Over the weekend, I decided to visit Christabel. That woman has been awfully quiet. Maybe she was mad at me, or she and Rodgers were fighting a lot. She has lost weight significantly. She looked weary, still. Rodgers was not around. It has been 6 months since we met and gossiped properly, though we’ve been WhatsApping. There is topic we had avoided for long but it was about time. Here is her story:
“Rodgers and I were young lovers deep in love. Inseparable. Both of us hailed from Keroka and had known each other since high school. He would praise my beauty and wonder loudly about the gap between my teeth. I would smile, blush and draw a map of Keroka indicating all banana farms we owned. We would laugh and play a lot, take walks at night and play with pebbles at sunset. As we grew into young adults, we knew we were meant for each other. Rodgers showed me a world I had never seen before of nothing but pure and unconditional love. We would not stop talking about the future. He would gaze into my eyes and say our children will be beautiful. They will be noble like you. He would kiss me so deep and take my breath away. I wanted to spend all my days with this man. My handsome Rodgers. I could not wait to see him grow into the father of my children. Soon after college, we became a family. He was 25 and I was 22.
One morning I erupted from the bed and vomited, almost ejecting my intestines. Being African and a kisii woman brought up in the village, I knew what that meant. I was nervous, excited and too anxious! I remember the look on his face when he followed me as I threw up. He was so worried! Babe, are you okay? Nini mbaya? I said I think niko na ball. His face brightened, his eyes widened and a smile melted from the corners of his mouth. He tried to compose his manly Kisii self but these things you can’t hide. Yes! Yes! Are you sure! I said yes. He jumped with ecstasy. Men are still little boys and the boys in them make them do hilarious things. He grabbed me and swirled me in the air as I screamed. He called his mdosi and said he was unwell. He escorted me to the nearby clinic to hear from the horse’s mouth. Indeed, I was in the family way.
The next months that followed were nothing but dramatic, exciting and frustrating moments. One moment, I craved for rice, the next, I wanted pineapples. I was temperamental sometimes. Sometimes I felt too sick. Some other times, I did not want to see his face. At other times, I cried when he rose to go to work and told him he didn’t care. At times, I would refuse to eat the food my sister had prepared and thus my Rodgers was forced to cook. That man saw wonders. I am sure he swore deep down he was never making me pregnant again. He would rush out to get pineapples, lemons and chicken when I demanded, but on arrival would find a brooding plump wife, with a changed mind. He was always smiling. He would kiss my forehead and tell me I was beautiful. He watched me grow plumper and plumper by the day and would make fun of me on a light note.
As days went by, I couldn’t help but wonder how he/she will turn out. Will he be tall and built like the dad, cheerful and quiet? Will she turn out like me? Temperamental and yet shy? Will she/he be talkative? Will they be normal or would they have a defect? Will I have complications like other women do? I was anxious. I googled everything about pregnancy. Absurd ones I tell you. Like will a newborn smile? How does a new born know how to suckle? When does a new born open their eyes? I was so eager. I wanted to meet our baby. The product of our beautiful love. I said if she’s a girl, she will be called Moraa or Nyakeya. He said if he’s a boy, he will be Nyakundi Junior.
2nd April 2015. Little Nyakundi was born. He yelled his lungs out. He was so lovely, so beautiful, so breath-taking. I fell in love with him. I was happy to finally hold him in my arms. Nyakundi was an angel with so much serenity. I remember my Kisii darling, baba Nyakundi being speechless. He had been confused, worried sick and dying with anxiety. When he was called in the delivery room, he dashed like a little school boy, glowing with pride. At last here was his little champ whom he would play football with. He would take him to school personally. He would do homework with him. He would bath him and make him a man. He would teach him to respect people, to love, to respect, to be assertive… He would make his dreams come true. Even if he wanted to be a driver, teacher, farmer, anything! Nyakundi will subdue the world.
The month we had him was the best times I have ever lived through; from his moans, to his breathing, to his little kicks, coos and cries. You cannot explain motherhood. It is just such a beautiful feeling. I bet fatherhood too is beautiful because my Rodgers became a totally different man. He would stay all night watching us. I would wake up to breastfeed Nyakundi and found him staring at us. A lot of women have post-natal stress, from weight gain to fatigue and depression. Nyakundi’s father made me feel I was the most beautiful woman alive, the best mother and wife. I am grateful. I can never trade anything for my love. Our family became close. We became one thing. I watched him choose his family over football, friends and even some of his (silly) hobbies.
29thApril. 2 am. Our son was restless. He didn’t sleep. Rodgers worriedly asked me what might be wrong. I am not very experienced. Nobody prepares you for motherhood. Nobody teaches you these things of dealing with infants. It is almost purely maternal instincts or scattered myths and misconceptions. I thought it was because of the weather changes experienced lately or fatigue from travelling during the week. He did not suckle well and kept crying. Rodgers said he’ll go to work briefly as protocol dictated to explain to his boss, and then return so we take Nyakundi to hospital. Nyakundi’s situation seemed to worsen by every ticking second. His temperature escalated rapidly and he became extremely dull and weak.
Meanwhile I called up my mother to keep her in the know. The last thing you want is your mother feeling left out. She said we must make haste and go to hospital. Around 9.30 am, Rodgers came back and we left for Mbagathi, few miles away. I felt strange. I felt nervous. I was losing a battle. Nyakundi was losing it too. I felt a sharp pain that I can’t explain. I felt my heart cringe with fear. I checked his pulse. I jumped out of the mat. Rodgers followed. We entered the hospital panting, drenched and desperate.
The doctor pronounced him dead. Rodgers stood transfixed to the ground, staring at nothing. He remained dumb-founded and seemed to be in a trance. He was emotionless. He then took Nyakundi in his arms and wept desperately. He cried his heart out. His tears rained on the now lifeless son in his arms. His looked at him hoping he would blank, smile or just move. He didn’t. He moaned painfully and stroked Nyakundi. He did not respond either.
My world came crushing. I felt excruciating pain seer through my body as I yelled. I could not imagine the son I had just seen for 27 days was no more. No, he needs to play football, he needs to scream in the house, to go to school… why him? Why would God pluck the only flower from my garden? There are people with 10 children but he has spared them. Why mine? Why my son? Even the street families. These kids have survived the hostilities of the streets. Why did mine not survive? People even abort but later have many children. I have never aborted. Why would our son die?
He was put in the mortuary. My poor son. He would sleep there like other lifeless bodies. It was just wrong leaving him, abandoning him like he is not a human. I cried in that room, holding him. Rodgers sat next to me, crying. The pungent smell from decaying bodies reminded us yet again what would become of our son. I insisted he remains in his clothes and be covered with his shawl but the attendant explained stupid things that never made sense to us. I opted to stay the whole night. Maybe he would wake up.
Yet we never stopped to lament and blame ourselves. What if we had gone to the hospital first thing in the morning, would he have lived one more day? What if we had not traveled up country? Were we careless? Did somebody bewitch Nyakundi? Did we ignore any customs?
I never moved on. Nobody moves on. You want life to be normal, oblivious of his absence and to go on like he is still around, cook his porridge, warm his bathing water. All his clothes are still in his little bag. His pampers, his cussons, his so-soft… I cannot just let them go. They give me this little peace that I have held on to for long. At times I look at his cot and I feel him around me. Like he is somewhere nearby, smiling, gurgling. Whenever I walk and see kids, I imagine how Nyakundi would have turned out. Sometimes I see kids running to school, wearing oversize uniforms and they look so adorable. I can’t help but long. Nyakundi would be 16 months now. He would now be calling me mum, and Rodgers, dad.
I feared pregnancy. I cannot bear the pain of losing another child. Death makes you look at life differently. You feel like it will snatch anytime. I cannot bury another child. Sometimes I wonder how parents who buried their children ever moved on. Did they have the courage to bring forth others?”