Teni’s ruminations on the reality of an unexpected pregnancy; negative family patterns, her parents’ expectations of her and her imperfections.
It is five days now since you expected to see your period but you haven’t and now you can’t help thinking you are done for. The wait till the fifth day was a harrowing one and you wonder how you managed it because no one else around you had any idea you were a total mess of worry and nerves underneath the mask of keeping house.
You cleaned out the girls’ room, removing cobwebs, taking out old clothes, dusting, sweeping and moping. You also woke up early every morning like you always do to first sweep the house from top to bottom and then proceed to make breakfast for everyone.
After which you would disappear to the toilet because while slicing up pieces of yam you felt something gooey slide all the way from inside your vagina unto your panties. Your heart begins to race.
Once inside the toilet with shaky hands you yank your morning shorts and panties down all at once and stare intently for a trace of brownish stain but you find a creamy sticky patch instead. Your heart sinks as you lean into the wall.
“Could I really be pregnant? But I took the pills like I used to. Maybe the pills have delayed my period. But has my period ever been delayed by the pills before?” you ask whispering.
You rack your head for antecedents till your sister comes banging on the door.
“What are you doing there?” she yells
You scramble up and quickly pull up your shorts looking around for anything that might give away your agony.
“Come on I want to use the toilet!” your sister continues to yell.
A little miffed at her impatience you answer sharply,
Then you pull the bolt and before you can open the door she pushes it open and dashes in. You frown but you are in no mood to argue so you just step out but not without first hearing the strings of fart she releases on her way in.
You quickly cover your nose with your palm before the stench hits but you are too late. You stop short as you realise you are not nauseous.
“Isn’t nausea one of the symptoms of pregnancy?”
You heart lifts a bit and then you remember you peed exactly five times during the night and even this moment your lower abdomen feels full.
Picking up your shabby mobile phone you make your way to the backyard where you intend to sit on the log of wood right underneath your bedroom window and ask Google some questions about pregnancy symptoms.
But then you catch a glimpse of your father hovering by the kitchen door probably talking to your mother and you stop short pressing yourself against the wall because you do not want him to see you.
You feel a sense of inadequacy wash over you as you remember he is disappointed in you because it has been two years since you graduated from the university and you neither have a job nor have you brought a man home. He hasn’t openly called you a disappointment but you are certain he must feel that way because you feel that way.
He passes by and you tip toe into the kitchen where your mother is puttering around doing one thing or the other. You are not sure exactly what. She is in the kitchen a lot; your mother. Except for when you help out which you are always eager to do because it keeps your mind from thinking thoughts that often threaten to blast your head off.
You are more kitchen-eager than your younger sister Femi who has an antipathy towards house work and who would sooner slit her wrists than spend ten minutes in the kitchen.
“Your father was just telling me now……”
You hear your mother’s voice trailing off. You look up at her and pray that your soul is blank to her tired, discerning eyes because your mother is that kind of woman who ‘sees’ things before they happen.
You remember that time when she had had a dream about Olu driving around a brand new car in school. She immediately knew he had dabbled in some shady business with those ‘bad’ friends she had always perceived he was keeping.
So when Olu came home from school in the new car she remained quiet while your Father continued to scream out his misgivings and displeasure about Olu’s lifestyle. By the way Olu is your younger brother.
You also recall when she sent a message to Femi while the latter was in far away Enugu for her National Youth Service warning her not to be swayed by the attention of a certain young man who was pursuing her desperately. Femi later found out he was married. It turned out to be a tough service year for her.
“Hmm?” you mutter.
“Your Father was just saying he has agreed to meet with the family of the man who impregnated Kofo, to set a wedding date,” your mother replies.
“Really?” you ask truly surprised. You didn’t expect the matter to be resolved so quickly.
It has been three months since your father warned your half sister, her mother and their emissaries not to come within two inches of him because yet again another one of his unmarried daughters had gotten herself pregnant.
Your mother repeats your Father’s sentiments on how disheartening it is to spend so much money on getting your daughters educated and then have them throw it all away for prick. Of course they did not both put it in those exact words but you know that’s what they meant when they said ‘throw it all away for a man’.
“There is no evil name under the sun those people have not called me. I am a witch, the one who snatched your father from them,” she slaps her right hand on her wrapper-clad thighs dramatically.
You wish she would stop talking. Instead she pauses with a kettle dangling in one hand and the other lifted up as she looks up as though in supplication.
“But I thank God. At least I don’t have daughters who sleep around for money.”
She slaps her thighs again. You slowly make your way to the back door while she continues to talk to herself and shake her head.
When it is night you envy everyone else because they are oblivious to the terror which its silence brings. Thoughts flash through your mind like myriad multicoloured lights and you feel the pressure on your eyelids each time you shut your eyes to sleep.
For the first time since you feared the worst your emotions are beginning to thaw from a mass of disbelief and a blob of icy sob makes its way to your windpipes just as you attempt to exhale for your life forcing out an unusual sound from your lips. You begin to howl.
On the phone this evening, Jimi quietly told you to go do a pregnancy test and promised to send you money to do so which is just as well because you cannot afford to even if he didn’t offer.
“And why wouldn’t he?” you ask yourself.
“It is after all his pregnancy.”
Ah! Now you are admitting to being pregnant. More tears pour out your eyes. You are pregnant. You’ve been for the last two weeks but you didn’t want to admit it to yourself.
You didn’t want to believe that you Teni Balogun had fallen from smug heights and that like Kofo and the other Balogun girls you were susceptible to prick (man). In fact you could die for prick (man).
You feel mortification mingle with your tears and you feel cold too. So you draw your knees up and hug your limbs tight to your rocking body partly wracked by uncontrollable sobs. Your howling wakes your sister and she looks at you with sleep-glazed eyes alarmed. But you just keep rocking.
In the taxi on the way from the Laboratory your sister’s hands hold on to yours in your laps. It’s funny that you have passed by that place a lot of times and you never imagined you would be visiting one day for a pregnancy test. It was Femi’s idea though.
“I know a place on Awolowo road. It’s where I did mine,” she had said to you last night.
Yes, you had been shocked when she said that. In fact you had been shocked by so many things last night. You found out that there had been more to the married man from Enugu than your sister had let on.
“I just kept going back to him. Even though I knew it was wrong,” Femi had said to you.
You were stunned because you thought you were the only one in the whole world who had ever felt that way about a man. When you found your desire welling up with a rush till they spilled out of your eyes in tears as Jimi entered you and you opened up all of yourself to take all of him, you always thought it was only you that sort of thing happened to.
And then when it was over and away from the bedroom and you felt sore inside because you knew you didn’t really take all of him, you always thought it was just you.
Femi laughed out loud when you mentioned that Jimi didn’t like to use a condom because he complained that wearing one meant he had to expend four times the energy into ejaculating than he would if he wasn’t wearing one.
“Are you sure these two guys are not the same person?” she asked in between laughs. And you found yourself laughing too.
“Do you think mummy ever guessed I had had an abortion?” she asked.
You had almost forgotten. You girls were such disappointments.
The storm of his rage would sweep you all away.
You both had carried on clandestinely. For him, there was the girlfriend in the UK to think about and for you, well there was the foolishness of what you were doing to think about.
“No,” you shake your head in reply.
“I think God wanted to spare her the pain of knowing.”
You and Femi make plans and through it all you remind yourself that God loves your mother so much that he wouldn’t want her to know.
Your sister reassures but refuses to enunciate yet you imagine pain and blood; lots of blood. Surely God loves your mother so much that she must have no inkling of the planned abortion.
Yet in the still of the night, less terrifying now because of sisterhood, you begin to bleed. It’s just like your period came back. Only it really did not.
The blood flows certainly, purposefully determined to rid your uterus of extinct life, determined also to take your life along with it as the doctor later explains to you and your mother how dangerously low your PCV level has dropped.
In those days, your mother’s eyes hold pity and fear and your father’s disappointment, not like that which you imagined before.