While I encourage my kids to ask questions and I try to give as much honest answers as I can, there are some times; I’m left wondering what answer to give to a simple, honest question from my children.
“Where is her baby?” is one those questions and it is a question that I have had to answer about some couples that we know, who are still waiting for their babies. When they ask that question, while we are together, I tell them the babies are coming. And I have a ready example in the baby, I’m supposed to have next, whom they have christened Olasunmbo, rhyming with my older son’s name.
I would usually ask, “Do you know Olasunmbo?”
“Yesss, our baby” is the chorus answer I often get.
“Can you see her (yes, they have decided, it’s a girl) yet?”
“No, but you are going to give birth to her soon”
“That’s the same way, Mrs. so and so is going to have her baby too. Her baby is not here yet, but it’s going to come.”
That answer usually satisfies them, until the next time the question comes up, and we go through the routine once more. This could be once a week or 10,000 times. Phew, mommy palaver
Recently though, we were not alone when they asked that question of the mommy in waiting, who had been suffering from multiple miscarriages for a long time. I couldn’t shush my precocious older son in time and she heard his question.
With a smile on her face, Mrs O had turned, looked at him and said, “I’m a mommy too, only my kids are in heaven.” At that moment, I felt I could kiss her for giving such an answer, and then I remembered I would have to explain what it meant, that her kids are in heaven.
But in all, I was grateful she did not show her hurt, even though I know such an innocent question from a child would have touched some deep part of her heart.
As usual, their favourite past times these days, babies, had led to that question. They had been playing a game of babies and mommies, where they would call the name of the baby or mommy they knew, and someone would supply the name of the baby or mommy, as applied.
That was how one of them had called Mrs O’s name and the above happened. After that incident, “the kids are in heaven” is one of the easiest way to shush them and a stern warning that you don’t ask such question in public has nearly dried the tap, but they are still campaigning for Olasunmbo to come…but then, wetin concern agbero with overload.
When I told my mom about the incident with Mrs. O, she told me the story of a woman she knew way back in the day, who had suffered some terrible late stage miscarriages; she had even given birth to twins at one stage, who had died soon after birth. But till date, she is called Iya Beji, even though the twins didn’t live enough to even suckle.
All of those kids she lost, she gave them names and my mom said there were times the woman said she saw the kids, and they had been worried about her mental state because of the way she described her babies, down to the clothes on their back. It was as though they were real to her and she wanted others to see it too.
The unfortunate part was, my mommy said, she did not have another living child, not even when she left that husband and went to marry another man. She did not give birth anymore, nor even get pregnant. She just focused on her life. However, she was not a happy woman, and I can just imagine how it must have felt to her, being constantly called Iya Beji, yet, she had no twins to show for being called by that name. That must have been a regular reminder of what she had lost, but the irony was thay most people thought, it was being respectful to call her by her kids’ name, even when those kids are not living.
For this Iya Beji, Taiwo, Kehinde, and the others she had called Deborah and Gabriel are her kids, but they do not get ill. They do not call her mommy. They don’t disturb her sleep. She doesn’t run after them.
Even though they would all have been of university school age right now, she doesn’t have to bother about school fees or worry that they are walking with the wrong or right crowd. All she has to do is live with the pain and memory that she once carried those babies within her body. That she felt their kicks, until their heartbeats stopped, until the kicks went silent.
For this woman, conversation about her kids is a no-win situation, except she says the generic, “They are fine.” A simple, “Where are your children?” question will provoke a torrent of emotions.
Just imagine a twin lover, upon hearing her being called Iya Beji asking “Where are your Ibejis?”
Should she say, “They are in heaven,” when the person insists on seeing them, (to tap into her blessings, as people are wont to say)? If you were the person, how would you feel, honestly?
I’m fairly certain you will quickly recoil and wish you had not asked such an insensitive and then, you moght feel pity. It will show on your face, often taking the situation from bad to worse.
Hmm, mommies with their babies in heaven are so many around us and you wouldn’t know, until you suddenly end up with one of them and they feel comfortable enough to spill to you. For me, calling them by the name of their dead child feels cruel, but I know a lady who did not have a child, yet she was called by the name of one of the children in her husband’s household and that was what everyone called her. I did not sense if she was unhappy about that, but then I was a child myself.
Covering her “nakedness” they called it, and I did not understand the import of that, until a few years ago, when I realised the nakedness was the fact that she was still childless, while several junior wives, who came after her, had literally scattered the ground with their fecundity.
To mommies with children in heaven, I say hold on. Even if He is four days late, He will still be on time, where you are concerned.
Baby dust to you all.
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