The first time I heard my baby’s heartbeat, my heart beat so fast—not in excitement—but in fear that another human being was about to come out of me, and I was totally unprepared.
I was supposed to be a mother-to-be, but I was not ready to be a mother. I was 31 weeks pregnant and I had not bought a blanket to swaddle it nor a shawl to cradle it. I had no pram to rock it nor a pacifier to soothe it. I had no family to welcome it nor a mother’s love to nurture it.
The clock rang ten that Wednesday morning in June.
The clouds were dense and dark with rain and the day started on a dull note. I was in Dr. Dotun’s office for my first antenatal assessment in 31 weeks. The room was cool and smelt of methylated spirit. The nurse who was preparing me for the ultrasound dressed the machine and told me to undress.
She put on the fluorescent lamp and I put up my blouse. I was wearing blue maternity jeans and an ankara (African prints) blouse. I laid on the gurney, gazing at the wall, waiting.
Dotun Diamond, as the name on the wall frame read, had graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. As my eyes toured the room, I sighed, on the wall far away, another frame displayed him in a graduation gown, leaning on an aging woman- a gracefully aging one. The quotes inscribed on the frame said; ‘a mother’s love is greater than a million rubies. His mother of her?
That pricked my conscience, for I was a mother-to-be, and I had not a smidgen of love for my unborn child. And then the door opened with a whisper and he entered. He was attired in a green surgeon top and a matching scarf strapped on his head. His stethoscope hung loosely over his name tag and breast pocket which held a blue stylus. He looked intently at me but said nothing. Not ‘how are you?’ Not pleasantries.
I was disappointed because I had thought of him as a polite person from the way he comforted me the first day we met.
In a matter-of-fact fashion, he slid into his chair, collected a gel from the nurse, and dropped it on my huge belly. It felt cold to my skin. As cold as his attitude of him was.
And then he gently glided the transducer, a probe akin to a computer mouse, over the gel on my belly; fixing his very serious eyes on the scan’s monitor. I tried to turn my face to the side of the ultrasound machine, to understand the picture that was displayed on the monitor, but I couldn’t. All I saw was a shapeless, sketchy, black and white image of a pulsating object.
“It’s only for trained eyes,” I answered, as though reading my mind.
‘How are you by the way,’ I finally asked.
“So what does that mean,” I pointed to the shapeless-looking image on the monitor, ignoring his pleasantry.
“That’s your baby,” he said, staring at the image on the monitor and not at me. “You see this movement,” he pointed to the monitor… “it means your baby is very active…This is the amniotic fluid in which your baby swims in,” he said moving the probe all over my belly.
“But I don’t get it,” I said.
“It means your baby is doing very well. Let me put it on speaker so you can hear its heartbeat.”
And then a loud, pounding sound jumped out of the machine. It sounded like a continuous pounding of a hammer. Gban-gban…gban-gban. It was so regular and rhythmic. A heart rate monitor blinking so fast recorded over 100 beats within one minute.
Then I got sincerely frightened! My heart pounded too—not in telepathy, but in trepidation! So it was going to be real? I was going to produce a child; a real living being who would look up to me to learn either virtues or vices. Someone whose life I could make or break; mold or sea? Reality check.
“Doc, please can you check the sex of the baby… is it a boy or girl?” I asked, after my moment of introspection.
He ran the transducer probe over my belly again, pressing it harder.
“It is looking like a girl, but come back in an hour for the final result.”
The doc told me to dress up and wait in the lobby while the scan result will be prepared.
While I waited, I went to the wellness clinic where I had been referred, for psychoanalytic evaluation.
The clinician looked like a young woman in her late thirties; with a straight face and straight, curve-less body. She asked candid questions and I gave her candid answers. Alas, she scribbled something on my case note.
“You will come for counseling once a week, for the remaining weeks of your pregnancy most especially post delivery,” her voice was straight and devoid of inflections.
“What am I suffering from…you just asked me to come…what is my problem?”
“You are showing strong signs of bipolar and mild signs of delusion,” her voice was very flat.
“Bipolar? How? Since when?”
“The test reveals why you experience extreme episodes of mood swings. One minute you are very depressed, indecisive, feeling guilty, worthless and inadequate, irritable, suicidal and sometimes you get unusually euphoric, self-righteous..”
“Only me…all these….” I interrupted her… “, aren’t these normal reactions that come with being hurt and emotionally distressed…how did it become a mental disorder? Should I feel happy when someone hurt me badly..?
“That’s why I said you should come for counseling once a week,” she feigned patience.
“If I feel these ways, I have a valid reason for feeling so. What about those who perpetrate injustice with impunity. Why not counsel them? You’d rather judge me?”
“’I’m not judging you… you see what I am saying??? You are being deluded…you’re showing…signs of mild delusion…you think someone is against you, everyone is out to harm you- that is delusion and it is one of the first signs of schizophrenia…”
“Schizophrenia? Why don’t you just say I am mad? You don’t need to euphemize madness by calling it those psychiatric jargons…bipolar, schizophrenia,…just call it madness.”
And then I opened my phone and googled…I showed her the search result.
“See, see isn’t schizophrenia a serious mental disorder?”
“Apologies…madam,” she said in a resigned tone.
“I am already used to being judged. No need to apologize.” I carried my bag and began walking across the yard back to collect my scan result.
But wasn’t she correct? Schizophrenic people think everyone is judging them. They can’t keep a job. They can’t keep relationships. They will ruin everything. And that wasn’t me because I tried to keep everything but everyone judged me for getting pregnant without a father. I got a job and got sacked. I got into a relationship and got jilted. I got a friend in Sheri and got ejected. Even with my money, some self-righteous shenanigans told me they don’t give houses to single women. How was I expected to react! Somersault in joy? How seriously can one be healed? And then a car driving out of the hospital yard almost hit me. i jolted
On arriving at Dr. Dotun’s office the scan result, ‘read 85 percent likelihood to be a girl’.
Then I asked:
“Doctor…What are the things mothers do to have a stillbirth?”
“Que…. what sort of question is that? Are you planning to kill your baby?”
“No, no, no doc…I am just curious.”
“Sorry, we don’t give such counsel here. We don’t wish to record stillbirths in our hospital. We deliver care here.”
It was 9pm when I got to House 44, a place I had called home for the past 5 months, and which would cease to be home to me thenceforth. Only Iwa was at home. Sheri had moved in with Charles in preparation for their wedding. Adeiwa had packed out too. The room was empty. And I felt empty. Even though I carried a real human within me, I was an empty vessel for I had nothing to offer this child, but to offer it up!
(To be continued)
You can read the last edition HERE
“Unapologetically Shewa” is a story of Shewa and Sheri. Both of them are single mothers who live in a society which judges them. While Sheri keeps seeking where and what to hide behind, Shewa decides to stop hiding or withering under the condescending glare of society. She was ready to shed no more tears, but shed off the scales of self-judgment and begin a journey of self-actualization. Coming against societal norms, will she change the norms or the norms will change her?
Abiose A. Adams, a journalist, creative writer, and senior program officer at Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation, can be reached on [email protected]
Author’s Disclaimer: This story is purely a work of fiction. Any coincidence of the characters with real persons is highly regretted.
Photo credit: Pexel
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