On the other side of Afueni Hospital, Anna, a bubbly short woman with an air of importance, laughed at something her customer said. Widely known as Mama Ndizi, Anna was popular for her healthy ripe bananas that screamed your name, and her infectious, cackling laughter that had a pause to it. Those interacting with her for the first time always thought her laughter had morphed into a yawn, only to be surprised by her final stretch of roaring laughter that left her chest heaving and shoulders rocking as if she were in a traditional dance. It was foolish laughter, some said, the kind that made one laugh at their mother’s funeral. Long after her funny customer had gone and she was adjusting her white head wrap, a boda-boda flew past, leaving a trail of floating dust. Anna cursed loudly in her mother tongue, blaming the rider’s mother for giving
birth to such a useless son.
‘I wonder why she insisted on keeping him,’ she said, as if she had been present when the boy was born and had even suggested he be buried together with his placenta to save the world from his impending foolishness.
Agnes smiled. She was watching Anna from her ward’s small window, enthused by how she was able to switch moods like unpredictable weather. The woman belonged to the acting theatre, she thought, yet here she was, wasting her time inhaling dust from the roadside. After a while, Agnes turned to her husband who sat with his face buried in his hands. They had not uttered a word to each other, but she did not need anyone to tell her what she already knew.
‘Sweetheart,’ she mumbled with great difficulty, ‘we will try again.’
Juma raised his head to look at her. Across his face, a feigned smiled tried to conceal the sadness he was caked in. He reached over and placed his palm over her hand. ‘Now is not the time’ he said, ‘let’s focus on your health and worry about other things later. Besides, I still believe God’s time is the best. He will give us children at His own time.’
He spoke as softly as only he could, but the words did nothing to comfort her. It would have been a great idea for God to prevent her from falling pregnant if the time was not right, rather than “blessing” her womb with a baby and then taking it away just as the joy of motherhood started knocking on her door. If the timing was not right, He should not have allowed her to fall pregnant the second time and then the third time, knowing too well the fate that befell her first pregnancy sat on a stool waiting. She could not claim to know all that God knew, but she was sure God was aware of more polite and less painful ways to let them know it was not yet time for them to be parents.
But she was not ready to discuss God, His timing and methods; for Juma was a staunch believer who despised anyone who questioned God and His ways. She instead nodded in agreement, faced the other way and shut her eyes to discourage the tears from welling up. She could not help but worry about the fate of her marriage. Juma was being easy and understanding now, but soon the words of his relatives would get to him and he would change his mind. He would forget his belief that children came from God and start demanding to know why she was unable to keep a pregnancy. It was hard to imagine her loving husband of five years giving her a hard time because of her miscarriages, but she knew every man had a breaking point.
She was admitted for three days. On the evening she was discharged….
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