The pain was everything they had warned her about. And then some.
But she didn’t scream. Not once. She took it like a good soldier. She didn’t cry either. It was not the time nor the place.
It took 11 hours and then, she was finally free. She heaved a sigh of relief and declined the nurse’s offer to hold the child. The woman nodded her head in understanding and Nma wondered how many of these situations she had had to deal with in her career. She sent Bill and Jen, her parents, home; with the excuse that she needed to rest. The truth was she didn’t want them staying around, giving her subtle hints about how she would make a great mother.
Sleep found her soon after and she closed her eyes to the world, to the pain, to his cries, to the aching of her breasts, to the yearning of her heart.
When she opened her eyes, Bill was back. He was reading Silas Marner out loud to her. She laughed tiredly.
“Are you hoping the story of Silas finding redemption in Eppie will change my mind?” She asked the gray haired man who had shared his home and his love for books with her.
He smiled sadly at her.
“I know better than to hope anything will change your mind. I was reading it for me. You changed our lives when we adopted you. I have no doubt your child will change the lives of his parents. Just like Eppie changed Silas.”
She reached out for the old man’s hand and kissed it.
They came to take him away on the third day. She had signed him away months ago, long before he was born, as soon as she knew she would not be able to give him the kind of love he needed.
“I am pregnant, Cameron.”
The silence that had ensued was far more pregnant than she was.
“We need to get rid of it.” Her lover had said, in a way that made her see him for the first time for what he truly was; a boy and not a man, a coward and not the hero he made himself out to be…
“No.” She had answered as she picked her purse and walked away from him forever.
She found an adoption agency and they had in turn found a couple in need of a child. She had no feelings for the couple. They were mixed race and tried too hard to please. They were people that thought they needed someone and something else for their lives to be complete. It was hard for her to understand people like that. She had always been content with life and whatever it brought her way.
“Nma, there is a sale going on at Sears. We will go and get you an extra pair of shoes for school”
“I already have one pair, why do I need a second?” She had responded to Jen’s offer.
“Nma, you need a boyfriend. It is what cool teenagers do. They have boyfriends. If you don’t have a boyfriend, everyone at school will think you are weird and you won’t make friends.” Her best and only friend in high school had told her as they shopped for their first makeup.
Nma had watched the girl as she tried on different shades of lipstick.
“I don’t need any more friends. You are enough.” She had replied.
Maybe it had something to do with never having enough in the first place. Before she was adopted by Bill and Jen, her junkie of a mother had spent more money on her stash than on Nma’s food or clothes. As a child, she had learned to make do. To make do with the sparse bouts of affection Ngozi, her mother showed her. To make do with the moldy bread and sour milk for breakfast, lunch and if she was lucky, dinner. To make do with clothes from Goodwill that never really fit…
Nma! Nma! A voice called, bringing her back to the present. It was her child’s adoptive mother.
“I am sorry. I was just thinking.”
“It is okay we know this isn’t easy for you.” The woman said to Nma.
A social worker and the couple’s lawyer were also present. Nma could tell they all just wanted to get it over with.
“Can I see the child?” Nma asked.
They brought him to her. He had her chin, her dimples, her eyes… He looked nothing like Cameron and for the first time since the birth pains began, Nma smiled. She had been expressing breast milk with the nurses’ help for his feeding. She wondered now what he would do without her sustenance.
As if in response, he started to cry.
“Does anyone have some kind of cloth?” She asked.
“What?” The lawyer and the social worker asked in unison.
“You know, like something I could use to tie him to my back? Like a bed-sheet or huge scarf?”
No one moved for a while. They looked at each other wondering if she had gone mad. And then the woman whom she was going to entrust her child to left the room. When she came back, she was holding a cloth. She was resourceful, a trait every mother should have. That was good, Nma thougt. Together they put the child on her back and she began to sing.
The words of the song were in Igbo. It was a song Ngozi had sang to her on days the drugs didn’t impede her ability to be a mother. By the time Nma was done singing, the child had fallen asleep. She eased him off her back and handed him over to his mother.
“You tell him, when he can understand, you tell my son, he is the best thing I ever did.”
As she walked out of the room and into the cab that was waiting, she realized how much had changed. She knew then that for the rest of her life, she would be searching every face she came across for her son. She would never again be content with just enough. There would always be something out there that was hers, that she had let get away. Contentment had a face now. It looked very much like hers.
“Where to Ma’am?”
She gave the taxi driver the address for the mental home where Ngozi now spent her days, singing Ibo songs.
Only then did she start to cry.
Song of the day: Chris Tomlin – How Great is our God (Y’all should listen to the world edition. I had goose pimples)