My sister and I are very close; so close that even after we got married, our husbands found it difficult to understand our bond and many times both men would quarrel with us saying we preferred each other to them.
They couldn’t see that our being married to then had nothing to do with our bond.
Many times, her husband would bar her from calling me if anything happened to her; he insisted he could handle it but my sister would sneak and still inform me and same with me.
In my own case, I tried to get my husband to understand that my sister was a key element in my life and marriage can’t break the bond we have.
In my eyes, my marriage was an entirely different thing from the bond I shared with my sister.
We had just each other growing up; she stood up for me too many times to count, got beaten for me, got blamed for me, took so many hits for me and even though I can’t say I did as much for her, she knows I’ve got her back 100%.
For instance, my sister got married before me, though she is the younger one but I was still happy for her. During her wedding, I took over every thing; arrangements, gown, everything the bride was meant to do was done by me, of course, I often checked with her if all was ok like when I got a hall for the wedding, I called her, sent photos et al, she didn’t even check the details, she just called me irritated, in fact, she said, ‘Why are you wasting time sending photos, have you booked the hall? If you see it is good, go ahead, just do it, don’t call to check with me again, I’m busy.”
Is it that she didn’t have a mind of her own? No! She is one of the most opinionated women I know but when it comes to ‘us’ she tells me if I think it’s good, then it’s a go. So what would you call that? Trust? Love? Whatever, that was our bond.
She took in shortly after marriage and the whole family was excited for her. Like the expectant aunt that I was, I ensured she diligently followed her antenatal and took her vitamins and on one or two occasions, when I could get away from work, I met her at the antenatal clinic as well.
One day, my sister called me crying on the phone; ok before then, let me say this, before she called me, I was aware she was meant to go to the clinic that day for routine checkup, I was aware of that. She was still, in fact, at the hospital when she broke my heart with the news. She was scheduled to do an ultra sound scan and had done it at the hospital; she went to show the doctor the result and what he said to her broke me.
He told her her baby had fluid accumulating in his head…yes, we had been told two months back to buy a football as my sister was expecting a son. So, the baby was accumulating fluid in his head causing his head to grow abnormally; a congenital condition called hydrocephalus and my sister would have to deliver him through cesarean. What’s more, the baby had another defect; there was a hole in the spine that won’t close up; our baby would never sit, stand or walk…
It wasn’t the caesarean that upset me; it was the fact that we were bringing to the world a baby that had hydrocephalus and would never talk or walk or sit…who needs this in an environment like ours?
Now, this kind of congenital defect was something we knew about; a distant cousin of ours had a baby like that years ago; the baby’s head was so grotesque, few people wanted to be in the same room as that child grew. He was always on the floor on all fours…the few occasions we went to the cousin’s place, the child had to be locked up in a room because people were frightened.
What’s more, our cousin spent all his savings on this child, he was always sick, he was never able to talk, even though he was almost 13 years old at that time, he still wore pampers, and never went to school…we knew what it was and it broke my heart to have to bring that same type of baby into our world.
Hummn, I told my sister to go home and let her husband know about it and that she should let me know what they wanted to do.
They opted for a second opinion; it came out as same, in fact, this other doctor advised that it was best not to resuscitate the baby if he had difficulty breathing after birth; he advised she let him go quietly because in his opinion, such a child would consume us all; financially, emotionally, in every way. He didn’t need to say much because like I said, we had a cousin who had such a child.
My sister’s husband is a pastor in one of these Redeemed churches, so he was like, “God will not afflict his servant… God will do it…miracle will happen…” they both went for deliverance, vigils…he opted to go to the first hospital.
I am a Christian, too but what was staring me in the face had nothing to do with whether God was kind or not.
Anyway, the baby came, behold it still had hydrocephalus and a hole in his spine, open hole that we could see his insides! Yes, he was resuscitated against our wishes…my sister was taken to intensive care because she lost a lot of blood.
I cried, I wept that day because all I was seeing before us was a child we wouldn’t be able to take out to church or parties or school or family outings… a child that would be on his stomach for the rest of his years, a child who would never talk or walk or sit or stand…it was too much for me. Yes, I may not be the mother of the child but I would always be a key part of the child’s life.
So while my sister’s husband was busy sharabamb-ing speaking in tongues as if expecting the baby to suddenly change form and be a normal baby, I carried the baby, examining him, checking…his eyes were slanted…I told the child, “We love you darling but we can’t care for you, go back to God where you won’t feel pain or be mocked or be hated or be regarded a freak. Go back, please just close your eyes and sleep and never wake up.”
I don’t know when I covered his mouth and nose with his shawl. I felt him struggle but I held on then after a while the child just closed his eyes and never woke up.
When my sister came to, I told her what I did; she just nodded her head and hugged me then we cried together for the child we had lost.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande)