It’s amazing how a hermit can become depressed about being alone. Alone? Even after being united in a holy matrimony to the love of her life? And now a beautiful, cuddly and healthy baby boy? It ought to be the perfect family she never had.
Recounting what seemed to be the overdue days of the pregnancy preceding the birth of her baby boy, Grace became emotionally anxious imagining false signs of child labour. The doctors estimated due date for labour had passed two weeks ago. She was now too heavy for long trips. Otherwise she would have gone to visit her mother for words of encouragement and perhaps an explanation as to why she was forty-one weeks into pregnancy and yet no signs of delivery soon. The doctors assured her she and the baby were doing well but Grace thought they must be unnecessarily experimental about her. She didn’t fancy the wait. Since Grace’s mother was closest to telling her plainly how it is and what to expect regarding birthing and labour advice, she was the most logical person to go to for closure in that unending period of her life. The nurses at the hospital already educated her during every antenatal class she attended and she didn’t miss any of the classes. She even took notes in her small notepad, using the Oxford English dictionary application on her Blackberry smart-phone to verify meaning of words she never heard before. There were lots of first time mothers at the antenatal classes too and they all nearly matched in their weeks of pregnancy.
Grace’s mother, too, longed to visit her for the excited anticipation of her first grandchild but she couldn’t. She had just had a fatal okada accident at Nasarawa some weeks ago and even when Grace heard of the accident, she couldn’t drive herself from Lugbe. Her husband was too occupied with work to make such long trips. Instead Grace’s mother’s cousin visited her from time to time to see how she was coping. Yet, Grace would only break down and let her vulnerability get the better of here whenever her aunt visited. She would have expressed her anxiety to her husband instead if only he would understand half of the fears and anxiety she sorely described. He was a busy banker, who left home early in the mornings and returned late into the night, leaving Grace at home by herself.
By the forty-second weeks in the pregnancy, Grace’s gynaecologist scheduled her for an induced labour after one of her regular check-up. Apparently, most of the other expectant mothers had put to bed and gone home with their babies. Grace wished she had also gotten her baby girl. The scan showed she was having a girl. Grace had taken her time to decorate the nursery with pink and brightly coloured gears, even down to arty detail of artificial flowers and pots.
While the nurses prepared to take her delivery, Grace called her husband on the phone. “Our baby girl is coming”, she gushed. Her husband was happy. And although Grace had seen horror movies and heard gory graphics of birthing and deliveries, she wouldn’t be discouraged about the delivery. She determined to brace herself, if only for the few hours to eventually have her rosy-cheeked baby girl in her arms.
When Grace’s husband came to see her in the ward, she had changed into a delivery robe. She was the only patient in the ward. Her husband came with a bag from a nearby fast-food restaurant. He said he wanted her to eat so she would have energy to push out the baby. Grace ate and drank. A picture of her would have shown a stuffed woman out of excess eating rather than from carrying a baby. A nurse came in and asked for a minute alone with Grace. Then she inserted two tablets of misoprostol in Grace before leaving. Grace lay still even after the nurse had gone. Then another nurse came in to deliver her husband’s message. He had to go home to get a few things.
Grace suddenly felt the need to urinate. She took a minute to bring herself to sit. It wasn’t as easy swiftly moving around anymore. Then something happened. She almost felt a big bubble drop into her lower abdomen. It was a new feeling. It was nothing she could reconcile with any note from her antenatal classes as she tried to imagine what had just taken place in her body. She put her feet to the ground but the big bubble in her lower abdomen gave way and it gushed out as thick slimy water. It must have been up to half a bucket of that water. Grace felt excited and scared at the same time. She knew the process had started. She would soon hold her baby in her arms. Yet she feared the baby, too, would drop in that instant and there was no one in the ward to catch her. In that second, knowledge of labour and childbirth eluded her memory. That was no book experience. Reality was more daunting than theory and practices. She sat back down and reached to press the buzzer by her bedside. No one came after the first buzzer rang. Then she pressed and pressed again. No one came. She panicked. She didn’t want the baby to come out before anyone came to attend to her. Then she reached for her Blackberry and called her husband instead. He was confused and disappointed but kept his cool and assured her he would get to her as soon as possible. Then a janitor came in. Grace felt embarrassed to tell the lady what she had done. She only said, “I pressed the buzzer for a nurse but no one came”.
“We’re sorry. The medical team is in a meeting. They will be through soon but I will see if I can get a nurse to come and attend to you urgently”, the smallish lady said.
“Thank you”. Grace didn’t feel like urinating anymore. She just sat there and watched the lady as she cleaned up her mess. Before the janitor was done, the nurse that attended to her earlier came in to check her.
“Mrs. Emilomo, how do you feel?” she asked with a smile. Her smile assured Grace that she was progressing accordingly. But in that instant, Grace felt the urgent need to use the toilet but this time, to defecate.
“I want to use the toilet” she said with urgency.
“Ok. You will use the toilet but first, let me check you”, the nurse said.
“I really need to go”, Grace insisted.
“It won’t take a minute”, the nurse proceeded to check her anyway. “I’m sorry Mrs. Emilomo, you won’t be able to use the toilet now. Your baby is pressing”, the nurse said.
“What?” Grace was alarmed yet all she really wanted to do was use the toilet. She had begun to sweat from the pressures in her bowel.
“Please be still. I will move you to the delivery suite now while I call for the doctors”.
Grace could only nod. The pressure was getting heavier by the second.
The labour was quick. The delivery was neat. It is a beautiful, cuddly and healthy baby boy.
“That isn’t my baby. No, my baby is a girl. The imaging scientist told me the scan showed a girl”, she said, shaking her head as she spoke.
Mr. Emilomo returned just in time for cleaning and dressing the baby. He didn’t seem to mind the gender of the baby. He was excited to just hold his healthy baby boy.
Grace and the baby were kept under observation for some time. Since Grace was fine and fit and the baby was healthy and without jaundice, they were discharged from the hospital the following day.
It was a sunny day. The afternoon was perfect for taking home a cuddly bundle of joy. Mr. Emilomo had put the baby seat at the back of the car. Grace was happy he had taken the time to make an effort towards the baby’s safety during the drive home. Grace was excited to be returning home with her baby. Finally, the world would behold his beauty and rejoice with her.
When they reached their usual quiet neighbourhood, Grace wondered if any of the neighbours noticed she was even gone at all. She definitely missed that morning’s early walk. Perhaps, someone did notice her absence and would come by to greet her later. Or maybe her husband had called all their family and friends to the house to surprise her. She would love that. Her husband lifted the baby from the car together with his seat and into the house while Grace went in the house behind them. The house was quiet. There was no one there to receive her and the baby. At least her husband had also put up the bassinet.
Grace’s husband prepared a quick meal for her so she would have some reserves in which they both believed her breast milk would flow from. She ate quietly and quickly before the baby would wake up but he was still asleep even after she had changed into home clothes and put away her hospital bag. Then she reached for her phone to call a friend who promised to get her a nanny to help with the baby. But as she spoke more into the phone, her voice began to wobble, and then the tears began to run down.
“Why are you crying” her friend asked.
“There’s no one here to help me with the baby. There was no one here when I got in from the hospital. I’m all alone with a new born and I barely know what to do with myself let alone a new born” Grace managed to say between heavy sobs.
“I will get you someone as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will have my mom’s maid come over to help you around the house”, her friend consoled. “Is that why you are crying? Don’t worry. You’ll be fine”.
Grace’s husband walked in on her conversion. Grace ended the call and wiped her face. Her husband sat next to her, he held her close and pacified her. He overheard her conversation and was not happy about the state of his wife. He promised to get some time off work to be with her and the baby since there was no one else to help. Grace cried even more everyday despite having a quiet and peaceful baby. Her husband barely knew how to console her. She cried even when she breastfed. Her husband would jokingly say, “You’re supposed to feed the baby with liquid from the breasts, not from the eyes” but they weren’t tears she could help. She was gradually falling into a state of depression and her husband worried for her and the baby. She hardly wanted to touch the baby. Grace just looked at him a lot, wondering what next. Her husband was compelled to learn how to bath, clean and burp the baby.
On the day of the naming ceremony, however, family, friends and visitors attended. They even brought their own friends. It was a big occasion. There were lots of Grace’s in-laws at the event and a few of her mother’s family. Grace’s mother needed tendering to so she couldn’t attend. Grace’s mother-in-law was away in New York on vacation so she too couldn’t be at the event. Grace wondered how all of a sudden there were lots of available people who attended the ceremony but none would make themselves available to help her out with the baby. True to her fears, none came visiting after the ceremony. Her husband returned to work after two weeks of paternity leave. It was then it dawned on her that it was indeed a lonely world – each person for himself. She would have to make it work. After all, it was her cross to bare.