The blast of cold air wakes me up and instinctively I burst into ear-splitting screams. Well, its more like wails. I cannot feel my feeding tunnel anymore. It is cold and there is so much light and noise. My body is enveloped in a warm towel and even though its nothing like the warmth I had before, I was grateful for it. I keep wailing even as I feel arms envelop me. It feels so right, like I have finally arrived home and so my wails reduce to whimpers.
‘Congratulations Madam‘, I hear ‘you have a baby girl‘.
The arms grip me tighter as I struggle to snuggle closer. I can hear different voices and I feel a light kiss on my forehead. ‘Welcome home darling’, she whispers in my ears. I sigh as the sweet fingers of sleep draw me in.
“.….and we shall call her Wuraola“. There is a burst of applause and my open my eyes slightly. The sharpness of the light causes me to burst into screams and wails again.
‘Ah, O ti bere sin ke. E fun l’oyon mu’ ‘Ah, she has started to cry. Give her breast milk‘
I feel something graze against my lips and instinctively, I know what it is. I latch on to it with my lips, my tiny arms holding the huge breast steady. As the fluid goes down my throat, my eyes take in the various colors and sounds around me. Ever since I arrived, I noticed a lot of noise. At first it was scary but as usual there is always her face to comfort me. I suck harder and I hear her wince. She starts to tap my bottom slightly in a steady rhythm. I start to feel it again: those sweet sweet fingers of sleep. I give in to it; I always do.
I wake up to pain in my lower abdomen. The pain had been going on for a while but Panadol had managed to calm it down. I felt the urge to pee and so I get out of bed and groggily make my way to the bathroom. I pull my underwear down and absent-mindedly empty the contents of my bladder. Taking some tissue, I attempt to clean when I notice the stain of red. My scream is instinctive.
I hear her footsteps as she rushes to my room. ‘Wura, what is it? Where are you?‘. I stumble out of the bathroom, my underwear hanging slightly above my knees.
‘Mommy, I’m bleeding‘, I scream.
I’m panicky. Is my womb falling out? How can I just be bleeding for no reason at all? The smile on my mum’s face does nothing to settle me.
‘Calm down, Wura. This is natural. I should have told you earlier on sef’, she says as she leads me back into the bathroom. That day, in my mothers words, I became a woman. She gives me a few painkillers and my last thought before I fall asleep is that this woman thing is going to be rather irritating.
I woke up feeling rather excited. Today was my convocation ceremony and I was so excited that I could barely sleep. I jumped out of bed and rushed into the bathroom. My dad had promised me a trip to Dubai and I was definitely going to take him up on that. I had my bath in 15 minutes which is shorter than my usual thirty minutes. I rushed out of the bathroom to pick up my phone that was ringing all over the place. The screen showed that it was my home girl , Nora who was calling. I flipped the screen and screamed into the receiver.
‘Congratulations!!!‘ We both screamed in unison.
‘I just got out of the bathroom‘ she said to me.
‘Me too‘, I added. ‘Have you finally decided on the dress you’re wearing?‘ She asks
‘Let’s do the purple one‘, I suggested.
‘This babe, you like ‘and co’ things. I’ll do different shoes sha. I’m not going to wear the black one cos I know that’s what you’ll want to wear’. I laughed into the receiver and ended the call.
I hurriedly dressed up and while putting finishing touches to my outfit, I looked for my neck-piece to wear. Just then the door opens up and my dad walks in looking great in his suit. I’m glad he choose to spend this day with me.
‘Ready princess?‘ he asks.
‘Just a minute dad. I need a neck-piece to wear‘ I say, while rummaging through my jewelry box.
‘Here’ he motions to me and brings out a gold necklace. ‘It was your mum’s‘ he says as he wears it for me. I sober up instantly as a wave of sadness washes over me. It was a year since she passed on but the pain was still fresh. He wears it for me and steps out of the room. I fiddle with the neck-piece as I step out of the room to meet him downstairs. I was still fiddling with the neck piece on the drive to school when I fell asleep.
The shrill of the phone ringing jolts me from my sleep. I look at the clock on the wall, it’s just 6:30 am. Who could be calling at this time, I wonder to myself. I look at the screen of my phone and my finance’s face shows that he is the caller. Just then it washes over me and I’m instantly awake: Its my wedding day today! I pick the phone.
‘Hey handsome‘ I say with my sleepy voice.
‘Did I wake you up?‘He asks
‘Yes you did. I should have been up earlier. I can already hear the girls making noise downstairs‘
His rumble of laughter washes over me and I feel the warmth in my stomach. ‘You know, he says “I can’t wait for 5 pm today‘
‘Why?‘ I ask even though I already know what he going to say.
‘Because by then, you’ll be mine in every sense of the word‘
I laugh and say,’Well, I guess we better hurry up the day then.‘. He ends the call just as Nora jostles into the room.
‘Wakey wakey, bride-to-be. Its hammer-time‘. I jump out of bed and the rest of the day is a whirlwind of activities. I will probably never forget the smile on my Emeka’s face as I walked down the aisle. Or the look on my dad’s face as he handed me over to him. I couldn’t stop myself from pecking and hugging him tightly then. Ever since my mum passed on, it’s just been the two of us.
‘Be a good girl‘, he whispers to me. I can see the unshed tears in his eyes.
‘I will‘ I answer. He hands me over to Emeka and the ceremony began.
That night, bone tired yet giddy, I snuggle into my husband’s arms. He smiled through closed eyes and kisses me on my forehead. I fall asleep with a tired sigh.
I grope about in the dark looking for the light switch. Finding it, I struggle to sit up. Breathing hard I start my practiced
breathing. I had had three major contractions and I was pretty sure that the time was nigh. Stretching my hand I gripped Emeka’s back and shook him.
‘Meki…..umph….meky. Wake up….‘ he is up in an instant.
‘Whats the problem? he asks
‘The pain….my waist…my back. I’m not….sure‘ I say, struggling to breath. He is by my side and I lean onto his chest, still controlling my breathing. ‘Feel better now?’ He asks. I nod and we sit like that for a few minutes.
‘I’m sorry I screamed at you last night‘ he says. I reach for his hand and squeeze lightly. ‘I’m sorry I screamed back. Things are pretty tense at the office now‘
‘Yeah, I kinda figure…..Owww!!!‘ he shouted as I gripped his hand.
‘Hospital,’ I say through grit teeth ‘I think the baby might be coming’. He jumps off the bed and grabs the bag we had packed 6 months earlier. While he drives me to the hospital, I was glad for the two-minute break we had to talk about our fight the night before. Though I tried to think of other things, my mind keeps coming back to the contractions ripping through my body. ‘Oh goodness,’ I whoosh out as we arrive at the hospital. A flurry of activities later, I was in a room surrounded by gadgets and nurses with Emeka hovering in the corner. In between pushes, I remember thinking how ridiculous he looked in the hospital scrubs and cap. Hours later, I can’t be too sure, they laid my beautiful bundle of joy into my arms. Her pink fingers grasped at nothing as she screamed the place down. Emeka came over and placed a kiss on my lips. All I could think of was that we were now parents. The nurse picked the baby from me as I fell into a deep sleep.
‘Mom…..mom‘ I could feel Ugo trying to wake me up but I really wanted to sleep.
‘Ummm,‘ I answered half-heartedly She shook me harder. ‘Mom,wake up. I have news‘. I could hear the excitement in her voice so I opened my eyes. Behold in front of my eyes was the prettiest rock I had ever laid my eyes on. And it was sitting on my 27-year-old baby’s finger. I sit up sharply and the grin on her face tells me all I need to know.
‘He……’ ‘Yes Mom, he proposed. I’m going to marry the man of my dreams‘ she squealed as she hugged me. I couldn’t believe it. My baby was going to be someone’s wife.
‘What’s the cause for celebration?‘ Emeka’s deep voice called out to us from the door. She raised her fingers and rushed too him. ‘Oh dad, I’m so excited,’ she said as she proceeded to regale us with the tale of how her boyfriend of almost 4 years had proposed to her. I smiled as I watched her animatedly speaking to us. Though I was happy for her, I couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that the proposal came as a result of the fact that she was pregnant. She didn’t know that I knew about it but as a mother of three and as a woman, we tend to notice these things. I was also concerned about Femi’s randy ways. They had argued on more than one occasion about his infidelity and though i was concerned for my child, it was ultimately her decision to make. I smiled as she stood up.
‘I’m so excited. I’m going to tell Buchi.‘ she said as she rushed off to her room. Emeka sat by my side as I yawned rather widely.
‘Big news huh?‘ he says. ‘You could say that again‘ I replied. I stared wistfully at the closed door, already imagining what the day would look like.
The baby lay suckling in my arms. She pulled at the bottle, the energy a big contrast from her small body. The feeling of having a baby in my hands hadn’t changed. I looked over at my little girl now a mother sitted across the room. She had her boy in her hands and was putting on his shoes while he wriggled in her arms. The smile on her face was tinged with tiredness and all I could think of was how good a mum she is.
The baby stilled in my arms, her breathing slowing to a steady rhythm. I gave her sleeping little form to her mum.
‘She’s asleep‘ I say.
Ugo smiles and takes her from my hands and goes into the room. I look at her retreating back. Though she assures me that she is alright, I cant help but see the strain on her face. She needs help but has refused over the years to get help. I cannot understand it.
I feel a weight on my legs and I look to see lil’ Femi clutching at my skirt. I bend down coming face to face with my grandson.
‘Hey there young man‘ I say. He looks at me, his finger in his mouth, a thoughtful expression on his face. Then without warning, he throws his hands around my neck and says ‘Mama please don’t home. Stay with us forever so that daddy will not beat mummy again‘. I’m in shock at this outburst. Holding him close to me, I turn to see Ugo’s shocked stare.
‘When were you going to tell me?‘ I asked, my anger seething beneath the surface.
Her mouth opens and closes but she issues no words. She walks to me and collects the child from me and walks to the room. She comes out after sometime. she is trying to compose herself but I can see that it’s an effort. I sit down and wait for her to come to me. She sits down beside me and an hour and a bucket of tears later, the story is out. Femi was cheating and upon confrontation, he beat the crap out of her. The beating had ceased but the cheating had not. I could sense my daughter’s pain and that night, It burned into my heart as I struggled to find sleep.
I was tired, very tired. I struggled to sit up from the chair I was sitting on. My tired bones creaked as I adjusted and so I stopped where I was and settled to enjoy the view from here. The heat was stifling in the lace I wore and frankly, I wanted to be out of it. But I couldn’t leave; the guest of honor shouldn’t leave her party especially when she is flanked by family and friends celebrating her at 80.
I sighed at the nonsensity of it all. I was getting closer to the grave, why should we be celebrating it? I thought of what Emeka would do. He was never one for fancy parties and boisterous noises. I smiled wistfully; I missed him so much.
Emeka has departed from us peacefully in his sleep about to years ago. While it was very painful to have my best friend of many years leave me, I was grateful for the time, we had spent together.
‘Mama, what are you smiling at?‘ My young grandson made his way towards me. He was no longer the little lad who had hugged me and begged me not to leave. I smiled at him.
‘I’m smiling at what a hottie you have become‘.
He smiled and looked at me, ‘Mama, you haven’t changed one bit‘.
‘You seem to be liking it a lot’ I said to him and he preened.
‘Its only natural when a beautiful woman compliments me, I can only accept it gracefully lest she takes offence’. I laughed at this. He had inherited his father smoothness. I looked over to where Ugo sat with her husband. Their storm was over, or so it seemed. The difficult years had dragged on and it seemed the marriage was headed for the rocks. However, divine intervention had saved the day. I smiled at the corniness of it all…at the time it seemed like a joke but all that fasting had worked.That had been an eye opener for me. I called out to my grandson who was ambling away to meet his friends.
‘Could you help me get to my room?‘ He nodded and assisted my while we made our way to the inside of the house. I lay on the bed and asked him to get me when it was time to cut the cake. I really needed to rest. He chuckled and made his way out of the room, promising to return. I lay on the bed for five minutes willing sleep to come. It didn’t…..
I felt lighter than normal; not sleepy or tired like i felt earlier on. I smiled…..I like this feeling, I thought to myself. It wasn’t hot anymore….In fact I couldn’t feel the heat or the weight of the accessories on my neck anymore. I thought I could see Emeka but I wasn’t too sure. ‘Oh’ there he was, standing there looking every bit as handsome as i remembered. I walked up to him and he smiled at me. I let him lead me away.
Taking the microphone, Ugo said ‘Hello everyone. Thank you for being here today to celebrate Mama at 80. It is time to cut the cake so if we could prepare and gather round……“
She motioned to Nifemi, her girl who ran towards her. ‘Go and get mama‘. Nifemi nods and runs into the house while Ugo still speaking into the microphone, organizes the crowd. A piercing scream draws everyone to the house. Ugo drops the microphone and rushes to the house from where the scream came. She gets to Nifemi who by now is sobbing hysterically. Ugo bursts into tears; her husband Femi takes charge trying to take control of the situation. His son, Femi junior stands close by shell shocked. The commotion is crazy, people are talking into their phone, everyone is shouting and there is commotion. I am far away, very very far away…..and I am happy.