A Painful Memory
By Hamid Nasiru
Mama has been dreading going through this pregnancy. I overheard her saying to one of her friends; “I can’t imagine what it will be like to give birth at forty something. But Inshaa Allah this is my last. I can’t go through this ever again.”
Apparently she was 3 months pregnant at the time. I had no idea what was happening before then. In our house, we don’t talk about such things, no one sits us down to tell us we are going to have a new baby and the possible due date. It’s been the same for me and all my 3 siblings, one moment, Mama would gain weight and the next moment, she would be lighter and a baby will be presented to us as our sibling. So I didn’t know exactly what to expect, the only thing I knew about pregnancy was what I saw on Television. Morning sickness, mood swings, weird cravings, leg and back aches. But the reality of pregnancy is more complex, as I would come to find out.
By the time Mama was 6 or 7 months pregnant, I was back home from school as we were on strike. I spent most of my time at home. Every morning when I would enter the house to greet her, I would find her bent over her bed in pain clutching her back or over hear her in the toilet throwing up. People call me sensitive, but really I think I just have too much empathy for everyone. So, every morning, unfailingly, I would come to greet Mama and see her in pain, and true to nature, I would be so concerned I would almost make to physically carry her away from the pain. It was hard for me to see her like that, and even harder to be unablecto help. I felt powerless. I would put my arms around her shoulders and constantly ask, in an annoying way I would later find out, how she felt and what she needed. I learned how to make the breakfasts she liked. Since all my sisters and aunts were usually out in the morning, it was usually just the two of us in the house before our house help would arrive later in the day. She loved my breakfasts so much that she often requested I make her food even when my sisters are around. Sometimes, my dad would beg to be served too. Till date, one of the best compliments I have gotten for my cooking was Mama praising my Indomie as the best in the house, even above my sisters.
Over time, Mama’s health worsened. I couldn’t stop being worried, my trips from my room to the main house now more than tripled, every few hours I would go into the house to see if Mama was alright, bombarding her with questions. I asked about her health so much that one day I received a call from my sister schooling in Abuja, telling me not to worry too much about Mama, that pregnant women went through all that, it was normal. She couldn’t stop laughing as she told me. Apparently, Mama had called her to please tell me not to worry so much. It didn’t do much good though, my worry was renewed every time I saw her in agony. I just couldn’t understand the kind of effect carrying a baby has on a woman.
But I tried to reduce the number of questions I asked and instead simply got her what she wanted.
We were all excited about the new baby. We would all sit in the parlor imagining how the new baby would look, who he/she would look like and who would do the most to take care of him. Mama would often assign who his parents would be among my siblings and I, she joked about how she was retired now. Nobody said it out loud, but we were extremely excited about having a baby in the house again. No one realized how in love with the baby we already were until one cold night in October when the journey ended.
It was a week to Mama’s due date. She decided to go for another check up. She felt something was wrong. She even went with a pillow and other essentials in case it was labor time. We were left at home, praying for the baby to be delivered without complications.
They returned home later that night, looking like they had received a beating, Baba more than Mama. The baby had died. He had been strangled by his umbilical cord and the doctor didn’t notice as it was happening during the last ultrasound. They would induce labor the next day. Baba could barely speak, he only managed the explanation before we all retired to our individual rooms. I’m not sure what everyone else did, but I went into my room, locked the door and buried my face in a pillow, shedding tears. I couldn’t stop imagining the pain my brother must have gone through in his last moments and how Mama must be feeling. She kept saying
“Wallahi I felt it when it happened. I just knew something was wrong,” over and over again before retiring to her room. I cried myself to sleep that night, trying in vain to stop my thoughts from rampaging.
The next day we got up early to get Mama to the hospital to deliver a brother we will never meet. When we started refusing her request to not follow her to the hospital, she had to order everyone to go ahead with their normal routine. I took my siblings to school and my sister and I joined our parents in the hospital. Inducing the labor was not yielding any result, Mama was in labor for hours but did not have the strength to push the baby out. It was like the baby had taken a part of her soul, and she couldnt bring herself to part with him. Actually, it took a part of all of all our souls- Mama, Baba, my siblings and I.
At the hospital, I tried to make my way to her but they would not let me through. I was going out of my mind trying to get an update on her condition.
Finally, we heard the doctor had decided to do a Cesarian section to remove the baby.
A few hours later, we were allowed to see Mama. She was lying on the hospital bed covered by a bed sheet. She was crying profusely. At that moment, she no longer had the strength to be strong for our sake, it was like all the emotions she had kept tightened, unleased themselves. She cried for so long and we cried along with her. Crying for what she must be feeling, for what she must have been through, for the pain she must still be experiencing. Everyone in the ward was consoling us, trying to get us to stop crying. As the only male in the labor room, they had to drag me away from there. I finally calmed down after a few minutes. I occupied myself with the burial arrangements for my brother. I thought I was just crying for my mother at the time, but I wasn’t. I understood that during his burial.
The baby was ready for the Janaza around 8 pm, it was performed after the Isha prayers. After the prayer, the baby was placed in Baba’s car as we drove to the graveyard with a few people in our company. I picked him from the car, one of our neighbors made to take him away from me, but i refused. I held him closer to my body. He felt heavy, wrapped in the white cloth. I didn’t realize i was crying until my tears soaked the cloth. I cried for my brother. A brother I never got the chance to meet, speak to or play with.
I will miss my brother that I loved so dearly simply from imagining my life with him. I stood over his grave, crying and praying that he was in a better place.