I saw my son again last night. I didn’t dream it this time. He was there, right in front of me. It’s been over twenty years since I’ve seen him and of course he doesn’t recognize me. It breaks my heart that he looks at me, smiles at me and he has no idea who I am. He has become a far better man than his father ever will be ever be, wherever he is, that one. Caring, smart and quite the looker.

I’d moved on from the tragedy that was letting him go even before he was a year old. I should’ve given him away quicker. I shouldn’t have stopped to look into his heavily hooded eyes when the doctor handed him to me, shouldn’t have breastfed for six months while my friends wrote their GCSEs. But people never tell you how hard having a baby is or how much harder it is to give up a child who holds your finger every night while he sleeps. I was heartbroken. I cried. I was angry at everyone, everything. At God, for making me have to choose, at my mother for her self-righteous attitude, at the fool who I let get me pregnant because I thought I was ‘in love’ and most of all at myself, the greatest fool of all. I made all the mistakes, yet I wanted to have my cake and eat it, but my mother had neither the fortitude nor the resources to care for my illegitimate child. And so, I had to choose. I gave him up to a nice family who moved out of the country which was great, because then I couldn’t change my mind, even though I awoke every morning wanting to change my mind still. They bought him for a lot of money and I signed him away. I signed that I’d never see him again, never smell his sweet baby smell, never hear his voice or touch that dark skin that made my heart swell in affection.

Life was good to me after that. I met and married the sweetest man alive and I mended my relationship with my mother. I had a little boy again and then a little girl. It was blissful. I still thought of my first child. Dreamed of him. What would he look like? Would he still have my dark skin? Or would he be fair like his father? What would he like to eat? Anyway, my son, my second son, I should probably start using their names now. My second son, Yinka is a phenomenal artist. His paintings are simply visions, things that only an imagination on fire could create. And my baby girl, she’s gone the traditional route, studying medicine in London.

You probably already know what happens next. But I’ll tell you anyway. Tiwalade was twenty four when she brought him home. I didn’t recognize him. How could I? He was the perfect blend of milk and coffee and nothing like his father or me for that matter. And he was Obinna, not Dayo. I didn’t know until I saw a photo of his mother. It was like she’d never changed, all these years. I can’t say a word, cannot burst Tiwa’s bubble almost as much as I cannot permit this taboo. My baby. She’s been the perfect child. A true sanguine like her father. And Dayo, well Obinna, loves her like someone bound them in a former life. I’m terrified of the cascade of emotions my confession will unleash. So I bide my time. I want to spend time with him, to love him, know him, just in case he never forgives me or never wants to see my face ever again. This is when the nightmares begin. I see him in my dreams and he disappears when I reach for him.

I always planned to tell them, you know. I wanted them to know, both of them, that my womb had borne them, that my canal had passed them. I failed them. I knew it when Tiwa came into my room with him that Sunday evening. The sunset was so perfect, the orange glow hitting his skin, making it luminous and every time I see a sunset now, my heart breaks. She was so happy and yet so nervous. Her giddiness permeated my soul, got under my skin. I’d felt the same way when I told Dayo’s father that he was growing in me. After she said ‘Mum, I’m pregnant’, I really didn’t hear anything else.

How do you tell your child that your selfishness so foolish was going to break her forever? No, how do you tell your children? How do you explain that you allowed a taboo so great because you wanted time with a child you never forgave yourself for letting go of? How do you forgive yourself? Let me tell you. You don’t. You can’t. Ever.