The matron’s eyes appeared empty of empathy and her voice was void of patience as she called out to the patients.
It was on one of those days I wore black because black meant an absence of colour; and in my life, there was an absence of colour.
I sat on the last bench leaning against the wall; Iwa’s wedding aso-ebi on my lap, listening to the matron chastising a pregnant woman for registering for antenatal care at week 30. I felt that was me because I was 30 weeks pregnant. I was only reluctantly, attending the antenatal clinic for the first time.
I got to the hospital around 9 am, and I was number 180 on a very long list.
The matron would call out their names and tags, ‘number 72’! ‘number 73,”; and the women would cower. Any woman who didn’t respond quickly got a reprimand.
Do you want a still-birth baby? Don’t you know that late registration can harm your baby’s growth, she would reprimand as if she really cared.
The voice in my head would rant: Stillbirth?… I reject it in Jesus name! Down syndrome or autism, cerebral palsy, I reject it…Or would my child be a bundle of emotional baggage or a bundle of joy?
My mind was totally scrambled. I became scared and guilty because I had neglected it. I was vulnerable and I had so many worries. I had no shelter, no birth plans, and no idea about parenting.
I was partially thankful to Iwa for giving me a contract job to be one of her wedding planners. My brief was to buy aso-ebi in bulk at a warehouse on Lagos Island. I was to sell it and make some profit for myself.
Iwa had allowed me to live in the house, while still determined to kick out her sister Sheri.
Though I suspected it was a Greek gift. I knew she was taking advantage of my vulnerability and using me as a pawn in her hand- a tool of personal vendetta against Sheri.
But the thought of betraying Sheri laid a heavy slab of guilt on me. We gradually stopped talking. She grew closer to Charles and I grew closer to myself.
And suddenly the matron’s raspy voice cut through me again.
“Who is Mrs. Gregg!”
“Oh that’s me,” I jumped out of my daydream….I rearranged the aso-ebi material I was holding and jumped up…. totally unfamiliar with being addressed as a Mrs. Gregg…
“Why didn’t you answer, the matron yelled in her usual hectoring tone.
I was about to apologize with all the civility within me when she suddenly added salt to injury.
“If you come to the hospital…come with your mind…” And then she pointed to the aso-ebi I was holding, “….people like you will collect money from your husband and use to come and be doing social gathering here buying aso-ebi here up and down…,”
“Excuse me ma, I don’t understand what you mean?”
The matron ignored me and continued calling;
“Number 181…number 182….”
I stood there shell-shocked. And then her assistant, a younger lady on whose badge was written Nursing Sister Simpson called out;
“Mrs. Gregg, ….sit down let me take your vital signs.”
“Ms. Shewa,” I snapped. “I am not Mrs. Gregg.”
I wondered why she just assumed that I was a married woman. Mrs. Gregg? It reminded me of the day Naffy challenged me with that question too.
“Is that not your husband’s name?”
“Must every pregnant you see here have a husband?”
“So who impregnated you….I mean who is the father of your child?”
“I don’t see how that is any of your business!”
“Madam…, she said impatiently…whatever you call yourself cooperate with us so we can do our job better. Our staff is over-stretched. I am not the one that send you to go and get pregnant, so don’t pour your frustration on me.”
“Come, come, come…..where am I? Am I in a hospital or a bus garage? How dare you talk to me like that? How dare you? Is this the kind of words that should come out of the mouth of someone whose profession spells care and empathy?”
The old grouch matron who had ignored me suddenly paused and charged towards me.
“Security! Security!…Take this woman out of here. She is a trouble maker…she must be one of these women…pregnancy-missed-road, carrying bastard child up and down!”
Aha,,,,madam matron….a.ha….why are you talking like this, a woman from the crowd, who surely couldn’t control herself, burst out. “You people in this place have no compassion at all… you have no milk of human kindness aha! Every day, every day you abuse us here. Government should remove all of you. …..
“You are the one that will be taken out of here. Busybody,” Nursing Sister Simpson, hissed.
The whole antenatal clinic was agog with anger.
“Silence, silence please…another assistant, tried to quieten the restive women. Let us face what we came here for..that is to receive care, and not follow this woman,” she said pointing at me.”
“Have we come here to receive care or to be judged,” I finally replied the matron. “Are you a caregiver or a scare-giver? “What gives you the right to criticize a woman for getting pregnant. If she wants to get pregnant every nine-nine months and for nine different men…that’s her business. If you are frustrated and don’t want to work in the hospital anymore then resign. People like you should go work in a cemetery not in a hospital….. there you can put your grumpy, compassion-less skills to good use.”
“You have no respect for your elders. You are the solicitor and women’s rights advocate, eh?”
“Respect is reciprocal.”
“Please let calm down.. we will resolve this,” a man in white overall, stethoscope around his neck with red and blue pen pinned to his chest, said as he emerged from his office.
He called aside the matron and the nurses on duty.
‘That must be the medical director.’’ I heard some women saying.
He later came to me. I looked at his badge, it read, Justice. E (Dr.). And I said that would be the name I would give my child. Justice.
“Madam please calm down. You shouldn’t be getting involved in a brawl in your condition,” he said.
“Sir, that your nurse is a curse…she is a scare-giver, not a caregiver, preferably, a scarecrow….a monster!
“That’s okay….that’s okay…. madam…. We apologize. Please be calm, I will refer you to one of our O and G specialist.”
He pressed his bell and another doctor emerged. On his white overall was written Dr. Dotun. A
As I followed Dr. Dotun, I cried and cried and cried, remembering everything Sheri had warned me about. That the society will keep reminding me of Tunbi, whether I liked it or not. I was afraid of being asked that question- who is the father of your child. That was why I had avoided every place where such questions might come up. And definitely, the hospital environment was one place where I had to register in that information. And I was unwilling to. I had relied on Google as my personal physician and had told me everything I needed to know about pregnant and baby development, but it could not tell me the sex of my child, neither could it give me the care, I needed. But is this care or scare?
As more tears flowed, Dr. Dotun stared at me and handed me a handkerchief.
I blew my nose into it, as more and more tears poured out.
After almost 10 minutes of crying and waiting for me to speak, he spoke.
“Can I call you Ms. Shewa?” He sounded so polite, I couldn’t believe I was still in the same hospital.
“…looks like I will give you time to go home and rest. And then come back tomorrow, so you can be counselled… I don’t think you are in a position to talk right now.”
“Doc…I finally spoke..I don’t know what is wrong with me these days. I find myself fighting a lot.
“It could be you are showing strong signs of depression…maybe bipolar.”
I raised my head and stared at him. “..bipolar???”
“Did you undergo a traumatic experience lately?”
“I’ve been traumatized since the beginning of this pregnancy.”
“What about your spouse? Is he with you?”
There you go again, I wanted to answer him….Must I have a spouse…
“No, I have no spouse.”
“I mean father of the baby?”
Isn’t that the question a paternity test seeks to answer…..I wanted to be sarcastic.
“He has no father?” I paused and tears rushed to my eyes. I swallowed
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m planning to give it up for adoption. I can’t cope. I am too weak. I have been strong for too long. I can’t do this anymore,” I broke down in tears again.
“Adoption? Why adoption? What about your mom, dad, or any close family?”
“They must not know.”
(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-judgement 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 programme 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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