Mayowa stood at the front porch of their one storey building caressing her protruding tummy. She smiled as the cool breeze blew her hair making her feel relaxed and strengthened. It was evening and everywhere was cool. The sky was grayish in colour. It looked like there would be a downpour. Mayowa thought it would be great if it rained since the weather had been very hot and sunny lately. A downpour would chill the whole of the town but there was a dark cloud rolling in from the east, Mayowa wondered why.
Mayowa watched the security man as he sat on a bench in front of his one room apartment built inside the compound by the side of the gate, listening to a radio. He placed the radio on his ear with one hand while he folded the other. As Mayowa watched, she recalled how she had cajoled her husband into employing Mallam Jauro, a Hausa man from northern Nigeria, to guard their house due to the recent armed robberies going on in town.
Mayowa walked slowly to the chairs that were arranged under the thatch roof with a round table at the middle. She sat on one of the chairs, still caressing her tummy. Finally she was having a baby. She had been married for two years without an issue. She had ran series of tests to find out if something was wrong somewhere, but all proved negative. In Nigeria, It was expected that newly wedded couples gave birth to a child during the first year of their marriage. This contributed to Mayowa's worries. Her husband had gone for checkup also but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with them. People had begun to gossip about them.
Mayowa had been so worried as she turned to God, praying and fasting most of the time. There was no programme in church she missed. She prayed that God should turn her misery to joy just like he did for Hannah, Sarah and Elizabeth in the Bible. God had finally heard her cries and had blessed her with a child. Come to think of it, she had also been blessed with a wonderful husband and family. Over the past two years, her husband, Tobiloba had been very supportive. He encouraged her when her faith was waning. Even her mother in-law had been so loving and kind despite the fact that Tobiloba was her only child. She never insulted or made life unbearable for Mayowa. Every moment she spent with the family, she had always encouraged Mayowa and prayed for her.
Mayowa was thankful for such mother in-law. She had often watched various movies of wicked mother in-laws who made life very miserable for their daughter in-laws. She had prayed she wouldn’t encounter such mother in-law and God had heard her prayers.
Mayowa looked down at her tummy and smiled again. It was nine months already and in any moment, her baby would be born. The doctor had given her an expected date which was next week. She couldn’t wait to deliver her baby.
Just then, she heard the honking of her husband’s car. She stood up gently as she watched him drive in. She walked to the car as he got out and wrapped his arms around her. He placed a kiss on her forehead and then bent to place a kiss on her tummy making her giggle.
“How is my lovely wife and child doing?” He smiled at her.
“Not so well without you.” She kissed him on the lips. “I missed you.”
“I missed you more. I couldn’t stop thinking about you in the office. I’m so glad to be home.” Tobiloba replied as he supported her into the house.
Mama Doyin had already prepared dinner. She was setting the table when they walked in.
“Ah mamii, you could have called me.” Mayowa rushed to her mother in-law. Mama Doyin had packed her bags into the house the moment she heard Mayowa was pregnant. She said she didn’t want Mayowa to stress herself.
“My daughter, go and sit down. Do you want to stress yourself and the baby? I’m still very strong even though I’m a sixty years old widow. I haven’t forgotten how to help around with chores. So don’t worry.”
“Mamii, good evening!” Tobiloba greeted.
“Ah! My sweet son. Welcome! Tell your wife about your strong mother. Tell her how I used to cut firewood from the forest and carry them on my head. Tell her how I used to fetch water from a long distance so she’d stop worrying.”
“Ah! Don’t try Mamii o! Mamii is still very strong.” Tobiloba exclaimed amusingly as they all laughed.
After Tobiloba had taken his bath, he joined his mother and wife in the dining where a sumptuous meal of Amala with efo riro was served. As they ate, Tobiloba began,
“I have something important to announce.”
Mayowa and Mama Doyin stared at themselves before staring back at him.
“We’re listening.” Mayowa informed.
Tobiloba shifted uncomfortably on his seat. “I’ve been selected with some other staffs to travel to Abuja for a business deal. I tried to reject the offer. I told them my wife would soon give birth to a child any moment from now. They promised it’s just for three days and I’ve got to go.”
“Is that why you were doing your face like cold fufu?” Mama Doyin asked. “I’m here. I’ll take care of your wife. Mr worry worry. Go about your business and stop worrying.”
Mayowa chuckled as Mama Doyin said that. “Honey, I’m fine. Stop worrying like Mamii said. What harm would three days do? Come on!”
“I don’t like leaving you alone especially in this condition.”
“Honey, you’re not leaving me alone. Mamii is here.”
“Help me remind him o.” Mama Doyin cut in.
Tobiloba rolled his eyes at his mother and everyone fell into fits of giggles.
“Over protective husband!” Mama Doyin pronounced.
The next morning, Mayowa and Mama Doyin drove Tobiloba to the airport where his colleagues were waiting. Mama Doyin had insisted on driving. She always wanted to show that she was still strong and bubbling like a youth and truly she was. The flight was scheduled for 8 am. They got to the airport some minutes earlier. Tobiloba’s colleagues were already there. When they were due to leave, Tobi pulled his mother and wife into a fierce embrace. He then planted a kiss on Mayowa’s lips then bent to offer one to the baby. Mayowa giggled when he did that.
“Mamii, take care of Mayowa and the baby.” He whispered to his mother.
“I’ve heard you. You’ve been repeating the same thing since yesterday, so don’t worry, I’ll do as you said.” Mama Doyin told him.
Mayowa and Mama Doyin watched as Tobi got into the aeroplane well painted in white with description of the company’s name at the rear end. They kept waving and waving till they lost sight of the aeroplane. Mama Doyin patted Mayowa at the back.
“It’s okay, my dear. He will soon be back.” She wiped the tears from Mayowa’s face.
They got into the car and drove back home. Mama Doyin prepared a meal of ogi and akara. She refused any help Mayowa offered instead she asked Mayowa to lie down and wait for the meal to be ready.
“Mamii, with the way you’re pampering me, I might just become another baby.” Mayowa had teased.
The day passed on with Mayowa and her mother in-law seeing a movie on digital television since there was nothing to do. That night, they chatted with Tobi on Skype and they all fell asleep with broad smiles on their faces.
Mama Doyin was awoken by the moans of Mayowa. Mama Doyin knew instantly that the baby was coming. She quickly tied her wrapper and rushed Mayowa to the hospital. Almost getting to the hospital, Mayowa’s water broke. Immediately they got to the hospital, the nurses carried Mayowa on a stretcher into the labour room.
Mama Doyin was asked to wait at the waiting room while Mayowa delivered. She picked up her phone and called all the relatives that lived near by. She also informed Mr and Mrs Olayemi, Mayowa’s parents. In an hour, the waiting room was filled with relatives.
“Have she delivered yet?” Mrs Olayemi asked the moment she came in with her husband. Dupe, Mayowa’s sister was around with her family. Also, Tubosun, Mayowa’s brother.
They waited in anxiety for the cry of a baby and they finally heard it. There were shouts of joy as everyone cheered. Just then, the doctor walked out of the labour room with a furrowed brow. The troop ran to him.
“How’s the baby doctor?”
“Is it a baby boy or baby girl doctor?”
“How’s is Mayowa doctor?”
Those questions were thrown at him. The doctor stared at them and sighed. “The baby is fine. Can I speak with the husband of the patient?”
“He’s not around. He’s on a business trip in Abuja. What is it?” Mama Doyin asked.
“You’re the father of the patient right? Follow me to my office!” He pointed to Mr Olayemi.
The rest stared at themselves in shock as they watched the doctor walk away with Mr Olayemi. The doctor’s office was well furnished. There was a huge mahogany desk in the office with two chairs apart from the doctor’s chair. There were many files on the desk, both old and new. There was a small cupboard by the side of the desk whose key holes were already spoilt. The doctor ushered Mr Olayemi to sit.
“Congratulations Sir! Your daughter had given birth to a bouncing baby girl.”
Mr Olayemi heaved a sigh of relief. “Oh! And you scared me doctor.” He smiled. “Thank you!”
The doctor nodded, “The nurses are cleaning the baby up.”
“That’s very nice. so what about Mayowa? How’s she?”
Doctor Yinka drew his spectacles down to rest on his nose. “I’m sorry to say but she didn’t make it. She had uterine rupture due to weak uterine muscles, as well as excessive pushing during labour. I’m so sorry but the baby is fine.”
Mr Olayemi stood up immediately, his hands on his head. He let out a little shriek and shook his head.
“Take it easy sir. You’re a man.”
“This can’t be true, doctor. Tell me it isn’t true!”
“I wish i could say so but...”
“Oh God. Oh my poor Mayowa. Oh my baby. Oh!” Mr Olayemi sat on the floor and bent his head. Tears dropped profusely from his eyes.
Just then, the door flung opened and Mama Doyin with Mayowa’s family flooded in. They all had a worried look on their faces.
“We were tired of waiting and thought we’d have a cardiac arrest if we kept waiting for you two, so we came in. What’s going on? Is anything wrong with the baby and Mayowa?” Mama Doyin questioned.
“You shouldn’t have...”
“Doctor, please answer the question and daddy, why are you sitting on the floor? What is it?” Tubosun cut in.
“Mayowa is dead!” Mr Olayemi pronounced.
“What!” They screamed and Mrs Olayemi fainted.
★ ★ ★
They all surrounded the baby who was sleeping peacefully in an infant bed. They had earlier gone to see Mayowa’s corpse. Her eyelids were closed and her lips pale. Mrs Olayemi had cried her eyes out as she refused to leave the corpse. Mama Doyin stood at a corner shedding tears as she watched Mayowa lay lifeless on the bed. They had all wept bitterly as the nurses covered Mayowa with a white cloth. They were then brought to see the baby.
The baby girl was light skinned just like Mayowa. She had the same face as Mayowa even the unique black birthmark that shaped like love by the side of Mayowa’s neck was on the baby’s fore head. The baby was a miniature of Mayowa. The troop gasped as they stared at the beautiful baby.
“Oh Mayowa. Look at your beautiful daughter. She looks just like you.” Mrs Olayemi whimpered.
The family then took the baby to Tobiloba and Mayowa’s house the next day. The baby would stay with Mama Doyin until Tobi returns. They concluded.
“Who would inform Tobi about this great loss?” Mr Olayemi asked.
“I will. It’s going to be hard but by the grace of God, I’ll tell him. I should be the one. He’s my son.” Mama Doyin replied.
“The baby girl is a gift given to us by Mayowa as a compensation and consolation for her death.” Dupe suddenly stated.
Everyone nodded in approval at that. “We see Mayowa in her baby. That means, Mayowa is still with us. She lives in her daughter. So take heart everyone. Console yourself with the gift Mayowa had given.” Dupe added.
They nodded once more as they stared at the baby who was safely guarded in the hands of Mrs Olayemi.
Mama Doyin then offered to prepare a meal for the family and when they had all gone, Mama Doyin wept inside her room. Just few days ago, Mayowa was lying with her on the bed, now she’s lying in a mortuary. Just few days ago, Mayowa was seeing a movie with her but now she’s no more on the earth. The pain was so deep and sharp to bear. Mama Doyin wept and wept till she fell asleep only to be woken up by the baby at the middle of the night.
Mama Doyin picked up the baby from the cot and gave her some milk with the feeding bottle then tried to rock the baby to sleep. After some hours, the baby fell back to sleep while Mama Doyin walked to the sitting room. She couldn’t sleep again. The death of Mayowa flashed back to her mind. She touched the sofa, Mayowa had sat here just few days ago. Tears began to fall again and soon Mama Doyin was weeping.
★ ★ ★
Tobiloba knocked slightly at the gate. He had waited for his wife and mother to pick him up from the airport for several hours. Have they forgotten he was to return today? He had called their phones severally. Mayowa’s phone was switched off while Mama Doyin wasn’t picking her calls. Tobi had no choice than to board a taxi back home. Had something happened? He wondered. He had tried speaking with them the other day on Skype to no avail. His heart quickened as he waited patiently for the security man to open the door.
“Ah Oga! Welcome sir!” Mallam Jauro greeted as he took the suitcase and luggage from Tobi’s hands.
“Thank you Jauro. Is madam and my mother in?”
“Kai! Na only mama I see. She de inside.” Mallam Jauro replied in pidgin English.
Tobi nodded his head as he walked quickly into the house. Mama Doyin was sleeping on the couch when he barged in. The sound woke Mama Doyin up. She rubbed her eyes sleepily as she stood up. Her heart skipped at every step Tobi took to her. She silently prayed for God’s grace. Mallam Jauro dropped the briefcase and luggage in the sitting room, then left.
“Mamii good morning. I’ve been calling you and Mayowa’s phone to inform you two I’m returning today. What happened? Why weren’t you picking your calls? Where is Mayowa?”
“Welcome Tobi. Sit down.” Mama Doyin pronounced. Tobi stared at her surprised. He opened his mouth to protest.
“Please sit down.” When he had finally sat, Mama Doyin cleared her throat, “Mayowa has been delivered of a baby!”
Tobi jumped up immediately in joy. “That’s great news mother. That’s very great news. Wow! Where is Mayowa and the baby?” He asked joyfully.
“Wait a minute!” Mama Doyin replied as she went to get the baby in the bedroom. The baby had fallen asleep immediately she had been fed with milk.
Tobi’s eyes lighted up with complete surprise and pure joy, the moment the baby was handed over to him. He brought the baby to his lips and peck her forehead.
“This is the gift Mayowa left behind for you, Tobi!” Mama Doyin began making Tobi stare back at her with confusion.
“Look at the baby, she is a perfect photocopy of her mother. Mayowa gave you her so you wouldn’t hurt too much when she’s gone. Mayowa died in labour.”
Tobi’s eyes narrowed. His hands began to shake violently. Mama Doyin quickly collected the baby from him.
“What did you say mamii?”
“I’m so sorry Tobi.” She whispered.
“No! This can’t be true. This is a dream.” Tobi screamed.
“I wish it wasn’t true. I wish I was telling a lie. I wish it was a dream but this is reality Son.”
Tobi gradually fell to the floor. He clasped his hands on his head. “No! No! No! Mayowa tell me this isn’t true!” He wept.
Mama Doyin carefully placed the sleeping child on the sofa. She sat next to Tobi on the floor and hugged him while Tobi cried bitterly on her chest.
“It’s okay my dear. Take heart!” Mama Doyin consoled. “But honestly speaking Tobi, this is the best gift from Mayowa to you.”
Note_ Amala, fufu, ogi, akara and efo riro: these are all native meals eaten in Nigeria by the Yorubas.
Oga: this is used to show respect to someone at a position of authority. It means Master or boss.
Mamii: this means mother.
Tobi: this is the short form of Tobiloba.