I am not a good keeper of secrets, although my mother thought otherwise. Within hours of confirming my pregnancy, I had to tell someone. I sat on the edge of the toilet and stared at the treacherous lines on the pregnancy test. I was happy and sad, confused and overwhelmed. Naturally I called the man responsible. It was not an opportune time. He was on duty and not really in a position to talk. I had sent him a text message earlier telling him the test was negative. We were in the clear and he had not hidden his jubilation. Now I was faced with three treacherous lines on the three different tests, though faint, there they were. When I called, he was confused, “But you said the test was negative?” I was as confused. He was in shock. We agreed to meet after his flight, that evening to talk about it. By evening, he was not up to it and begged out of a talk to deal with it in his head first. I understood his need for time. I needed it myself.
The next call I had to make, perhaps the most difficult, was to Greg. Greg was the man I loved. What a call! To tell him, the man I loved that I was having a baby with Nigel, my ex. Greg was the man my soul loved, though we were no longer together. It was an impossible love for he was a married man. We shared a few months together before his wife got wind of our relationship and the futility of our love became too much to ignore. We parted ways, but we remained in love. I do not say this to justify my being with a married man. I say it simply as the fact that it was. We loved and we lost.
Anyway I called, all the while hoping he would not pick his phone. But he picked it. At this point, quiet tears rolled down my cheeks. Why do I feel this way? As if I let him and us down? Yet we were no more. I was not unfaithful, it was over between us. But deep down I knew it was never over in my heart. The reason I felt this way was that I slept with a man, while loving another. What was I turning into?
My mind wandered to that fateful day. Nigel was not part of our afternoon soiree; the initial plan was just for me, my close friend Gina and our friend Mike. Being colleagues as we all were, we seemed to keep getting joined by someone or other. Mike called his friend, who came with a friend, then Doug came from work and somehow Nigel too came from work. I did not find out if he was on the same duty with Doug and they came together, all I know is he came. He was happy to see me. Said I looked good, and he had missed me. We chatted and laughed. I remember drinking so much vodka and juice that day and laughing uncontrollably without a care in the world. I had no designs on anything with anyone. I was just a girl out with friends having a good time. I had been chatting with Greg that day on phone and every so often his name would creep into my thoughts much to Nigel’s chagrin. He sneered and retorted something to the effect of this guy having such a hold over me and me being so in love with him. I remember wrinkling my nose and not bothering to respond.
“Well, I’m in shock but happy for you”, Greg’s voice interrupted my flashback. He laughed then, a disbelieving kind of laugh. He tried to talk then but I shushed him and told him to let me finish. My voice caught in my throat and I choked on my words. He was quiet for a while then he said he was happy for me because he knew I had always wanted to be a mother. I said,” Yes I have but not this way.” He said he was ecstatic and happy for me. He would remain my friend. He would always be there for me. It was now over six months since we were last together, and the man was married, forever unavailable, so why these tears? Why this feeling of betrayal?
Nigel came to see me and told me the only way out was to have an abortion. I said a flat “no.” I even got angry when he kept on insisting and trying to convince me. I told him he was free to walk away. I would ask nothing of him.
A few days later, he came to me and said he had been thinking things over and realized I was of age and he would support the baby and me. We even had out the details of the support he would give me in terms of hospital charges, baby’s first needs and monthly expenses; I was content with the arrangement. Unknown to him, however, was that I had planned and budgeted without his input. Of course, I knew his contribution would greatly ease my burden but I was prepared to go it without him. I was however, not going to turn down his support because I needed it and also because I wanted my baby to know and have a relationship with her father. He told me of his plans to spend time with the baby and to let her know her relations on his side of the family.
Now the plot thickens. Did I say he had a pregnant ex girlfriend? Ex girlfriend now looking like they were back on the way to reconciliation. She was three months gone. I understood his stress. But there was nothing I could do now. I told him I appreciated the situation but I could now only focus on myself and my baby and let him sort his own side of this drama that had become our life.
I was now faced with the task of telling my mother. I am still unable to tell this tale without breaking down. To even think of it in my head without a tear escaping. My mother was enraged. She went silent then asked why I chose that time to tell her (Easter weekend). The following day she sat me down and talked me down real good. She admonished me for what I had done, told me how my child and I would suffer. She said I would never get a man to accept me with a child. She said if I did get one he would rape my child if female or plain reject him if male. She said my child would have psychological problems from being from a single parent and that if I left the child with her to go get married (are there people who still do that?) the child would be traumatized. She also added that Nigel was a user and I should not expect anything from him. She concluded her fantastic dialogue by telling me I was screwed either way and she advised, not in so many words, to go for an abortion. I tried to say something and she shut me up like a child. Like I was seven years old and had been caught with sugar. My heart just broke at her words. I honestly don’t know if I will ever forget her words. I can forgive but can I forget?
I felt so alone. I made the mistake of sharing my mom’s words with Nigel who was only too happy to have someone on his side (abortion side). She had some unsavory words for him too as she had never liked him which he swallowed with some bitterness but now renewed his abortion campaign.
The reaction from my mother killed me. I had steeled myself to expect nothing from Nigel but I needed my mother’s support. I went back to my house but kept going to visit her, giving her an opportunity to tell me it was okay and she would support me and be there for me but she never said it. She was so quiet, any talking we did was superficial. The weather kind of talk.
I am ashamed to admit, I begun to consider the abortion angle. How easy would it be to just end this anguish? But try as I might I could not see what was okay about doing that. Especially for me. I was not a child; I was a woman in my thirties, with a job. All I needed was support and I got to learn the power of a support network. My sister in the diaspora became the mediator between my mother and me. It was like my mother and I could not talk and there was something between us. When I remember that period, I feel resentment and bitterness rising in my throat like bile for my mother. I needed something that she just could not or would not give. I felt she put her public face ahead of me and my needs. She was so ashamed of the whole affair. I felt at times that I was too hard on her, but I could not forgive her lack of support.
My mother and I had always been close, always been best of friends. I was her favorite or so I thought. But now faced with the biggest thing in my life, the time of my life when I needed my mother most, her silence was so loud.
Around this time, Nigel and I got into a fight because he said he was going to want to spend time with my baby but would never tell his girlfriend, whom he was now moving in with, who my child was. I told him I did not see how that would work. Words were exchanged and I threatened to tell her that I was pregnant with his child if he did not do it himself. He had planned to tell her earlier and I in fact had stopped him and told him to give it some time at least till I was 3 months gone. My anger has always been short lived. I sent him a text message after the fight, not one hour had elapsed. I told him I was sorry and I would not seek out his girlfriend to tell her anything but he claimed the damage was done. He now feared me and decided to tell her himself. She did not take it well. She had not been in his house one month and she moved out immediately.
He blamed me. He accused me of ‘breaking his home’. He accused me of tricking him into getting pregnant. He said I had vowed I would never have his child. He told me he had since thought over everything and was no longer interested in supporting the child or even knowing him or her when the time came. He told me he thought it better we had no contact and to expect nothing from him. I did not say much, I told him it was good I knew from early on I was on my own and I would not bother him anymore.
My nausea and pregnancy in general took a life of its own. I went for my scans and clinic visits on my own. I tried to ignore the fact that everyone around me seemed to come with their partner. This was just the beginning I said to myself. I was not even showing yet! The doctor put me on bed rest for a week because of some mild spotting I had.
Soon I was back to work, going through the motions. I felt sick as a dog. I could not eat, could not drink water, I was dehydrated and weak. But that was nothing compared to my mental stress.
One day driving to work for the night shift I was stuck in the jam when I felt a sharp jab in my side. I had missed my last pre natal appointment and had consoled myself by remembering that some women never even go for clinics and have healthy babies. Besides I never went anywhere by then except work and home. I was too tired, too dehydrated and too down in the dumps.
The pain persisted and became so strong that I begun to vomit in the car. I got scared. What was happening to me? I diverted to my house instead of proceeding to work and called my mom to come and take me to hospital. She came. By the time she got to my house I was spotting and by the time we got to Nairobi hospital I was bleeding. I remember the nurse giving me a gown to put on so that I could be observed and as I stood in the gown some blood trickled down my leg. I will forever have that etched in my memory the way some things just stick in your head. The doctor came in later and had me lie down on the observation bed and pressed my tummy and asked me if I felt any pain and I said no. Our eyes met at that moment and she quickly looked away and told me I had to go have a scan but I knew it from the look in her eye, I had lost the baby.
The scan was another story. I was dehydrated and the radiologist could see nothing. I was made to drink copious amounts of water and by then I had soaked two pads. I knew the drill. I had held my friend Gina’s hand through this same scene two years earlier. The scan confirmed what I already knew. I did not talk to my mother much as I wondered if she was sorry or relieved. I suspected the latter. I was admitted and taken to theatre the next day. The doctor put the anesthesia in my hand and then I felt a nurse tap me gently and tell me I was going back to my room.
“Is it over then?” I asked.
“Yes” she said.
And just like that, it was over. All my planning, hoping, loving was ‘cleaned out’ as they called the procedure I had just been through. I was sure I was having a girl and had pictured her in my head with pigtails, holding my hand and laughing, for my baby was to be a happy girl. I was going to make sure of that. I knew what school she was going to, when she was starting school; I had planned with my sister to buy her first year wardrobe when I was to visit later in the year. I had such plans for my baby girl, I touched my stomach marveling that the life within me was no more and lowered my head and when the nurses left me alone it was then that the tears fell.
I did not call Nigel. I saw no point. Me and the baby were dead to him anyway. I did not call my mother. I could not even bear to look at her. I called my sister and my best friend Kimberly and I called Greg. I cried about my mother, he didn’t get it. Kimberly got it, my sister got it.
The emptiness started then. That feeling of having had something to look forward to, a December baby and now nothing. I felt so empty, depressed, I felt so sad for my baby. For the people who did not want her, for the life she would never live.
I went home the next day. Not to my house but to mom’s. I hate to remember those days. She still was not talking; I admit I did not make it easy for her. I was a stone-wall. I broke one day and wept and accused her of all manner of things and we begun our healing on that day. We talked, she explained stuff, I accepted mainly because she was my mother and I wanted peace between us but I still ask myself questions to this day about this and that. She was so stressed, she came to my room one day and I was startled to see her neck. My mother is now old. I had never noticed how wrinkled her neck had become. I was so overcome with compassion for her. And I knew that it was one of those things that would stick in my mind when she was no more. Like the way she always wore sensible shoes. But that neck, she was always known for having a very elegant neck. But her neck is wrinkled now, my mother is old. I looked at this woman who had loved me so completely all my life, who had given me everything and I could not reconcile that woman with the woman who could not celebrate my having a chance to be a mother like she had been to me. I had many questions that would never get satisfactory answers but I knew I would love my mother forever. I will always remember the way I saw her neck that day though. I saw all her sorrow in it. Was it the way she turned? I saw the pain of burying your life partner, the pain of trying to be there for your children, carrying their pain and disappointments, I remembered how sad she had been when I was passed up for promotion, how much she prayed for me and my siblings. This woman who went to mass everyday and knelt to God daily and yet would suggest an abortion when I fell pregnant at 32 years. This woman who despite knowing the joy that the fruit of the womb brings, never once told me sorry for my loss. My emotions were all jumbled up, I do not know what to make of it all but I keep seeing her wrinkled neck. I can’t explain it but it brings me to such compassion for her. Then I ask myself why couldn’t she have been happy and supportive, why couldn’t she have been less negative and more positive, even if I am not married and it did not come in the ideal way, why? Why? Why? And I learned an important lesson in forgiveness, that to forgive, you must not understand. And as I look at her wrinkled neck, I choose to forgive her even though she believes she did no wrong.