Kuuku could hear the muffled sound of his wife’s weeping. Lately, it seemed all she did was cry. Try as he might, he could not console her.
They had lost another child.
It had been 6 years since they had gotten married and they had no child as yet. He was ready to give up. He thought they try adoption but his wife wanted none of that. The pain she went through each time they lost another child was enough to drive him to insanity. But she would have them try again and again.
He could still remember her screams the first time she had a Dilation and Curettage.
He did not know what was worse. The emptiness in Mary-Ann’s eyes or the questions people asked. ´´ Ei when are you guys planning to have children?´´ On the outside, they looked good. They were everybody’s dream. The power couple. He was a Network Systems Engineer at SAP while she was a lead consultant at the World Bank Office in Accra.
Yet the pain his wife was going through was too much to bear. He did not understand why it was always deemed the fault of the woman when a couple did not have a child. He did not understand the pressure she received from friends and family, but most of all from herself. Sometimes, he feared for her because it seemed as if she felt she was not a woman because they did not have children.
She was sought after because she was an econometrist who specialized in analysing distressed economies and tailoring Debt Relief Programs. He was happy to see her soar and had been really proud to watch her onstage as she delivered a talk at TEDx Euston.
Yet no matter how much they achieved, it seemed as if their lives were not complete without children.
At least in the Ghanaian society.
Tonight’s bout of tears was caused by the memory of a conversation she had overheard.
‘ I think she is barren ooo, after all, who would not want to have Kuuku Bannerman’s’ child?’
Ei Mansa! You and this your mouth! What makes you think it is not the man who is shooting blanks?’
‘ Ah Ama pah! How can a handsome man like that not be able to score?’ All I would need would be one night with the King’ she giggled. Her eyes took on a dreamy look. ‘Have you seen his chest?
Mary-Ann had decided it was enough and had entered the office. Her secretaries had scrambled to their seats and busied themselves.
She had fired both of them two weeks later.
The tranquil silence typical of a university campus was shattered by the piercing screams of the girls sitting on the balconies of Legon Hall Annex B who had witnessed a child wander onto the road and almost get knocked down by the 4×4 negotiating the curve.
´Eiii Maame, b3 fa wo ba no wai? Ei Auntie, hw3 wo ba no so yie wai?(Lady, please come pick your child up. Lady, please take better care of your child) were the cries of the eyewitnesses.
Melissa felt rage welling up inside her when the woman scolded her child rather than hold him close, seeing as she had nearly lost him some minutes ago.
There were times when she saw a mother scolding her child in that harsh way, her voice laced with the desperation and hopelessness that comes from being saddled with an unwanted child and hopeless circumstances. In those moments, she had to restrain herself from going up to the mother and asking her if the child was at fault for being born.
She had often raged at God for giving women fertile wombs to women who had no means of taking care of their children while people like her sister had undergone all kinds of fertility treatments and had given sample upon sample of blood to be tested for estrogen levels.
Last month, Mary-ann and Melissa ´s mother had come in with one of her ´´ discoveries´´ as they liked to call them. Her latest project was a woman who had seven children and would not do any of the jobs their mother found her because they were demeaning.
Ah, Ewurade! The amazing thing was that she was expecting an eighth child. ´´ Lord, my sister wants just one! ´´
´Baby, I want to talk to you´´ Kuuku said. ´´Please sit down and let’s talk´´.
He hoped that his eyes conveyed his plea. When Mary- Ann sat facing him, Kuuku placed his open palms on both sides of her face and kissed her on the forehead. He had rehearsed his speech about a million times in his head.
´´Baby, I love you´´ he began. ´´I see you trying so hard to be strong. To be a superwoman, but I want you to know that we are in this together. I love you just as you are. You are enough for me. With or without children. You made me the happiest man alive when you agreed to marry me and I hate to see you cry. I hate to see what not having a child is doing to you. I hate to see you broken month after month of trying to do something which is not in our hands´´
Tears were streaming down Mary- Ann´s face, the rivulets meandering down her cheeks like the tributaries of a river before disappearing down her neck. She was so still he wondered what was going on in her mind.
´´Baby, can we just enjoy each other´s company? I really hate what this is doing to you. I would love to have your child, our child but if it is not to be, why can we not enjoy our lives, enjoy our marriage and live out our love for each other?´´
Sobs wracked her body as she leaned into him. She fit against his body so easily. He held her as she cried for the longest time.
When she lifted her tear- stained face to look into his eyes, he was saddened by what he saw.´´Kuuku, they said I am not a woman. They said the memory of me will be wiped off the earth if I do not produce children. They said I have eaten my womb. They said….´´ She broke off as her body heaved with sobs.
He could not hold back his own tears. He swallowed a lump the size of a golf ball and held her as they cried together.
He did not know what he could do to remove the pools of pain he saw in her eyes. The dark depths of the brokenness that comes from not being able to fulfil the wishes of the Ghanaian society.
He could try, however. And so he held her long into the night. He kissed away her tears and whispered to her ´´ I love you´´ over and over until her tears subsided.
The diagnosis had come in.
Mary- Ann´s hand trembled as she read the medical report. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her fingers flew over the keypad as she typed a quick message to Kuuku, ´Baby, we need to talk tonight`. His response was just as fast. ´´ok,
´Don’t worry, see you at home tonight. I love you’ she replied.
Mary-Ann did not know what to feel. She was going through a whole gamut of emotions. From relief to sadness to rage and everything in between. Finally, it would come to an end. The gossip. The whispered conversations that came to an abrupt end as soon as she entered a room.
The insinuations about going for deliverance because her background was ´´hard´´. Countless people offering unsolicited advice. Asking her how often she prayed. Whether she believed enough. Whether she was not being punished for something she had done wrong.
She remembered the pity she saw in people’s eyes when Nana Adwoa was still-born. Tears pricked the corner of her eyes when she recalled the peace on her little girls´ face. The confusion she felt when there was a long silence after 6 hours of labour only for her to find out that the baby was dead.
She recalled the compassion in Dr. Boadu´s eyes as she held her baby before they took her to the morgue.
For the first time in a long time, she felt something flutter in her chest.
Something that felt like hope.
That evening Kuuku found his wife sitting on the couch waiting for him. She was still wearing her work clothes and had only kicked off her shoes. She had clasped her hands and was lost in thought when he walked into the living room.
´Hi Baby, how was your day? ´ He asked and then sat on the opposite couch. He lifted her off the couch and unto his lap.´´My day was great, I just found out that I will be part of the Africa Roadshow. We will do 7 cities in Germany in three weeks. We leave on Sunday´. Mary Ann responded.
´´That’s great Annie girl! I am proud of you´´´´Thank you´ she responded with a dimpled smile. Annie girl; that was his special name for her, to remind her that she would always be his girl no matter what.
´´There is more´´ she said after a pause.´´ the test results came back today, I have Hashimoto´s Disease. That’s why it´s been so hard for me to carry a child to term´´
´´Oook, what does that mean exactly? ´´ He asked calmly.
She reached into her handbag and gave him a slip of paper. His eyes skimmed over it quickly and then he looked up with questioning eyes. ´´a thyroid malfunction? ` he asked. She nodded.
´´And what does the treatment involve? ´´ He asked
´´Basically, it’s an auto-immune disease which means that my body is producing antibodies that are fighting my healthy tissues. So I have to undergo a hormone replacement therapy. Take drugs that will perform the functions of my hormones´´ she summarised.
´´ Alright, sounds good´´ he said cautiously. ´What are the side effects? ´´
´´Well, these are unlikely but it´s possible that I may have headaches, nausea, anxiety, chest pains, cramps, weight loss, palpitations etc.´´
Kuuku was silent for a while before asking calmly ´´Do you want to give it a try? ´´
Yes, I do; I did some research online and then had a long chat with Dr. Boadu today. We don’t lose anything by trying´´ came the answer.
He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck ´´ Alright, let´s give it a go´´.
´´Thank you´´ she said quietly and then added ´´ Shall I cook something quickly? I could make something with Tuna and rice´´.
´´Nah, let me cook tonight. You have had a long day´´. He responded and kissed her on the forehead.
Catch you later for the next story!
PS: Although I have tried to get the medical facts right, any errors are mine. I tried to get across the fact that there is hope and couples should not be pressured 🙂