The Boy Child

IMG_3344It is 2014 and I can feel the unspoken excitement oozing from my husband. He’s trying so hard to pretend like the news I just gave him is irrelevant.
‘We’re having a boy’, I whispered to him this morning, and since then he has been on a buzz. Why? Because the boys carry on the family name and the girls, well the girls are supposedly just… girls!
The last of seven children, my mother said I came to this world squalling as loudly as my tiny lungs could manage. She said I was the noisiest child she ever had, but she attributed it to the fact that I was a girl child. The only one she had, much to the envy of my father’s other wives.
Someone said after my third brother she should have stopped, but knowing my mother she was probably showing off, because the boys just kept coming. You see, my mother was the youngest of my father’s wives and his bet on those apparent child-bearing hips paid off. Boy did she yield some dividends! Excuse the pun.
Anyway, I guess there is some truth to the legend of the full rounded hips and the ability to bear strong healthy boys. Unlike my mother I don’t have them. I’m rather boy-straight with a small waist. My breasts cannot be described as the sort you see on the centre spread of men’s magazines. I’ve always been Plain Jane, but what I lack in physical attributes I make up for in other ways. Well, I would like to think I do but hey, this story is not about that. Neither is it about the fact that I have contemplated getting those bum pad type things for a while now; you know… to give my clothes some form of curves. Please, don’t judge me. There’s a little vanity strain in everyone, maybe some people just have it in larger proportions. My Eyituoyo doesn’t mind though, he says he loves me irrespective and always will.
I got married 8 years ago, to the joy and happiness of my mother especially. She hadn’t been sure if anybody would want her boyish daughter; but fortune smiled on me – and her too.
I got the esteemed title of “MRS”. However, we decided that we didn’t want to have children immediately. Yes, I can hear you muttering under your breath ‘Are you sure you’re a real African woman?’ Well, if you must know, we had a plan. We’d enjoy ourselves a bit, save some money and then dive into the deep end of the parenting pool.
Three years. We were in this blissful state for three years. Contrary to the Nigerian situation where your in-laws give you grief over not having a child, it was my mother who was nervous about my not having produced a baby. She turned her nerves into an obsession. I quite enjoyed watching her visible discomfort every time she said “You’re from a fruitful tree, there’s no reason why you should not bear fruits. Have you and Tuoyo gone to see a doctor? Would you like me to bring you some herbs? I know you won’t agree with me but some of the old ways are not completely useless you know?”
Other times she would look at me suspiciously and say “and I know you are not deliberately doing anything to stop the babies from coming are you?” Then she would grow suddenly still as if some form of Papal spirit descended upon her “You’re a good catholic. You wouldn’t do that would you?” She’d cast a furtive look around and say “the pills and those other things… You know what I mean.”
When my mother started, there was NO stopping her. Tuoyo called me an evil spawn for not telling her that our not having kids yet was a mutual decision. But I was having way too much fun; especially when she said things like, “Heoow! This is probably the work of my enemies, Mama Onome has never been happy that my sons are the true Oaks of Fregene. The TRUE OAKS”. It was truly hilarious, because she emphasized the words and stood arms akimbo like she was performing for an audience of more than one.
Four years ago, this fruit, (or should I say acorn now since my mother loves the oak tree analogy), this acorn decided to bear fruits of her own. My daughter was born on a wet morning in June. The contractions came suddenly. I couldn’t be sure if the thunder that rolled was from within or from outside but by morning, there was calm.
Seven hours of labour and I had called on the gods of my ancestors to make the pain stop. I didn’t think it would. It was not enough to call on Jesus, Mary or St. Margaret of Antioch, I felt I needed something stronger. Does that sound hypocritical? Surely I’m not the only one who thinks that the gods of our lands are far more potent and effective than the White Man’s gods.
Yes, I know this is 2014; but let me ask you something, have you ever seen a man lie after having sworn to Ogun the god of Iron? Nobody would dare risking their lives with that. Compare that to the number of people who swear an oath on the Bible… You get my point.
Anyway, I survived the birth of Alero Eseoghene. My princess. Oh the joy of just looking at her. ‘Love’ is an inadequate word to describe how my daughter makes me feel.
She looks very much like my mother-in-law and nothing like me. Some people say she has my nose, but I have spent hours just peering into her face and found nothing of the sort. I have made my peace with it. Alero will be a constant reminder of my mother-in-law long after she’s gone.
Maybe the resemblance is the reason both Tuoyo and his mom were rather chuffed when I balked at her suggestion that our daughter be called Scholastica. Scholastica? My own child?
Somebody must have been having a laugh. I had stared at my husband, waiting to hear his loud guffaw and retraction of the suggestion, but what I saw on his face was a sternness he only bore when he wanted to have his way. “She looks so much like Mama and it’ll be a thing of pride for us to name her after her grandma after all”. After an awkward chuckle he added “Let’s prophesy into her life that she would be a scholar.”
I waited. Inhale. Exhale. Lord restrain me from killing someone!
“Two things Tuoyo; one, I would never in good faith call my child Scholastica. Not now, not in a million lifetimes. I would not subject a child I have borne to the torture and torment of going through high school carrying the baggage of such a burdensome name. Secondly, I would NOT call my child a non-Nigerian name. A name without meaning or cultural significance?
Show me a Hebrew man or an American or even you people’s colonial masters… The British… Show me one of them who would call their offspring Elohor or Aboyowa and I would concede but until then…”
I was so angry I trailed off because words failed me in that moment. Later, he told me that the chill in my voice and the way my body vibrated had scared him and he had never seen me like that before. He would later tease me with it and call it my ‘Serial Killer Voice’
Two years ago, we were blessed with another beautiful daughter. She was conceived on the night that Tuoyo got his promotion at work. His joy knew no bounds when he called me excitedly to tell me that we were going to Lagos, and he was going to be the deputy general manager of supply and distribution for Krystal Oil and Gas.
I stopped listening when I heard ‘Lagos’ and from then onwards my heart plummeted. Lagos? I had never been to Lagos, and now we were going to move there? To live there? You’re probably thinking what kind of ‘bush woman’ has never been to Lagos? What kind of wife would not jump for joy at the news of a promotion that came with more perks and a higher pay?
That night, I stayed in our room folding Alero’s clothes and packing away her toys wondering why we had to move away from our home. Away from stability, familiarity and safety. Well, it was not exactly safe because the insurgence of the militants had become really bad. The kidnappers had expanded their ‘catchment targets’ to include Nigerians living in Warri. But, Warri was our home.
I didn’t want to leave and it was clear. I couldn’t even bear to talk to him about it. I went into the kitchen to clear up. The dishes I had served the rice and stew in looked untouched and the only sign that Tuoyo had even sat at the table was the stained glass that bore trails of orange juice. I set about putting the food away and washing the dishes but the deafening sound from the TV kept distracting me so I decided to go turn it down. He had fallen asleep on the sofa, his tie hanging loosely around his neck which was oddly crooked. I looked at him, and in that instant saw the folly of my ways. This man would go to hell and back for me; he would defend me, support me, and stand by me. He asked for nothing in return. This once, all he needed from me was my support, love and understanding and I failed him. I sat down beside my sleeping man and just wept silently. I don’t know how long I sat for because I drifted off to sleep right there beside him.
“I know this is all so hard to adjust to, but everything will work out fine” He whispered into my ear slightly easing me into wakefulness and there and then I knew I was the luckiest woman on earth and completely undeserving of this man’s love.
“I’m sorry. I’m so so so so so sorry baby. I should have been more supportive. I acted like a child and I’m sorry. I was thinking only of myself and I was wrong.”
He kissed me very softly and I felt something flutter in my belly. I couldn’t love him more than I did in that moment. He was the most selfless man I have ever known and he made love to me that night with complete devotion. He made love to every part of my body and I returned the favour.
It was beautiful and glorious, and when I found out I was pregnant I knew I would love that child more than life itself because it was a reminder that even though I was undeserving of being blessed, someone up there clearly thought otherwise.
Our Lagos baby was called Oghenetega. My sunshine was a delightful child and I shared every new experience with her constantly by my side. We decided that it was time for Alero to start pre-nursery, so that she’d have a head start – especially as children of this generation seemed to be starting everything early. Adjusting to the fast paced life in Lagos was a little bit difficult. None of my friends were here and I had only Tuoyo to talk to. He came home later now, with the horrific traffic conditions that came with living in a big city and the added work responsibility. I was growing tired of listening to baby babble all day. I craved adult companionship. I was bored. I think that is the only way to justify the next thing I did which I sorely regretted the minute she arrived.
My mother tried to relive her youthful days on the streets of Lagos through me. She was constantly getting on my nerves and I was a child all over again with no mind of my own. She was frustrating me and after three days of her stay I wanted her gone. I moaned to Tuoyo.
“I’m going to tell her my husband wants her to leave because she’s driving me crazy!” To torture me, he was extremely nice and warm to her. I saw him give her a wrapped gift that had 6 yards of brocade; six yards of George fabric; and three beautiful head scarves. My mother was ecstatic. I could just imagine how she would recount the generosity of her son-in-law. I cringed every time she gushed over Tuoyo blessing him constantly and praying for his long life. She told him that she thought sons always took care of their parents but in this case God had blessed her with a good son through her daughter. She prayed that God would bless Tuoyo with sons of his own. God, no! I was terrified of pregnancy and I didn’t want another child.
Tega’s birth had been so difficult; I was advised to stay away from baby making for a while. Not an unwelcome verdict. I was satisfied with my babies, thank you very much! Imagine my discomfiture when I found out I was pregnant again. I know you’re probably judging me and saying if I didn’t want to get pregnant why didn’t I do anything to prevent it, but I guess somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I wanted to try for a boy.
Weird, I know.
But, I saw the way Tuoyo’s eyes misted over anytime our friends came to the club on Saturdays with their sons in tow, teaching them to throw or kick a ball. One day, I told him jokingly that he could teach Alero all those things, because it didn’t hurt to be a tomboy. I had been one and I didn’t turn out too badly did I?
When I told him we were having a boy, it was very funny watching him pretend like he wasn’t excited. It’s 2014 and the boy child is just as important to an Itsekiri man as much as it was fifty years ago. It’s funny because a child who would care for you would do so irrespective of gender. I have six brothers and none of them was there to take care of Mama when she had her cataract surgery last month. They all claimed to be busy. I didn’t even ask any of them to sort out the hospital bills, I took care of that. But the least they could have done was visit their mother.
It doesn’t matter either way. I will take care of my parents for as long as I can and it doesn’t matter that I do not have the esteemed Fregene testicles. I look at my daughters playing and I know that those two Amazons in the making are going to give their baby brother a run for his money.
I hear the door bell. I have to run now. Tuoyo has sent the driver to take me to my ante-natal clinic. My husband is taking no chances with his son and it is very interesting to watch the way he fusses over this pregnancy like a first time father. Bless his soul.

By |2016-12-20T13:47:45+00:00February 12th, 2016|Fiction|1 Comment

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One Comment

  1. Oluwatosin Oduola 25th November 2016 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Beautiful!!! Lord Jesus, having a good man isn’t too much to ask for right?

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