I was without a child for almost 8 years after my marriage. And you won’t believe me if I told you I married my husband a virgin. Yes, I know being a virgin isn’t a big deal anymore but I was, like that guy I read from you the other day, a jimjim sister.
After marriage, my husband and I were not too keen on having children because we wanted to recoup after our wedding and plan properly for a baby. Babies mean money and what we had would not carry us far, it would mean living from salary to salary.
Since both of us worked; it was easy to save a substantial sum after we had paid off all the debts we accumulated for our wedding.
It wasn’t as if we went over board for our wedding but unplanned events and stuff, popped up that we had to pay for and we were already stretched thin, so a few friends loaned us money last minute. The first few months after our wedding saw us paying them back.
I stopped using my pills half way into the second year of marriage and waited to get pregnant but nothing happened for the next six months. At first, I didn’t panic because when after three months of stopping, I went to see my doctor, he said, “… madam relax, your body will need to get rid of the family planning in your system…you are still young, what is the hurry about?’
The following year, I took in but three months into the pregnancy, I lost the baby!
I took in again six months later but lost the baby three months into the pregnancy. I went through this vicious, horrible, painful, sadistic cycle for 8 years!
Despite bed rests, despite drugs and therapies…my babies didn’t stay, 3 months, 4 months…6 months, I would wake up in soaked sheets and…
We changed doctors, we changed hospitals, then the next time I got pregnant after a long spell, I ran to London. I delivered my baby there, came back six months later.
Now, over the years, because I would often be in the hospitals for long periods, I couldn’t stay on my job, so I resigned and used my money to start a Baby Boutique. It was doing great, business was good. Since I was always travelling abroad, I began to buy baby items and my customers grew.
I kept traveling even after I had my baby . I did not want my baby girl out of my sight. I travelled twice with her, at a lil over 1 year and when she was 18months plus.
It was the second time with my baby abroad that what I am about to tell you happened.
I went to buy stuff to restock my boutique. Before I left the hotel, I decided to back my baby. A pram would have been ok, if I wasn’t going shopping. A pram would hinder me from going into certain stores, entering between certain aisles often become difficult, so I backed my baby, like a typical African mother. I secured her with one of my wrappers; I could walk easily and do what I needed to get done. Though all she wanted to do was walk by herself and stopping to gaze at strangers.
While in the store, she fussed a bit and I patted her down until she settled to sleep and I was able to shop till late afternoon. I wasn’t unusually alarmed at the long hours of sleep because she often slept well once she had been loaded with plenty of food. Once fed, she would sleep off giving me a chance to get a lot of things done.
I got to the hotel and my baby was still sleeping but she was not moving and was beginning to feel cold. She didn’t stir when I gently laid her on the bed, her eye lashes didn’t flicker, her hands didn’t curl, her feet were cold!
We were abroad, abroad is cold, I reasoned, maybe her socks weren’t thick enough, maybe cold crept through the thick layer of shawl and wool cap I tied in a knot under her fat cheeks, maybe…
My heart never beat so loudly like it did that day.
My eyes knew what it was but my heart refused to accept it.
I called out her name, my pet name for her was ‘mama’
I broke into tongues, I was praying in tongues and pacing all over the room. I kind of saw myself, like my body, moved out of itself and I was observing my self pace around the baby as she laid still on the bed.
I tapped her, I hit her, I changed her clothes…my baby didn’t move. Didn’t cry from irritation at being woken up or for food since the last meal was a few minutes past noon and it was past 4pm!
I called my husband in Nigeria, I sent him photos, videos of the baby, he began to cry.
I told him nothing happened, because indeed nothing happened. I woke up with a healthy baby, bathed a healthy baby, fed a healthy baby, backed a healthy baby even when she fussed in the shops, I patted her quiet…and here I am back to the hotel with loads of shopping bags and a baby who wouldn’t stir.
So tell me, what happened?
I refused to give in to tears. This was unacceptable, cry for what? A baby I almost died to have after eight years of barrenness?
I began to pray in tongues, I began to speak against the spirit of death. I am a child of God, I told myself, this isn’t happening to me!
My baby did not stir even as I prayed. I cried and groaned past midnight that day; my husband stayed on the phone all night, telling me to call someone, anyone around to come help me.
Help for what?
I did not sleep.
The following morning, my head just kept telling me, ‘Leky, pick up your baby and go and complete your shopping.’
That was exactly what I did. I bathed my baby the following morning, put her cold body on my back. For some reason I felt the warmth of my body would bring her back to me. She ought to know she was a special child, loved beyond measure. But her legs wouldn’t bend well, I covered her with a shawl and went to shop!
‘Lecky, adjust your baby, she is slipping off your back,” my mind would say and I would adjust her.
‘Lecky, take her to the corner and feed her.’ I did just that.
One woman who was also feeding her child, took a look at my baby, yelped and took off, leaving her pram behind.
I left the place and headed back to my hotel room.
At the reception, they gave me funny looks; like I was smelling.
‘Leky, you need to hurry to your room and start packing your stuff for home, a little agbo and your baby would be fine.’
And I did just that.
The following morning, they broke through my hotel room. They wanted to take my baby. They came with face masks, but as they reached for my baby I fought them but they were many, they held me down and took my baby but I kept telling them, ‘you are oyibos, you don’t know about our local herbs, once I get back to Nigeria, I would give her the herbs and she will be fine.’
They took me to a clinic and injected me but even then, sleep did not come.
My husband came that very day from Nigeria. He had been trying to reach me since the day we spoke.
I told him they had taken our baby. I told him they were preventing me from giving her herbs. But they took me to a hospital and I was there for a long time because they said I had an “episode”. The autopsy report said that my daughter had died suddenly.
But how can a baby die suddenly on the back of its mother?
I will never know.
I’ve had two more babies since then, they are five and two.
(series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)