The Choice (chapter 19)

Days rolled by. Sarah’s unborn grew. Sarah’s colleagues at work began to gossip. Sarah’s belly was fast growing. She hadn’t spent five months in marriage, and her abdomen already seemed she would deliver anytime soon.

Sarah lost her voice at work. No thanks to Mrs. Mbok, who wouldn’t stop reviling her. Mrs. Mbok saw the period as payback time. She did her best to frustrate Sarah, although Sarah had the understanding of a few workers. The few held that Sarah was a good person, and if she made a mistake, she shouldn’t be crucified for it. Sarah stopped anchoring religious programs at work and stopped the evangelism she did biweekly. She no longer had the will. And since she wanted to avoid being insulted, she stayed away from anything religious.

When Sarah could no longer cope with work due to her state, she took maternity leave. In the thirty-ninth week of pregnancy, Sarah fell into labor. Femi packed her bags and drove her to the hospital. Femi got to the hospital at half-past nine in the night. The doctor examined Sarah and admitted her to the maternity unit of the hospital. Femi sat in the reception, waiting for the doctor

to come to share with him the good news of the arrival of his child. Before it was midnight, Femi slept. When he woke up, the reception, where he was seated, was empty. He walked to the nurses’ station. A nurse at the station told him his wife was still in labor. Femi glanced at his wristwatch. It was past five in the morning. He had never thought it could take so long to meet his child. Femi requested to see his wife. Sarah lay in bed, a wrapper tied around her chest. Femi sat on a chair beside her. “What’s going on? How’re you feeling?” he said.

A fresh contraction peaked. Sarah gripped the bed and shut her eyes, pain firing in her brain. She gnashed her teeth. The contraction waned before Sarah could reopen her closed eyes. Femi’s eyes filled up with pity. He could imagine how much pain would make his wife behave that way.

The next contraction threw Sarah off balance. She screamed, one of her hands pulling her hair and the other hitting the mattress. Femi watched her with awe. He wished he could do something to help. He rose from his seat and strolled to the doctor’s office. Femi exchanged pleasantries with the doctor and asked about his wife’s condition. “Hmm. Don’t worry, Mr. Faronbi. Your wife will be put to bed,” the doctor said. “But why is it taking so long? You need to imagine how much pain she’s going through. And she’s been in that room since yesterday,” Femi said. The doctor smiled. “I understand, Mr. Faronbi. But it is a gradual process, which takes time, especially for first-timers like your wife. The process has to be complete, so your patience and support are required,” he said. “Isn’t there something you can do to hasten the process?” Femi said.

“Well, we are doing our best. But if you want it faster, you can speak with your wife and sign a consent form to have a Caesarean section done. We’ll take out the baby in no time.” “Do you mean surgery?” “Yes.” Femi shook his head. “That’s a no-go area. We’ll wait.” “Alright!” Femi left the doctor’s office. By the time it was a quarter past seven, Femi knew he had to go dress up for work.

The baby was nowhere near yet; the doctor had said when Femi asked again. Femi grew tense. He removed his phone from his pocket and called his mother. “Hello, Maami,” Femi said over the phone. “Femi. Good morning,” Femi’s mother responded. “Good morning, ma.” “How are you, my dear? Your call is quite early. I hope all is well,” Mama Faronbi said, inquisition in her voice. “I’m in the hospital, Maami. Sarah is in labor.” Mama Faronbi lifted a hand in the air. “Ah! My head. Didn’t I tell you to inform me whenever your wife falls into labor?” “I’m sorry, Maami. I didn’t remember,” Femi said. Mama Faronbi shook her head. “How could you not remember?

Anyway, that’s not the point now. Has she put to bed?” she said. “Not yet. We’ve been here since yesterday.” “And you are just telling me today.” “Maami, I’m sorry.” “Alright, no problem. I will be on my way to your place.” “Okay, ma. I have to go to work. I intend to take permission and return to check on her later,” Femi said. “Don’t worry. I’ll tell your father. We will contact Baba Fagbami as well. All will be well.” “Amen.” Femi hung up and left the hospital. At ten o’clock, Sarah’s phone rang. Sarah picked up her phone and checked who the caller was. Her mother-in-law. What was she calling her for? Sarah wondered. She swiped the screen and lifted the phone to her ear. “Hello, ma,” Sarah said. “How’re you?” Mama Faronbi said. “I’m fine, ma.” “Have you given birth?” Sarah frowned. How did Mama Faronbi know she was in labor? Her son must have told her. “Not yet, ma,” Sarah said. “Listen carefully to me, Sarah. Baba Fagbami said the child is a male. It is one of your husband’s ancestors that is returning to the world through you.

Baba said you should be chanting, ‘Seven cowries, three stones, one snail. Welcome, Fatele.’ That’s when the baby will come,” Mama Faronbi said. Sarah frowned. Her mother-in-law was up with annoying traditions again. She remembered that the Bible said in Hebrews 9:27, ‘And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. Where was Femi’s ancestor coming from? Sarah hissed. She wished she were her old self. She would have spoken in tongues for only thirty minutes, and the child would have slipped out without any hesitation. But it was as if her tongue were tied. Her haphazard praying pattern had weakened her spiritual life altogether. “Sarah, are you there?” Mama Faronbi said. “Yes,” Sarah said just before she perceived another contraction coming. She ended the call and dropped the phone. The contraction sent pain signals to her brain. She gritted her teeth and held unto the drip-stand beside her. Her phone rang repeatedly. She ignored it until the contraction waned. She picked up the phone. “Hello,” she said. The caller was still her mother-in-law. “What is wrong with you, Sarah? I’m telling you something important, and you dared end the call. Hear me; nothing must go wrong with that child in your womb,” Mama Faronbi shouted. Sarah wished she could tell her mother-in-law that she would have her baby safely without having to chant any incantation because she belonged to Jesus and not the gods. But she couldn’t.

She had danced to the family tradition’s tune from the outset. She couldn’t defend her stand now.“Okay, ma,” Sarah said after much hesitation. “Now repeat after me, ‘Seven Cowries,’” Mama Faronbi said. Sarah exhaled. “Seven cowries.” Mama Faronbi continued. “Three stones, one snail.”“Three stones, one snail,” Sarah said. “Bring my son from the seven rivers,” Mama Faronbi said. Sarah wondered. Her own son from seven rivers? Where was it written in the Bible that a child came from seven rivers and needed to be brought by seven cowries, three stones, and one snail? But then, if that was what would make her baby arrive in good time and free her from the pain of labor, she would do it, she thought. “Bring my son from the seven rivers,” Sarah said. “Good. Now say, ‘Welcome, Fatele, the one with seven eyes, seven mouths, and three horns.’” Sarah shook her head. God forbid! She wouldn’t give birth to what her mother-in-law had just described. If it was the ancestor

Mama Faronbi said she was coming through her that had seven eyes, seven mouths, and three horns; he had better rot where he was. Sarah wanted no child like that. “Sarah, Baba Fagbami warned that you could die if you didn’t say this incantation,” Mama Faronbi said. “God forbid,” Sarah said. “Open your ears and listen. And open your mouth and talk,” Mama Faronbi said and squeezed her lips as though Sarah could see her. “Now say, ‘Welcome, Fatele, the one with seven eyes, seven mouths, and three horns.’” “Welcome, Fatele, the one with seven eyes, seven mouths and three horns,” Sarah said reluctantly. Mama Faronbi made Sarah repeat the incantation thrice before informing her that she was on her way to Abeokuta. Sarah wanted to dissuade her mother-in-law from coming, but the pain nudging her brain prevented her. “Alright, ma,” Sarah said and dropped the phone. She was in pain. She’d had a negligible amount of sleep during the night. She wished relief could wash over her and allow her to sleep. A faint thought crossed her mind. Pray! Seek God’s mercy! Sarah squeezed her eyes shut as she felt another pang of pain. “Help me, Lord. Please help me,” she said.

Mama Faronbi’s voice came alive in her mind, creating fear in her. Mama Faronbi had warned Sarah that she could die if she didn’t do what she had told her to do. Sarah racked her brain and put the words of the incantation Mama Faronbi had taught her together. Sarah began to mutter the words. Anything that would bring her relief was what she needed. She didn’t want to die.

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