A battle in the pits of her stomach. A quick rush to the bathroom. When she is through with vomiting, she sits on the toilet, her stomach still roiling, her head pounding. She contemplates her condition.

She doesn’t want to return to her gynecologist. She doesn’t want to see him shake his head and tell her it was all in her mind. The way he’d done the last two times.

She’d felt naked, foolish, in a mad rush to be a mother.

She wipes her mouth again and washes her face. Her eyes are still swollen and bloodshot, her cheeks blanched. She feels as bad as she looks, hollow from the inside out, drained, exhausted, and drained yet again.

Barbara finally exits the bathroom and makes her way to her office. The nameplate on the door informs clients that she is a senior partner in the boisterous law firm. She’s had more than her fair share of winning days in court, and she’d gratefully exchange all of that for a baby, her own baby.

Everyone tells her to be patient. Her parents say so. Her best friend says so. Her gynecologist. Even Timmy says so. Tiring of me already, he’d smile that crooked smile of his, why, we’ve been married only one year.

But for someone who’d waited till thirty-eight before being found, patience didn’t come easy for her. And a book she’d read told her menopause was perhaps only two years ahead of her.

“Are you okay?” Her secretary pops her head in, chomping on a wad of gum.

“Yeah. Thanks, Rosie.” But she feels worse, and there’s a buzzing behind her eyelids that tells her she is dizzy. “Perhaps I should just go home. I don’t feel too well.”


The last time she’d been to her gynecologist, he’d said there was nothing wrong with her but pseudocyesis. When he saw how pale and frightened she looked, he’d told her it was nothing. Pseudocyesis was only a medical slang for a woman thinking she was pregnant when she wasn’t.

It didn’t matter that she’d been sick to her bones, vomiting her guts out, her breasts huge and tender. Not to mention the fact that her period had been a week late.

When she got home that day and prepared for bed, a red splash in her panties brought tears to her eyes.

Today she unlocks the door and rushes to the bathroom, grateful that Timmy is not yet back from work. She vomits, washes her face.

Finally, she collects a sample of her urine and dips in one of the pregnancy strips she’d picked up at the pharmacy.

The five minutes it takes to process are perhaps the longest she’s spent this year. When two red lines appear on the strip, she doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. And then a wave of bile rushes to her throat.

When she is through, she unwraps the remaining nine strips and stick them into the urine. After five minutes, all nine have two red lines.

Whooping yet crying, she runs all the way to the living room. She calls Timmy, is still crying when her husband picks up.

“I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant…I’m pregnant…” She says over and over again

8 thoughts on “Pseudocyesis” by Folakemi Emem-Akpan (@Folakemi)

  1. Pseudocyesis! @folakemi thanks for adding anoda lexical item to my arsenal. I love this piece. i’m always looking forward to reading your write-ups on women. thumbs up. I seem not to understand dis *she calls timmy, is still crying when her husband picks up* I guess something is missing/wrong in that sentence. please elucidate.

    1. thanks @shovey. I meant to say that she called Timmy, her husband on her phone, and is still crying when he picks her call. You know sometimes how a sentence seems to be complete in your head and it takes someone else to tell you it isn’t. I guess that’s what happened here. Thanks for reading and commenting

  2. Engaging piece, as always. A couple of typos though, which is quite unusual. Nigerian people and their warped sense of what should be. Personally, I don’t think a year is a long time to wait for a child but then, that’s just me.

    1. thanks @mcsnol for your comment. Will go over again and check for the typos. Cheers

  3. This is mesmerizing…

  4. I can only imagine what she’s been going through feeling shes pregnant when in essence she is not.

    1. thanks @gmoney for your comment.

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