I took a long drag of the cigarette and my lungs almost exploded. This was the first time I was smoking after I made the decision to quit a long while back. The hot sensation coursing through my insides was what my body needed at the moment.
I exhaled and immediately asked the kiosk attendant to fix me two shots of locally-brewed gin, which I gulped down in one swallow. I almost choked as the liquid threatened to reflux its way back through my oesophagus.
I tried to pray. Amidst all the madness it seemed like the only reasonable thing to do. I wondered if God would hear my prayer with all the drinking and smoking. But I hoped, for Felicia’s sake, that I would get a miracle soon.
I stared at the building across the road, fixing my gaze on one of the windows of the rooms on the second floor. My wife, Felicia, had been battling for her life all night. I checked my watch, and my apprehension soared. The time was 5.45am.
“God please spare the life of my wife and baby,” I muttered in supplication.
Felicia was my life. We’ve been married for four years without children and everyday of our apparent childlessness has been hell on earth for her. We met in Owerri. She was doing teaching practice, and I was a stationery distributor to the primary and secondary schools in the area.
It was a romance made in heaven. We were not bothered about social standing but promised each other that love, trust and commitment would be the bedrock of our relationship. We were married seven months later.
Four years flew past. Our parents made various incursions to aid in our quest for a child. I could not be bothered. I constantly reassured my wife that it was God who gave children. I chose not to lose sleep just because some people felt it was a thing of pride, fulfillment or customary to have children.
I must state here that Felicia bore the brunt of the issue. My business went burst when a mysterious thunderstorm blew off the roof of my store and ruined a large consignment of textbooks. She rose to the occasion and supported me through it all. Her teaching appointment at the local government secondary school in Orlu had been confirmed two years earlier, and she also had a fledgling provision store which served as additional source of income.
So when mama threatened to bring another girl for me from the village, I wouldn’t even give her the time of day. Mama also came with bottles of concoctions for my wife to drink. It would help her get pregnant, she claimed. But I vehemently refused. Felicia and I were already in consultation with our doctor at the Owerri Graceland medical center.
“It’s either you take this medicine or your wife should get ready to have a mate.” Mama stormed out of the house, refusing to accept the money I offered her for transport.
Our joy knew no bounds when Felicia found out she was pregnant. It was a dream come true. We were thankful that God had wiped away our reproach. I took to managing the provision store to ease the strain on her. Since my business was not doing well and I was yet to recoup my losses, I felt it was the best I could do to help.
A dark pall was cast over our joy when, in the sixth month of the pregnancy, the doctor said Felicia would have to give birth via Caesarian section because of her small cervix. I turned a deaf ear to all the hue and cry of religious enthusiasts like mama and began to make plans to raise the projected bill of two hundred thousand Naira. I would later get the local co-operative society to lend the money at a twenty-five percent interest repayment plan. I didn’t want it to be said that I’d left anything to chance.
The drive to the hospital took forever. I kept yelling at my friend, Obiora, to step on the pedal. I’m sure he broke a thousand driving regulations that day. I prayed fervently that nothing would happen to my wife and child.
I’d gotten a call while at the store. There had been an accident in the house. Neighbors who said they were attracted by her screams from the barn saw her sprawled on the ground and gesticulating wildly towards the direction of the yams. The sight of a snake feasting on a house-rat must have spooked her, making her trip on a log of wood; a delicate situation for a woman in her eight month of pregnancy.
The doctors immediately decided to operate. The term they used was “stressed.” The baby was no longer safe inside her. I signed the consent form in a daze.
The vibration of the phone in my pocket jangled my nerves. Apparently the palliative measures I had taken earlier had not helped.
“Hello doctor…” I blurted out, fearing the worst.
“Hello, Mr Okorie, your wife is out of surgery and has been sedated to help calm her down. But, you can still see her,” the doctor said. But I could detect the unspoken words.
“…how about the baby?” I managed a whisper.
“I’m sorry, but the child didn’t make it. The stress was too much for it to bear. Pity it was a boy. You can come and see your wife now.” The line went dead.
I collapsed into the chair by the kiosk and sobbed uncontrollably. I wept until I choked and retched, spilling my guts, wrung tight from the ice-cold feeling of having lost pride and joy. I felt like dying.
Moments later, I cradled my wife in my arms as she poured her grief unto my chest. Our sense of loss was overwhelming and shattering; like a knife had been thrust in and twisted. The days ahead appeared gloomy: children yet unborn; debts yet unpaid; fulfillment yet attained; scars still fresh and a faith shaken to its roots. I just wasn’t ready to give it thought.
All I wanted to do at the moment, regardless of what anyone said or thought, was to love my wife endlessly.
Post image titled “Passing by” by Patrice Piard via Manufactoriel
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