My mother…..my mother, was only eighteen years of age. To say she never intended for things to go the way they did, would be a lie. I know she saw it coming from the time she laid eyes on my father. Still she made up her mind to have him even though he had one already to all his own. This one time she walked in the supermarket hours before she went to see my father but she felt so shy and instead of picking up a packet of condoms she took yoghurt instead.
My grand uncle in red was two weeks late and she called my father agreeing to talk about it when they met in person. I was comfortable, I was not fully formed, and perhaps some cells, but I was a human being. I was ALIVE! Soon, I would be born. Soon I would change the world. Should I be a doctor, perhaps the first female president in Kenya? All in due time I told myself. For now, focus was on enjoying the comfort of the womb…my mother’s womb.
When they met, she managed to pull a smile all through their lunch date. I could feel how guilty she felt with thoughts of infidelity ringing in her mind. The next week was longer for her and finally she gathered the courage and walked into the hospital to take a test. To confirm my existence, her child. She wished she had not entered the hospital. When this dark man, twice my mother’s size, handed her a folded paper after calling out her name all she did was run out of the hospital. In the matatu, she checked the results. It was positive! Soon I will see my mummy, soon I will kiss her. I was happy that she knew of my existence. Don’t be sad mummy I said to her even though she could not hear me, I will make you proud and make you smile, this I promise.
But she was eighteen, halfway through school, she lived with my grandparents. I do not blame her and the mixed reactions that went through her that day. She was afraid! How can she tell anyone? Who will she tell? What about my father who had many to call his own, not my mother only. Then I felt her get annoyed for that one time she did not pick a pack of condoms. In that moment, in that crowded street she wept.
Her phone rang after a while, could it be my daddy I wondered. It was her friend checking up on her, wondering if she will go back to school. I heard my mummy read out her name then all the information that was on that small piece of paper. She advised her to talk to my daddy or anyone from her family. The family I would soon join, do they laugh a lot? Do they like to swim? Are they travelers? Soon I will know. I can’t wait to meet them. When she called my daddy he said I am not his and if I am I must not be. What does he mean mummy? I do not understand. Maybe I will understand some day but for now let me lounge in my mummy’s womb.
When she went back home her family could not understand why she was behaving the way she was behaving. She was hostile to them. She just could not talk to anyone about me, I saw her try but she was so scared. Eventually she went back to school and she hoped to convince my father to let me be and that I was his.
I do not think that he was convinced that I was his though, because all he kept saying was that I could not be. That I will be pinned on him. My mummy was sad and she felt lonely. That night my daddy held her and she poured her heart to him, talking in between sobs. He understood her disappointments and he let her melt as they talked about me and what I could possibly look like. She wanted a daughter and at that point she named me. I now had a name. I was so excited if I had limbs I would have kicked, that night she slept in my daddy’s arms as he cradled her.
She woke up the next morning with a bout of nausea but my daddy ignored it and instead handed her seven thousand shillings and again he said that I cannot be. Mummy what does he mean for yesterday you named me. You said you love me. I shall not worry though; I know you will always have my back.
To say she did not plan her life would be a lie. She walked in to hospital again and I could hear her thoughts and I could feel that she wanted to run out of the hospital again. That is all I remember, in a few minutes I was no longer a human being. I was looking at my mummy but I was no longer in her womb. Where was I? Why mummy? So this is what he meant that you must not let me be?
I could see her guilt. She hated herself; I could feel it as I struggled to leave the world. Later she called my father to tell him that I am no more hoping that now he would love her more, he was so relieved and agreed to meet her up. She walked away as they flushed me, no longer pregnant but the mother of a dead baby. All I could say even though she could not hear me was ‘please let my siblings be if they ever come the way I came to this world. I will always love you mummy, I will watch over you. Most importantly I forgive you.’ She wanted to know if my daddy still wanted to be with her but he, he wanted to see other girls….
I must have lost too much blood. I was losing weight and had become pale. Two days before being rushed to the ER I had called my father to inform him of my decision to drop out of school. He listened closely as I held back tears and told him I thought I was joining the wrong profession, school was stressing and the staff unbearable but finally broke down and told him I just couldn’t handle being there.
You see, I had spent my nineteenth birthday (a week earlier) crying behind closed doors because it felt like everyone save for one friend felt obliged to judge me. Untouchable, no one wanted anything to do with me.
I remember not being able to breathe somewhere on the stairs on my way to catch “Big Brother” then the emergency room. If you’ve been to Mater Hospital or any other hospital for that matter, you’re aware that persons who can still walk, talk and respond to normal stimuli have no real emergencies. I waited for almost an hour to see the doctor. He seemed tired and kept glancing at his watch.
“So madam, what seems to be the problem?” I explain that I have this pain when I try to breathe but refuse to add that it may be because the universe is choking me.
“When did you last have your menses?”
I stare and wonder what to say. Thinking I may not have understood, he repeats the question, this time in simpler wording. “When did you last have your period?”
Still I stare. I’m looking for an answer. That question deserves a long well explained answer because I don’t want to repeat it. When did I last have my period? I’m not sure. My panties were blood stained when I woke up today morning and I may have had the worst cramps ever at some point during the day. The pain; equal in measure to that that I experienced when I tried to breathe. But then again I had had my period two days before that and three days before that other time and for about seventeen consecutive days before that. Sometimes spotting, sometimes…
In a frail voice, I answer “Today” motioning that I can’t breathe.
There are fewer questions and more tests as time moves on and I get to leave with a long prescription. He remembers one more thing, iron, and adds it to the prescription.
I made it through the night. It was the first time I slept through a whole night in a month. I honestly thought it would take only thirteen minutes and I’d walk out fine. The fat hairy man who I allowed to take Ella away said I would experience something like my period for a few days not that pain that left me on the floor for hours on end because my bed was too hot. I got up the next morning and headed home to new beginnings.
New beginnings don’t come easy, especially if you move to this new place but with the same people. It’s like watching a new movie but with the same cast. Everyone wanted to hold on to some bit of the past and I wanted to hold on to him. Seven months down, I still got excited when he’d call or even when he came over, not to see me but see his friends. I broke down more than I should have when their online conversations got to “get rid of her” and also every time he would ignore me.
For what seemed like an eternity, I battled depression. Trying to maintain both school and out-of-school activities as well as retain my sanity. One Friday night, I declined to go to a party a short distance from my place and instead took an overdose and decided to call him. He was with someone else at the moment. When I told him about the over dose, he laughed and told me to die. She laughed along. He told me to tell it to someone who cared about me and hung up. I cried and waited to die; hoped to die from antibiotics but I just vomited.
First a lot of clear liquid then nothing; mostly air. I had no one on my phone book that I felt I could call so I wrote to my daughter because my mind was convinced that even though she was no longer of this world she could hear me. The first was an apology. I cried throughout the writing. Then I wrote to her every day. Also, it felt nice to talk to someone who just listened throughout. Sometimes I thought I heard her speak to me.
New beginnings came easy once I let go of the guilt I held against myself and depression became easier to live with. When he came back and said he loved me and had acted irrationally because of his friends… I smiled. He said he wanted to “give me another baby to replace the one I lost”. The humiliation I went through because of that one child was enough. He didn’t need my forgiveness because I never held anything against him. For the one and a half years I knew him, I had loved him unconditionally and blamed all his faults on other things. When I was eighteen, I thought I had never planned for my life to turn out like that, I lied. I had it coming from the minute I set my eyes on him. I was twenty when he came back and to later on say I didn’t have a choice would be a lie.
I’m a mother alright. My baby, she’s somewhere sleeping peacefully once in a while popping into her father’s dreams because he’ll still drop a text once in a while to say how much he thinks about her.
My dear Ella may you rest in peace love. Mama loves you.
Yours, Mama Ella
“I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.” – Ronald Reagan
“A person is a person no matter how small.” – Dr. Seuss