Ward 3, Federal Teaching University Hospital, was filled up with mothers and their newborns. At one end is a cardboard paper that has a baby’s face smiling and the other is a mother breastfeeding her child. “Welcome to Post-Natal” was boldy inscribed at the entrance of the ward There were sections of bed arrangements with their numbers and drawers.
Nneka was at bed number10, casting a joyful look over her child’s future. The Nurses’ desks are by the left hand of the entrance door and they are dressed in their category. The senior nurses are in wine red colour and the younger ones are in sky blue, all dressed in semi-fitted blouses and trousers. The student nurses are in white gowns with their red and blue pens well positioned at the left-hand side of their breast pockets. In the middle of the ward is a door marked restroom, strictly for patients and staff.
Nneka was fondly called Nne by all and sundry. She possessed a kind and gentle spirit that could melt a block of ice. Tall and slender, she was blessed with a curved body shape that her friends referred to as “figure eight”. She had an oblong face and a gap tooth that captivated people whenever she smiled. Nne was an only child of her parents and they loved her dearly.
Nne’s past came hunting her when she got married and couldn’t conceive. Her husband, Akin taunted her for their childlessness. Akin was fair, chubby, and short. Whenever he got angry over his wife’s inability to conceive, he would hit her.
On one occasion, at a child dedication’s reception, he gave Nne a knock on her head when he saw a couple alighting from their car with their children. On a different occasion, when he accompanied Nne to a fertility laboratory around the warehouse to run a test, he gave her a blow by the side of her waist as they got into their car to return home.
Though he loved her, he could not tolerate herpresence whenever he saw children. However, their medical test results and scan stated that both were perfectly okay for procreation.
One night after their second marriage anniversary, Akin and Nne got into a fist fight.
“You see, I am getting tired of this whole going for medical examination. You’ve got to deal with it by yourself.”
“Babe, but it’s not entirely my fault,” Nne replied.
Akin walked towards Nne in anger and slapped her on the face, making her fall on the bed.
“Oh, I see who is to be blamed. Is it because I am in your father’s estate? I don’t care if you go and tell your family that I hit you. Just tell me, my Dear wife.” He paused and mimicked her: “‘It is not entirely my fault,’ what nonsense!”Akin barked. Nne wailed in pain. He hit her and asked her:“Have you seen what your insensitivity has caused us?” Nne did not reply. She had been trained by her parents to never exchange words when a man was angry. She remained quiet till Akin got over his rage.
Akin worked at Nne father’s company as the general manager of ClinLiz Consultant Services, one of the booming and most sought-after land agents in Owerri. Nne’s father gifted him some landed property. He started his own company three months after his marriage to Nne. Albeit his love for Nne grew, anger at their fruitlessness persisted.
During their courtship days, Nne used to stop to see her father at Works Layout which was about a-three-minute walk from Imo State University’s junction, just to catch a glimpse of Akin’s face. Akin also paid visits to Nne at her lodge at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) in return. On one of such days, it was 8 pm, and there was heavy rain amidst thunders and lightning. The streets were flooded and this kept many stranded. Akin was determined to leave but helpless.
“Please, you can’t swim in this dirty water. Everywhere is flooded. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“Nothing will happen to me, my Dear. Tomorrow is Monday and it is a work day. I need to be in the office by 8 a.m.”
“Why not? We will wake up very early. By the time I leave for my 7 a.m. class, you should be on your way to the house for a change of clothes. Please, babe, stay back.”
“I am sorry, I need to go.”
People were running in disarray toward the lodge. Akin held Nne’s hand strongly.
They went back to Nne’s room and were caught up in an intimate act filled with a whirlwind of emotions. Their physical sensations were intertwined with a feeling of love and desire for each other, as they explored the depths of their passion and indulged in the intoxication of their bodies, touching here and there and Nne moaning for more. The morning passed, Akin left and afterwards, the deepened sensation they shared for each other broke but wedding cards had been printed and she must wear a wedding veil which signified that she was untouched.
While she lay on the hospital bed, Nne remembered the argument she had with Akin over the pregnancy.
“Please, Sweetheart, I am sorry that I have put you into this mess and I sincerely apologize. Keep the babies. I will find a way to let my uncle speak with your father. We can arrange for a quick wedding, both families know that we are in a relationship.”
“No way! No one knows about this except us and the doctor who confirmed the baby’s sex. I did not know that I was pregnant all this while and I have been treating Malaria and taking energy drinks to boost my strength. Akin, the pregnancy must be terminated, I am sorry.”
Akin tried all he could for Nne to keep the pregnancy, but it was late as she had done the abortion. Akin felt devasted, he couldn’t get over the pain. A few months later, they got back together and got married but the loss and pain remained.
As she remembered all these, Nne quickly let out a smile amidst the pain and moments of resilience, and stages of pregnancy she had had to become the mother-woman she was today. The time she wandered from one prayer house to the other, seeking miracles, drinking dirty concortions, and making penance for aborting her twin babies during the days of their courtship.
Scenes of childbirth at the labour room haunt her. Her legs were wide open as she hummed bit by bit, awaiting the time for delivery and pushing. She had been told by her mother never to shout during childbirth.
“Just endure the pain and always ask God for strength when yours fails. It is a journey that brings joy afterward to every woman.” The same word were repeated by the midwife when she learned that it was her first baby before taking her to the labor room.
Once again, she watched as her husband, Akin, lifted the child to the heavens and named him “Olorunayo,” the God that give joy and it gladdened Nne’s heart the more. Nne nodded her head in fear. She managed to speak but the fear of the woman who lost her twin babies in the labour room haunted her. The woman couldn’t push and when she did, the babies arrived dead.Nne stuttered and managed to speak.
“We are three years in marriage today,” Nne said as streams of tears flowed out of her eyes and down her cheeks. Akin’s eyes caught her feeble eagle eyeballs. Nne bowed her head and felt a soothing healing inside. “Olorunayo, Eshe ooh,” she prayed inwardly.
DEBORAH UZOMA is on the verge of completing her Master of Arts Degree in Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She is a member of the Association of Nigeria Authors, Imo State Branch. In September 2023, she became a fellow of Ebedi International Writers Residency where he creative ingenuity spurred the more. She has won multiple awards both at home and abroad. Deborah hails from Nenwe, Aninri LGA of Enugu State. She is a performance poet and loves to write literary essays, and creative writing genres as well as document campus stories as a freelance journalist with the Otown Gist Media and Entertainment blog. She can be reached at email@example.com