By – Suleiman Murkthar
It was a beautiful Sunday morning…. Well, I think I would have given the day a different name because, I mean, it isn’t much of a Sun-day without the sun, right? Sometimes, I still wonder why we call it “Sunday” when obviously the weather is a respecter of nothing or no one.
As a child, I had thought that day was created to be sunny all through, hence the name Sunday. Coupled with the fact that my mother made Sunday the mandatory laundry day, ensured I was steeped in my belief. Maybe if I had grown up in places like Lokoja or Gwagwalada where the intensity of the heat was as though the sun was inches above your head, then my juvenile theory would have been quod erad demonstratum. but I didn’t grow up in those places, oh no I didn’t. To know where I grew up, I enjoin you to pick an atlas and look for the map of Africa. Flip the page and look for the map of Nigeria, then place a stylus on the map right in the middle, on the FCT, then trace it downwards to the right or left or the centre (I forget, I don’t have a map with me as I write this) and stop on Delta state. This point on your stylus is where I was born, and raised, of all places to be born and raised, Warri was where fate chose to place me. The land wey no dey carry last. The land that left my sunny Sundays postulation in tatters for it rained cats and dogs even during the harmattan.
Growing up in Warri was fun.
Waking up every morning, my family was greeted by the sight of the massive structure that was the hospital where I was birthed, with the name “NUMA MATERNITY HOME“ boldly written in blue on a white billboard; “Helping Mothers Since 1960,” being the motto they chose.
My mother had once told me that they had the best midwives in Warri in days past. She didn’t know about the present though. But back then, almost everyone went there to birth their babies whilst the husbands waited at the reception for the good news of their babies’ genders. There was hardly a case of a life lost in Numa compared to what was prevalent in other hospitals.
I was born on the evening of March the 15th 1990, at 4:46pm to be exact, I quote my mother here. She said I was the heaviest newborn amongst her children and that I was not the firstborn as I had thought, she had suffered a miscarriage about two years prior to my conception and birth.
At the time, my parents lived at a different place from where we live now.
My father had panicked the day her water broke. Mother had never seen him that confused before. He had been so confused that he almost left her at home.
Father suggested they went to New Era Hospital so Mother could give birth, but panicked confusion messed with his thought process such that he forgot that he had already made part payment for mummys delivery in said hospital which had a non-refund policy. He revved his Peugeot engine and sped off to Numa Hospital straight from home without a second thought.
He sped into the hospital compound like a crazed NASCAR racer, almost running into a woman donning a sky blue and white uniform who stood at the gate. He parked close to the hospital entrance.
“Nurse! Nurse!” he shouted, running towards the cleaner who was sweeping the hospital compound. “Nurse, please, abeg help- hmmm- help my wife— the baby…” he stuttered, trying to catch his breath. The baby he continued pointing to his car.
“I am not a nurse ooo” she cut in and tried to calm my father down, “wait here, let me get you one.” she ran in to get help.
Mother would have guffawed as hard as she could that day but my big head was already causing her enough pain to prevent her from seeing the funny side of anything.
In no time, she ran out with five other women, all wearing purple gowns. They came along with a wheelchair to carry my mother.
Forgive my father’s confusion, it was not like there was a catalogue of sorts to help identify which members of staff wore what. In Numa, the cleaners wore white outfits, the midwives wore purple, and the actual nurses wore sky blue.
Mother was rolled in and Father was made to stay in the waiting area. It was not easy for a man whose wife had miscarried her first pregnancy. He could not help imagining a disaster happening that day, he could already imagine his wife screaming and chanting as others had explained they did. Would the child be stillborn, or would he lose his wife also?
“I hope she doesn’t tell them all our secretes though” he thought to himself.
He had been afraid of today since day one, since when the bald headed grumpy looking man in a black tee with a Lakers symbol emblazoned on it and jeans had handed them the result. Dr. James, whom Mother secretly referred to as Mr. Grumpy, was not really a doctor per se. He majored in Medical Laboratory Science. Hence, his job was to collect blood samples and test them, then write the results in his funny looking Arabic calligraphy type writing, which only medical people seemed to understand. He had walked into his office that day smiling at my parents who had waited, for thirty minutes, for him to fetch the results from the laboratory.
He stood staring at them for at least thirty seconds, smiling sheepishly at the both of them, before he finally shook Father’s hands and told the both of them that Mother was pregnant.
There was a sudden glow of joy in Mother’s eyes. Just before she could express her happiness in dance and songs, Father asked a very cold question, What are the odds of either one of them dying during birth? This shocked Mr. Grumpy. This was the point where couples would usually be in a celebrative mood, but here was this man asking if his wife and would die or not. Mr. Grumpy reassured them that nothing would go wrong. Then he made my parents to sit and listen to his life’s story for upwards of fifteen minutes to listen to his life’s story. Fifteen minutes where his courtesy, patience, and modest were pushed to the brink. “Who cared?” He had wanted to scream.
In a household where jubilant songs were supposed to sound, my father remained stoic. “Don’t count the chicks until they’re hatched” he said constantly. He went to work each day, the scenario of his family’s death constantly presenting an unrequested encore.
As time went, the pride showed forth on his face. He kept the information to his chest, and insisted on letting nature break the news itself.
“It’s a boy!” One of the midwives told my father, who had died and killed us all while he was at it, a million times in his head.
“It’s a boy?” he repeated.
“Yes, it’s a boy.” She said, a smile on her face.
“It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” he repeated, shouting excitedly. He did not wait to ask if he could go in or not, he rammed through the theatre door open and ran in to welcome his cute little boy.
I say cute because that child is me. But of course, what with my red lips, clear eyes and light skin, and a pointed nose, with a smile as bright as the sun and best of all, I looked just like father… My father, my everything