Harmattan is almost here. I could smell Christmas lingering in the background of the foggy morning tipped with a dryness I wasn’t looking forward to. The best part was only how quick our laundry dried on being washed apart from that no thanks to dry crackling skin and nose bleeds. I walked quickly into the main office reception with the speed of a Ghanaian caught in a rain drizzle. It was early, and there was only one receptionist at the lobby. She looked tired already on a Monday morning. Not in the mood for a chat I said a quick greeting and walked into the office. Bobby was the only one in and as usual his head was buried behind his iMac working on a clients brand.
‘Hey! Good morning Bobby!’
A mumbled reply passed through over the top of the computer. A bald head lifted up and a mouth full of god knows what breakfast managed a crooked smile.
‘Chale, morning oh! How was the weekend?’ Without waiting for a reply he went on, ‘Can you believe this new client of ours called me up at 4am today to give me some last minute changes to the final work? I am referring to UltraLine. Unbelievable, right?’
‘You know how some of our clients are. They just can’t make up their minds on what they want their brand to be. We just have to accommodate sometimes. Challenging I know.’
Bobby went back to his work. I smelt koose and immediately knew what his mouth was up to. I made some Lipton and got down to work. My inbox looked busy with about twenty new emails, all of them labelled urgent. What a start to a week! Well what else should I have expected after being promoted to assistant brand manager at BrandIt, one of Accra’s rising new branding companies.
‘Did you hear about Barbara’s new baby boy?’
I looked up at Bobby’s enquiry. ‘Oh, she has delivered? I didn’t know.’
‘Yep! I heard it was on Saturday. Nana Yaa whatsapped me with the news.’
‘Thats excellent! We thank God!’ I hoped that sounded sincere as I felt my throat tighten up.
Its a new emotion for me. Congratulating new mothers at my office and at my church who just after a year of marriage were already carrying their bundles of joy. Very new and difficult for a woman married for three years who was yet to carry hers. I had to learn through experience to be genuinely happy for a friend or colleague who had just delivered a bouncy baby, to smile and to hug them with much love. This wasn’t something the counsellors at our church had taught me or told me about. Experience is always the best teacher.
Three years and counting and no child. In the first year, Kwesi and I just decided not to be pressured into having kids and just enjoy our marriage. The second came and half-way through the year when we were ready, I was still not getting pregnant. Kwesi changed jobs to one which often found him travelling to Europe, which often run into weeks. There were times when I felt my ovulating times were being wasted! Where is the man when you need him, I would ask myself on nights spent alone and horny. I was already getting indirect pressure from my mother-in-law and that alone was psychological pressure! Just before the year ended on year two, I told Kwesi we needed to see a doctor about this. I was actually surprised when he suggested my going first. We were having a quick breakfast before work one day, when I made the suggestion.
‘Why should I go first?’ I asked trying to keep an irritation out of my voice.
‘Honey, we need to understand why you aren’t getting pregnant, so you go first. Maybe your eggs don’t want to come out and play,’ he said as he munched on a tuna sandwich I had made earlier.
‘But baby, it takes two to make a baby so we should both go and have ourselves checked out. It could be both of us too, you know,’ I urged and walked up to him. I put a hand on his shoulder. Did I feel a slight movement away from me or did i imagine it?
‘Sara, why don’t you go and come tell me what the problem is or what the doctor says and then I will also go.’ With that last remark he picked up his keys from the dining table and walked out. Not even a peck. Why are men so sensitive when it comes to fertility issues, I asked myself. I didn’t get an answer.
The doctor didn’t find anything wrong with me, my tubes were clear and my womb was ever ready to harbour another life. He advised that I invite Kwesi to come by for a check up. I concurred and said I would do my best. Kwesi is yet to go. Work is now his excuse and when he’s available, any suggestion brings up fresh arguments.
Soon the office got busy, I found myself closing up some pretty good contracts and work gave me a temporal harbour away from babies and stubborn husbands. Kwesi picked me up for lunch and I made sure not to raise any suggestions about any medical check-ups. We had agreed when we got married to keep third party people out of our marriage and if any issue were to arise during our time together, we would solve our own issue. No pastor, no relative or friend. I was now re-considering that decision I had made ignorantly. Surely I could speak to my pastor or my mother about? As we dug in to lunch, Kwesi reminded me about the visit to his mothers’ this weekend. I groaned inwardly.
Kwesi’s mother wasn’t a dream mother-in-law who minded her own business unfortunately. I was lucky to have Kwesi who often put his foot down when she came up with the wildest suggestions. One time she came to visit and i literally had to lock the kitchen to prevent her from ‘cooking for her son’. Kwesi gently but firmly told her how much he loved my cooking and that she should relax and be served. Score one for wife Zero for mother-in-law. I am sure she means well after all Kwesi is her only son amongst three daughters.
Saturday came too quickly for my liking and I found myself dressing up to visit Auntie B. I couldn’t get around to calling her Mother so Auntie B (Beatrice) it was. I didn’t want to wear anything too tight neither too loose either. Jeans it is. Kwesi wore his usual checkered shirt and khaki jeans. I admired his laid-back appearance and told him so. His laughter reverberated through the room and he pulled me to him. We kissed lingeringly.
‘One before we hit the road?’ I asked, winking at him as i dug my hands into his back pocket and yanked him closer to me.
‘Ei, woman you will kill me oh! Baby, I told Mom we would be there by lunch and you know how she gets when we are late. Lets save it for later tonight and I’ll be all yours!’ He gave me a peck.
Auntie B’s house was tucked away in one of the East Legon suburbs and unlike the woman the house had the most welcoming and relaxing feel to it. A widow for the past 10 years, she had engaged the services of a gardener to take care of her roses, peonies and sunflowers lining the driveway in the house. We got out of the car to meet Auntie B who was on the porch waiting for us.
‘Hi Mom! Good afternoon, how are you doing’ Kwesi hugged her.
She hugged him back and gave him a thorough survey. ‘You look skinny. Are you eating well? Is everything ok?’
I hung back as they exchanged the usual banter. She wore a multi-coloured tie& dye robe dress which covered her dainty toes.
She turned to me. ‘Hi Auntie B. You look well. How are you doing?’
I felt her eyes drawn to my abdomen as she responded. Her gaze stayed there for close to five seconds before she replied, ‘I am doing well my dear. Yourself? As for me, I am just waiting to see my grandchild before I die.’
And she dropped it in just like that. I pretended as if I hadn’t heard and I walked to Kwesi and held his waist.
‘Don’t worry Auntie. You will soon’.
My mum can sometimes be difficult. I was therefore quick to notice the wry look she flung at Sara as we stepped out of the car. She has always been a blunt person but lately she seems to have given her blunt attitude a raise.
‘Cant you see your car would have been more beautiful with a baby seat?’ She asked in a nonchalant way, with a barely perceptible shrug of her shoulders.
I try to stand by Sara in anyway I could. It was no difficult task to realise I had to take a hard stance when it came to handling mum and wife.
‘ You will have your grand child soon.’ Sara murmured. But I knew what was running through her mind was more like: ‘….if you keep missing appointments with Dr. Tetteh as you do, your diabetes will kill you before your grandchild comes!’.
‘Mum! Can you please stop this? ‘I said, in my usual quick interjection before an escalation of the exchanges ensued. ‘What’s cooking? I am starved.’
Mum made a quick turn that would have received the commendation of the most difficult of drill sergeants and headed up the door, ‘Come right up in and find out for yourself. No nibbling today. You are a grown man for Christ sake; you need to be fed like one.’
There was a long awkward moment of silence as we filled up into the living room behind her. As always everything was impeccably arranged. I always got the feeling that I was in a surgical theatre anytime I was back in the very house I grew up in. Each item, each fibre was well laid out in precise methodical order that it made you uncomfortable and fearful you could stumble and suddenly destroy everything. It was hard to believe I had been born in this same very house and had spent all my youth here.
‘Hey, children, don’t just stand there!’ Mum barked from the kitchen. She seemed to sense we had not taken our seats. Sara and I stared at each other for a brief moment, purely on reflex. She smiled faintly as we sat down before the old TV which sat upon an even older sideboard.
If my guess was right that TV set was probably 22 years old now. We had tried to buy her a new flat screen set on her sixtieth birthday but she would have nothing of it. If there was anything I hated in that room it was the croaking sound it made from speakers that had shrivelled from the humidity of the rainy season and the severe dryness of the harmattan. The sounds it emitted were so distorted you could barely decipher what was being said. It occurred to me it was another reason I kept putting off visiting mum.
As it was, the TV was tuned in to Saphire– TV. I hated that station too but it was mums favourite. It was as if she could never get more of it, hours of cheap social gossip and about nothing else. And as things were to have it we had just come in to meet a live broadcast of ‘Odo ye wu’ , a program hosted by skinny socialite who, I always thought, must be the worse TV presenter this side of the Atlantic. Even the old fatigued speakers of the TV could not mask the squeakiness of her voice as she interviewed her host. She was well known for often speaking more than her hosts during her interviews and in a recent edition of the TV and Radio magazine ‘Agoo’, she had been reportedly been branded as Ms. Know it all because of her tendency to interject her hosts with her own opinion on specialist topics.
Today it seemed she was going to have a field day. Her guest was an elderly man who looked obviously uncomfortable before the camera. He sat at the very edge of his chair as if he couldn’t wait to get out of it at the earliest opportunity.
‘That’s Dr. Odoi.’ Sarah whispered into my ear.
‘Dr who?’ I was honest in my ignorance.
She pouted and looked away in a manner that suggested I was the biggest idiot under the sun. ‘Dr. Odoi, the famous gynaecologist who performed the first IVF in Ghana.’
‘Oh, ok, I see,’ I said, trying not to appear too defensive. ‘I don’t have gynaecological problems so why should I know him?’