Ifeoma was staring at the child.
She had skin the color of brown paper bags; the really light brown ones that made you think of Milo with a lot of milk. Her legs were chubby and Ifeoma could imagine how soft they would feel. The child was gurgling and the sound made her uterus ache. It reminded her of her fruitlessness and of all the nights she’d held Tasie as she mourned the child they’d lost.
She blinked. Once, twice. She bent her head and brought her hands to catch the tears before they shamed her by rolling down her cheeks. Hot, quick rivulets. She looked out the window and she thought of all the money they had spent on homeopathic treatments after her ectopic pregnancy had destroyed one of her tubes. The doctors had said there was always a chance of getting pregnant. She wanted more than just ‘a chance’, she wanted certainty, wanted to know that she would hold her own in her arms one day. She wanted to be like Adaora who gave a testimony after her first child was born after being childless for nine years. She wanted it to be her turn.
Every day she went to work and she felt like a mentally unstable woman as she wanted to take every child she taught home with her and become their mother, erase all memories of their lives before her, make them newborns. She hated the fact that Tasie was calm and optimistic and made her feel like a child-desperate woman after five years of marriage. Maybe he had a mistress who was pregnant or had already borne him children. Her heart sank at the mere thought of another woman being with her husband, her first love. She wanted to love him. To give him the time and affection he so badly deserved, but she felt like her heart wouldn’t let her. Like her soul was drenched in mourning. She felt that she owed it to their dead unborn child to mourn it with all her heart.
Ifeoma remembered vividly the day she found out she was pregnant. She’d walked down her street slowly terrified to upset her baby in any way, grateful that she’d worn flats that day and when she’d let herself into their flat, she’d drunk a glass of water and then another-she needed to stay hydrated– and then she’d eaten and taken a nap and dreamed about her child, what it would look like and what it would smell like. When Tasie returned, she had told him the good news and watched his eyes light up with joy and pride. She still remembered how crest fallen he was after they learned that it was ectopic pregnancy. She did not want an abortion; it was a sin against God and so she prayed that God would give her a miracle and let her child be born. She prayed and told family to pray for her also.
On that Saturday before she lost it after five months of being pregnant, they had been at her younger sister’s wedding and she had been calm, little exertion, just happiness. Ifeoma had never before felt pain like that or seen so much blood, it was everywhere! Redness and more redness. She blamed herself for being at a wedding instead of observing bed rest. She’d cried and Tasie had cried with her but he had said it was okay, they would have another baby and it would be in the right place and it would stay. They didn’t. Nkechi her sister had had two and Tasie had carried both of them and sung to them and kissed them like they were his and her heart would break every time she saw the failure that she was.
She was shocked the first day Tasie mentioned adoption;
“Why? Have you lost faith already?” she’d cried
“Babe, I love you and I can see you’re unhappy, I want a baby but most importantly I want you and your happiness and whenever you’re ready, just say the word” he said reaching out to hug her.
It had been another night of tears. Adopting would mean it wouldn’t be theirs, neither his nor hers and as childish as it sounded, she wanted their baby, borne by her and with their DNA. Her friend Nwerebuaku told her;
“Tasie will leave you o! Whatever you’re doing, do it sharp sharp ah ahn”
She’d laughed. “Tasie loves me. He would never do that.”
“Well, I’ve told you”
Would Tasie really leave her? Was it really fair to keep him childless? It was she who had the problem anyway. Should she agree to adoption?
She left work earlier than usual. She cleaned the house, made dinner and had a shower. When Tasie came home and had eaten, she asked
“Would it be terrible if we didn’t have kids for a few more years?”
He smiled. The smile he’d smiled when she’d said ‘I do’ at the altar.
“I married you. I love you and it does not matter to me if we don’t have children. I want you and me. I want us and I want us to be happy with or without babies”
And then she cried. And cried some more. She knew he meant it and she loved him for it and she agreed.
She just didn’t think she deserved it… or wanted it that way.