Updated: Nov 25, 2020
You lie curled in a fetal position at the back of the car. The only thing louder than your groan is the screech of the tires as your aunt tries to get you to the ER. As she turns a corner, you almost drop to the floor as there is nothing to hold on to except your sanity. Then you feel it. A soundless pop in between your legs and with it a warm wetness. “Aunty, I think I am bleeding.” Your voice lacks it’s usual colour. It’s flat and barely audible yet the silent night carries it to her ears.
“What!” She turns but the only thing she sees is your form, cringing in pain. Like most African mothers she calls out, “Jesus, Jesus.” And that’s all she says over and over. You begin to feel the external darkness force its way into you. Trying to envelope you. Your eyes become heavy, your head feels light. Just when you start to give in, she hits the brakes and you fall forward like a lifeless dog.
Aunty runs out of the car, “Help us, help us!” You know in your mind that she is yelling yet the sound reaches you as if she is speaking under water. After a brief moment a blast of wind fills the car as someone opens the door. There are several voices now, all muffled in your head. They drag you out and place you on a cold stretcher. You hear aunty gasp and you know she has seen the blood — the life of your unborn baby leaking out in between your legs. They push you quickly, leaving the darkness behind. The bright hospital lights pierce your eyes and you try to lift your hands to cover your face but gravity is stronger than you right now.
You are now in a room, surrounded by more voices. Everyone is doing something. You feel several needle pricks on both your arms, then a BP cuff near your elbow. Somebody presses your stomach and you lurch forward in agony. Another hand is trying to peel off your trousers. You try to resist because you don’t want to be naked before a crowd. But your efforts go only as far as your thoughts; your hands too weak to obey. The door keeps sliding open and shut and then you hear a voice above the rest, “ Dr *Steve here. What happened to her?”
Your aunty says, “She is pregnant. The pain started earlier this evening.”
“ How about the bleeding? How far along is she? What’s her name?”
“Angela, can you hear me? Open your eyes. How far along are you?”
“10 weekths,” your tongue seems stuck to the roof of your mouth.
“Did you do anything? Take anything? Did you try something?”
You are drowsy but not stupid. You understand his line of questioning. And you hate him for it.
After you become lucid, they move you to another room where the doctor says he will examine you. Your aunty asks to stay but he refuses. You pry your eyes open to look at his face. His eyes are full of sleep and his jaw is set as if to communicate his disapproval. He is arranging, almost throwing instruments on a trolley. You look at his hands — they are thick, sturdy — then back to his face. You don’t know it now, but you will remember his face.
“Pull up your legs please.”
You hesitate because you don’t know what he wants to do.
“Angela. I need you to pull up your legs. I need to examine you.”
You draw them up slowly unable to control the tremor in your thighs. Trembling from fear and uncertainty. He positions them for you and begins to clean you. The water feels cool around your parts — almost soothing. After the cleaning you hear the clanging sound of metal against metal and without preamble you feel a searing pain inside you. Like the sensation of pepper to a wound and you clamp your legs shut. You lift your upper body and scream with all that’s left of you.
The doctor seems astonished because you don’t stop screaming. Your aunt barges into the room, “Angela. What’s wrong?”
“I am trying to examine her. I had just tried to insert the speculum.”
“What? You can’t. She is already too traumatized.”
“I have to examine her to make a diagnosis. Please talk to her to cooperate.” He is holding a scary looking metallic object that has long lips and a wide mouth.
“Is there no other way?” Aunty pleads.
He gives her the you must be kidding look.
She throws him the you better not touch her again look.
“Ok. I will get the paediatric speculum and be very gentle. I must examine her. You can stay.”
He walks out and leaves the two of you together. Aunty holds your hand, the silence between you too thick to break.
You met *Kim in church as you did most of your friends. It was the only place you were allowed to be, other than college and home. Your mum — probably to prevent you from straying — believed that nothing could go wrong if you dwelled in the church compound. Well you may not have gone looking for trouble, but it sure came looking for you. Tall, dressed in a three piece suit, and driving a car. He saw you before you saw him and asked around about you. By the time he came over to say hi, he had a small dossier on you.
When he spoke to you, you were enamored by him — almost instantly. He looked like dark coffee and had the whitest teeth you had ever seen. His scent had tentacles that pulled at you; igniting all your senses. On his finger was a large gold ring with a maroon stone. You almost wanted to pay homage to it. Before him, the only male friends you had were the ones you sang with in the choir or met with for bible study. And even though he was a believer like you, he had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about him. He knew how to hold you captive with long drawn conversations that were ahead of your time.
“Where do you see yourself in the next five years? How about ten? Who is the minister of foreign affairs? Do you watch business news?”
Until you met him, your interests were limited to singing in the choir, directing plays in church and college. Christian hip hop and church concerts were the sum total of your entertainment. Secular music and TV was not for you. But not with Kim. The more time you spent with him, the more you began to realise there was more to life than just church.
He slowly peeled you away from what you had known and believed. A marketer by profession, he had the ability to charm a snake out of its den. So it didn’t take long for you to come out of yourself either. Only 23 at the time, he was quite successful- which was rare at his age. He would pick and drop you wherever you wanted to go, fill your time with lunch dates and ‘just because I thought of you’ gifts. Soon, he was picking out clothes for you; he wanted you to look mature. He wasn’t one to waste time and showed his hand the moment he knew he had your attention.
You had increased your ‘activities’ at church to make excuses to meet him. Before long you were ditching your responsibilities to spend quality time with him. Having transitioned from ‘just a friend’ to ‘boyfriend’ you now permitted the odd hugs and kisses. But that was as far as you would go because sex before marriage was out of the question. Everything else however was fair game and you felt secure that he too had similar values. Until February 14th.
This is the first time valentines day meant anything to you. Previously it was a day to be shunned; a secular event that made no sense. But Kim had primed and prepped you. He had built your anticipation brick by brick. “It’s a celebration of love, he would say. And I want nothing more than to spend it with you.” It seemed like his sole reason for being was to make you happy. And you were — happy. So you put on the outfit that your aunt had gifted you when you passed your O levels — your red suit — and left home to meet him. He had suggested that you spend the day indoors, offering to cook for you. Nothing sounded more romantic, as you went over to his place.
The plan had not been to stay out late. You had curfew. But the day had been so special. The volume of your love had been turned to an all high. Usually when you visited, you would eat then watch a movie, your head on his lap. Any meeting of lips and light rubs happened on the couch. But on that day you ended up in his bed. It was a large bed with a mattress soft as a cloud, several pillows and a beautiful bedcover. Soon there were hands everywhere. There was an urgency to your movements as if you were strapped for time.
“What do you want?” He asked you amidst spasmodic breaths.
“Not sex.” You breathed back.
You had vowed to yourself that you would keep yourself pure for the man you intended to marry. But was this pure? You found yourself asking. This barter trade of saliva and animalistic grabbing and pulling. It felt so right yet so wrong.
“Angela.” He pulled you from your thoughts. “Just a little.” You must have missed something. A little what?
“Just let me feel you. I promise I will not go further than that.”
You are apprehensive but you don’t want to throw cold water on this moment. This moment that feels like true love and so much more. So you nod in agreement as you search for the definition of fornication and wonder whether this classifies as it. It isn’t you tell yourself. Besides Kims spiritual compass is more upright than yours. You have even heard him speak in tongues from time to time. He knows right from wrong and wouldn’t mislead you would he?So ‘just a little’ is what you did.
Four weeks later when you woke up with severe low abdominal pain and diarrhoea, you called your mum who took you to hospital. Your loose stool threw off the doc and after some labs he said you had amoebiasis. So you started on treatment. You didn’t get better but it was almost that time of the month so you figured your menstrual cramps had come early. A week or so later the pain became really bad and you called your mum again. She takes you to a different hospital and this doc presses your lower abdomen and asks if you have an abnormal discharge. You are not sure what abnormal should look like but you have realised that it’s more than usual so you say yes.
“You have PID,” he says as he prescribes for you an array of drugs. You swallow them religiously hoping for quick relief but it does not come. The following week is exam week at college. At this time, you are staying with your aunt because she lives near the campus. On the day you are to start the exams, as she drops you off, you begin to feel dizzy and in an instant you are throwing up in her car.
“Angela! Are you ok?”
“I think it’s the meds aunty. They are really strong and I didn’t have time for breakfast.”
She throws you a side glance, hesitates, then asks, “ You have been unwell for a while. Is there a possibility you could be pregnant?”
“Aunty why would you ask me such a thing? You know only too well I am born again and I don’t do those things.” You go on a evangelistic crusade as if you are trying to convert her to Christianity. By the time you alight from the vomit filled seat, she is apologizing for her careless remarks.
After completing your first paper you feel the urge to throw up again. ‘This is malaria,’ you say to yourself. And you decide to go back to the first doctor. The amoebiasis one. Because he seemed so nice.
While at the hospital, you describe your symptoms and he sends you for more tests. All of them are normal. He is pensive. “Is there anything else you are feeling that you have not told me about?” He asks as he peruses through your file.
“Not that I can think of.”
“Any drugs you are taking? Do you take alcohol or smoke?” The offense of that morning creeps up on you. “You are just like my aunt who dared to ask me if I am pregnant. I am a born again christian you know.” Before you go all evangelical on him he checks the date of your last menstrual period. “You are five days late Angela. It is a possibility.”
“But my period never comes on the same date. Besides I have never had sex.” This seems to throw him off.
“Ok. Because you are in so much pain let us do an ultrasound. Is that ok?”
Back in the doctors room armed with your results, he takes out the scan and the report and says, “Angela you are five weeks pregnant.” Ideal is what you see and then ideal cracks. You feel your tongue pulsating and the pain in your abdomen stops for a moment. It’s as if your whole body freezes just to hear those words. “Please come again doc.”
“You are pregnant. I can’t believe we didn’t test you the first time. The drugs you have been taking…” His voice trails off because he notices he left you at pregnant.
“Do you want me to call someone to talk to you? Would you like me to call your mum?”
“No!” You find your voice. “ Let me go. I will be back tomorrow.”
You walk out of his consultation room feeling like the label is on your forehead. How can you be pregnant? You didn’t even have sex? Or was that sex? What was sex? Who will you tell? What will the pastor say? You take out your phone and call Kim.
***To be continued