Her husband’s dirty clothes from yesterday are still unwashed. The children will soon return from school and lunch is not ready yet.
Mama Osas picks up the match box from the trolley close to her television, the cellophane of salt, her container of Maggi and another of ground pepper and heads towards the kitchen.
Maybe I go just make yam for them, or small concoction rice. I no get power to cook another
She has been sleeping since everyone left the house. Rest only comes in snatches when her husband and children are out. The kitchen is located at the back of the ‘face me I face you’ house, not far away from
“Mama John, good afternoon o”, she greets her neighbor who is engrossed in the song as she washes the mountain of clothes in front of her, her movements synchronized to the song. Her stove is on a cabinet
for easy access because of her condition. Her hand impulsively caresses her baby bump and she smiles. She is carrying a messiah, a savior, the son who will remove suffering from her life. Everything suddenly has been good for the past few months. Her husband refrains from hitting her, scared that he might hurt
All he does is throw insults instead of the blows that had been her portion during the other pregnancies. This boy is special, and is to be protected from harm.
Someone touches her lightly on the arm. It is Mama John asking if everything is fine.
“No mind me jare. I dey fine, I just dey think some things.” She picks up a tuber of yam and starts peeling.
“You see as papa Gift take beat mama Gift this morning?” Mama John says. She ignores her.
“You dey hear me so?”
“Me? Na wetin you talk?”
“Where your mind even dey sef? Na wa o. I say whether you no see as Papa Gift take hammer Mama Gift this morning?”
Mama Osas rolls her eyes and replies, “I hear o, wetin happen sef?”
“Wetin happen? Wetin dey happen for that house wey pass Gift? Me I no even know who that man marry sef, whether na Gift abi na Mama Gift.”
“Ehen? So na Gift make am wan kill him wife this morning?”
“Yes na. Gift been dey complain say she no wan go wan go school, naim her Mama beat am. Papa Gift wey no know wetin happen for the matter, just hear him pikin dey cry, e no even ask wetin happen, e just give the wife pow for face!”
A sudden stab of pain makes Mama Osas drop her knife.
“Yes o, na so the surprise sef take catch me. You dey drop knife, me wey almost drop my pot of soup nko? I thank God sha say e nor fall, because for this economy, my husband for just kill me throwaway!”
Another stab of pain hits. Experience from having three children tells Mama Osas what is happening. She picks up her knife and continues peeling, faster now.
“Na so o. That girl ehn, as she small so, every time her mama go dey cry because of am. Na everything wey she want the Papa dey give am.”
Mama Osas grunts.
“I even hear say Papa Gift dey touch him pikin,” Mama John whispers. “Na die that man dey find so. Him go just die throwaway. Tufiakwa!” Mama John moves a hand in a circular motion round her head and snaps her fingers to express the abomination.
Mama Osas stops peeling suddenly.
Athink they tell me say make I begin come hospital once I smell labour make my pikin for no die?
She packs everything including the yam peels back into the cabinet.
“Mama Osas, wetin you dey do?”
She remembers that for some reason Mama John is always around when she’s having a baby. She won’t let that happen this time.
“This one wey you dey squeeze your face so…”
“Na nothing o, na so I dey do my face sometimes o, I no even know why.”
Mama Osas returns to her room with hands still dirty from peeling yam and picks up the nylon bag holding her delivery items that had been carefully arranged for more than a month.
Minutes later she walks out of her room and jams the door shut, then walks out the compound. She bites her lower lip from groaning aloud as she waits for an okada. One stops for her after a few minutes.
“Madam you dey go?”
“Yes o. Fate Hospital.”
“Hope everything dey ok.”
“Just carry me go,” she says.
“Na one fifty o” he says, his face changing from concern to annoyance at her tone.”
“Ehn? 150 ke? Wetin them dey carry fifty naira?”
“You dey go abi you wan talk story?”
“Oya make I give you 100 naira,” she says. He kicks his bike in preparation to zoom off.”
“Oya carry me make we go.”
In ten minutes, they are at the hospital. Mama Osas only finds a two hundred naira note in her wallet and hurries inside without waiting to collect her change. Immediately she enters the reception, she screams, “Labour o! Labour o!” nurses come to her aid.
“Na our patient she be?” the younger nurse asks.
“Yes, she register for here.”
“You no serious o. So if I no register for here nko? You no go answer me abi?” Mama Osas raises her voice, releasing some of the pain she has been suppressing for almost an hour.
“Madam no be so, na new nurse be this,” the other nurse says.
“She just start work yesterday na im make she dey ask. How your body?”
“Na im you dey see so o, make this boy comot for my body make I rest.”
“God go do am for you, na small small,” the new nurse says. The doctor on duty came out as soon as he was informed about Mama Osas’s presence. She screams immediately she sets eyes on him.
“Doctor my boy wan come out o.” The doctor smiles.
“Take her to the labour room and get everything set. Call me when she is ready.”
Dr. Esele walks into the ward. Inside, a woman sits on the edge of her bed staring at a newborn inside a crib just beside the bed. She turns when she becomes aware of his presence and looks up at him. He nods in answer to her unspoken query. Everything is fine.
Mama Osas is tired from pushing for so long. It has never been this difficult for her. A part of her mind reminds the fact that this is a boy, and she relaxes before summoning all her strength for a mighty heave.
“I see the head,” Dr Esele says.
“Keep pushing.” A baby wails. She’s done it, finally. Her son is here, her world will change for the better. She watches as the doctor takes the baby from the nurse who is going to clean him up.
“I’ll handle this myself. This is one special baby.”
Mama Osas smiles.
The cry of a baby snaps Dr. Esele to the present and he looks at the child being stretched towards him.
“He’s yours now, thank you for this precious little girl,” the woman says with a British accent while staring at the baby who is now in the crib the boy once occupied. Dr. Esele starts rocking the boy in his arms so he can stop crying.
“Hope she’s fine? No complications?”
“She’s fine,” he assures her. “We need to leave now because the new mother will want to see her son.”
“Of course,” she says.
She retrieves a suitcase from beneath the bed and drops it on the bed.
“This is yours, five million naira cash, as agreed.”
Dr. Esele drops the baby on the bed and opens the suitcase. His eyes widen at the number of freshly minted one thousand naira notes in one place.
“Thank you for doing this for me,” the woman says.
“It means a lot.” Gently she lifts the little baby from the crib and cuddles her.
“What can I say?” Dr. Esele asks. We thank God.”
He locks the suitcase with care and picks up the baby, dressed in a coverall that isn’t part of the things Mama Osas brought. Of course he has an explanation for that already.
“This is it then. We part ways to never see again.”
“Of course,” he answers.
In his mind they have never met. He doesn’t even know her name, she never told him. She walks out of the room and with the baby in one arm and her bag in the other, looking back one last time to ensure she’s forgotten nothing behind. Never again will she go through the ordeal, this is her last child. Never again will she care for a child only to have him die in her arms. One is better off with a healthy daughter, than a sickly son.
Linda Orajekwe is a graduate of English language and literary studies from Lagos State University. A social media manager and a Journalist with a certificate in public relations from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. She promotes the African culture and literature through her blog www.linorajj.com. When Linda is not writing, reading, beading, sewing or talking, she’s definitely watching a movie or looking for shadows to chase.