various over the counter fertility drugs like clomid and even overdosed on it a few times. I read all I could online, constantly looking for any signs that would indicate I was pregnant, that a pregnancy strip was not picking up. It was exhausting. I lost hope, I lost zeal, but I kept checking anyway, I didn’t know how not to, I didn’t know how to stop.
I fell asleep one evening on the floor of our bedroom, holding a negative in my hand with dried tears on my cheeks. I was home alone so I was surprised to be rudely awakened by the sound of something clattering, coming from the direction of the bathroom.
I breezed to the bathroom and to my greatest surprise, found Roy emptying all my kits and strips into a cellophane bag.
“What are you doing?!” I asked from the door way.
He ignored me.
“Babe those are my strips, what are you doing?”
“These plastic things have taken over your life, over our lives!” he scolded. “It’s always about a baby, every darn time! When was the last time you smiled from the heart huh? When was the last time you actually allowed yourself to enjoy doing something, anything with me, no tell me, I’ll wait?”
“Exactly!. There’s no fun around here Lissa, not anymore. Nothing is exciting because you just won’t stop thinking about having a baby. And then this evening, I came home only to find you had cried yourself to sleep, holding a strip that read negative in your hand. How long are you going to keep doing this to us, just how long?!”
“If you throw my strips in the trash can, I’ll get more” I said calmly, a warning tone lacing my voice. “I would not stop until I put a baby in your arms, your baby,” my voice shaking from the tears I was trying to suppress. “…I’m a woman Roy, the blame is on me, fingers are pointing at me, all eyes are looking at me. You’re a man, you have options, no one would blame you? The society would applaud you if anything, but not me, I don’t have those options…”
“How can you say that to me?”
“How can I not?!” I yelled, shuddering in tears. “Please put my things down” I shook my head sternly at him.
He stood there, the leather hanging loosely in between his fingers, forehead creased, eyes dim, staring dolefully at me.
“Please” I muttered tiredly, refusing to look up at his face this time.
He let the cellophane drop to the floor, walked towards and lightly brushed past me.
I slid to the floor, emotionally and physically worn..
“Hoink!” The dripping tap went, as I gasped out of my absorption.
I swiped a hand over my wet cheeks, only realizing that I had been crying in my remembrance.
The unread strip!
I got up from the toilet, wincing at the numbness I felt in my legs from sitting there for so long. I hobbled my way to the sink where I had placed the immersed strip. I saw two horizontal lines, sitting across the tiny strip. I squinted, certain that the tears I had been crying were playing tricks on me. I picked the strip and held it closer to my eyes.
Two very bold lines. I couldn’t believe it!
My first thought was to run into the room and wake Roy, but I needed to be sure, so I flung the cabinet open and with shaky fingers, pulled out five strips and peed on all numbers. I lined them up on the sink, stood back and watched with hands clasped to my mouth.
The bathroom door pushed open and a heavy-eyed Roy came lumbering through. “Babe, I want to pee…”
“Ssshhh!” I hushed him, as if one sound would disrupt the process. I jerked my head towards the lined up strips. He moved closer, suddenly becoming alert by the broad smile on my face.
“Babe” he muttered, wide eyed, staring down at the strips. I nodded, enjoying every flinch of emotion displaying across his face. “You’re pregnant!” he said, looking sideways at me for confirmation.
I nodded, laughing.
“You’re pregnant!” he resounded, completely sure this time.
With an unexpected rush, he engulfed me into his arms and we just stood there, laughing and crying, all at the same time.
WRITTEN BY OGBUGOH TERUNDU JOY.