The past nine months had been hell for me. I could not wait for this thing to leave my body. With every kick, I was reminded of how foolish I had been, how I had believed all the lies he told me, only to be left alone when it mattered the most. Aunty Martha had been my angel. She had come to my mother just in time to spare my family the shame we would have to face in the village if word got out. She had promised to cater for me and the unborn child and afterwards, send me to school. I still had a shot at a normal life after this mess. I followed Aunty Martha to the city with joy.
True to her word, Aunty Martha treated me so well. On those sad days when I remembered the rejection I suffered and cried myself to near madness, she was there to stop me from doing something stupid to myself or the child. She kept calling the child gold. She would often say, “Don’t you know this child you are carrying is gold? Behave yourself right away!”
During my third trimester, Aunty Martha was especially caring. She kept reminding me of the opportunities I would have after the baby was born. She told me about school, and becoming anything I wanted. She mentioned travelling to America someday. My eyes widened at the prospect. One day, we had just returned from a routine scan at the clinic where she worked as a midwife. After she had painted such an amazing picture of my future, I asked, “But aunty, will I travel to America with my child?” The question shocked even me. Did I just refer to it as my child? I had always felt revulsion at the thing growing in my belly because it was a constant reminder of the man I had come to hate. But something definitely shifted in me at the clinic when I saw her tiny hands and watched her tiny heart beat and saw her face! My heart melted. This was my child. There was no denying that. I may hate her father all I want, but she is innocent, and she is mine.
The unexpected question certainly upset Aunty Martha because her tone suddenly turned harsh. “What kind of stupid question is that?” She spat. “You are not happy that you have a chance at life after this mistake, you are asking me rubbish.”
I couldn’t understand it. What had I done? The woman who never raised her voice at me had suddenly disappeared leaving behind this monster. I became worried. Since she was my only benefactor at the time, I decided to mend things quickly. “I’m sorry aunty, I did not mean to offend you.”
“Sorry for yourself.” She got up and walked away, hissing loudly.
From that day, Aunty Martha changed. She was no longer the caring woman I knew. She would deliberately lock away all her foodstuff and leave for work, starving me until she returned. I had no money, so I could not buy anything. I grew weaker as I was only eating once daily. I feared for myself and the baby. One day I tried begging her not to lock away the food and she slapped me. I cried and cried the whole day. What had I done wrong?
The evening before I gave birth, I overheard Aunty Martha complaining to a relative who had come to visit about me. She asked the relative to tell my mother that as soon as the baby is born she would take me back to the village. She said I was ungrateful and did not deserve her kindness. I was so confused. I refused to eat dinner even though I was very hungry. Aunty Martha did not care. As early as 4 am the next morning, I felt a pain so sharp that I let out a shrill cry. Aunty Martha rushed into my room and saw me curled up on the floor with my hand on my swollen stomach. She quickly helped me up and walked me to her Peugeot 504 where she placed me in the back seat and drove to her workplace.
At the clinic I was examined and told I was having stress induced labour. My baby would be born a month earlier than my due date. I was quickly transferred to the labour ward where I gave birth to the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. As they placed her on my chest and her crying stopped, she stared at me with such big brown eyes. Tears of joy welled up in my eyes. I loved her with my whole being, and I knew that I would love her forever. That was when Aunty Martha walked in and took the baby from me. “You will be going to the village once you are discharged from here.” She said.
“Where are you taking my baby to?” I asked. I could not shake off this dreadful feeling that something bad was about to happen.
“Can’t you see that she is premature? We have to take her to another hospital where they can take care of her.”
Something about Aunty Martha’s tone scared me, but the midwife who oversaw my delivery touched my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. The baby will be well taken care of.” Then she signaled for Aunty Martha to leave.
That was the last time I saw my child.
The day I was discharged from the hospital, Aunty Martha came with news that my baby was dead. I shouted and screamed. I rolled on the floor and cried. I accused her of doing something to my baby. How could she suddenly die? Aunty Martha explained that the baby was premature and did not survive. I did not believe her. I grabbed her and told her to bring my baby back to me, but she only slapped me and called me names.
I’m back in the village now, and I’m wiser in so many ways. I know my princess is still alive somewhere. I will never see her, but I pray that wherever she is she will know that there is a mother somewhere who loves her dearly. I live with a different kind of pain now. First I lived with the pain of rejection now I live with the pain of loss. I don’t know if my life will ever be the same again, but I am waiting for the healing they say will come.
Aunty Martha’s secret was revealed much later. She and the people at her workplace take children from unwed, young mothers and sell them to wealthy infertile couples for huge sums. Now I know why she used to call my baby gold. She is in police custody as I write this, along with the other midwives in the baby-selling clinic, but this knowledge does not, and will never ease the pain I feel knowing I will never see my darling daughter again.
Photo Credit: Stock-Clip